02:30PM, Friday 28 January 2022
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Let nature sprawl, not houses and driveways
With reference to the Advertiser's recent piece on tree planting in the borough, the word ‘sprawling’ was used twice as some sort of criticism, first applied to the green space in Cox Green (Ockwells Park /Thriftwood) then applied to the 132-acre greenbelt space at the Maidenhead Golf Course.
A dictionary definition of ‘sprawling’ is ‘spreading out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way’.
It is precisely the untidy and irregular character of these two sites that currently makes them havens for wildlife.
Long may they remain sprawling, not to be smothered in vote-catching trees (Thriftwood) nor gentrified by thousands of houses at the golf course site.
Sprawling is good!
Preparing for risk of 4° temperature rise
In last week’s Maidenhead Advertiser the local Climate Emergency Coalition stressed the need for us all to take urgent action to support our council’s environment and climate strategy.
The Government’s latest Climate Change Risk Assessment, also published last week, shows just how urgent the need is, stating: “While we aim to limit warming to 1.5°C, the evidence shows that we must be prepared for warming up to 4°C.”
We have to hope, even pray, that this level of risk is too pessimistic but all the evidence indicates that it is a credible possibility.
We can only repeat our call for us all to look at how we can each help to meet this challenge.
Member groups within the coalition are also concerned that the 2022/23 budget, currently out for public consultation, fails to show how the council’s own climate strategy will be funded.
We have expressed this concern to the council and we urge all local residents who have similar worries to respond to the consultation available at bit.ly/CECBudget
On behalf of The RBWM Climate Community and the CEC (Climate Emergency Coalition)
The many ways to recycle types of waste
Am I the only ‘confused recycler of Maidenhead’ who has completely lost the plot regarding recycling?
I think not but here are some of my concerns:
I think we all need an update from the recycling team as to what we can and can't do with our re-cycling.
By the way, Sainsbury’s bins, that were once just for old carrier bags, now take all manner of items, including things we can’t put in our council bins, such as crisp packets, film from food packages, bread bags, sugar bags etc . Have a look sometime – I took a photo of the list because there are so many things they do take that I need to remind myself from time to time what they are.
If Sainsbury’s can take all of these things, why can’t our recycling department?
Perhaps the recycling team could address these issues?
Make a Maidenhead that better reflects us
Gavin Ames fairly describes the challenges faced by both residents and councillors in determining what’s best for Maidenhead (Viewpoint Opinion, January 20).
Residents commonly think their voice is not being heard while councillors each have to represent the views of 5,000 residents.
The Civic Society was founded, initially at the council’s request, to provide a community voice on planning matters; and we have striven to do that, objectively and constructively, since 1960.
For many years we enjoyed a good rapport with the town hall but these days, regrettably, contact is less frequent.
We do, however, benefit from being an associate of Civic Voice, the national body for the civic movement which, for example, has an all-party parliamentary group pushing for community involvement in planning.
From a local perspective, we’d like to see a Maidenhead that better reflects its location and its success, as well as the needs and aspirations of its residents across all demographics, from the young to the elderly.
The focus should be on what constitutes an attractive and welcoming place rather than just housing numbers.
RBWM’s statistics suggest that Maidenhead’s population is set to increase by over 40 per cent by 2033, but little attention has been given to infrastructure requirements or what all these people will want to do in terms of leisure, arts, entertainment and culture.
These are issues which can only be adequately addressed through meaningful engagement with the community.
Gavin Ames’s suggestion for a Maidenhead Residents Association is an option but there is already a plethora of groups and forums struggling to be heard, so this would fragment ‘the voice’ still further.
The council has a duty to take account of its residents’ views.
It should start with a root and branch rationalisation of its community engagement strategy.
Maidenhead Civic Society
Arts, leisure and a vibrant community
Not so long ago Norden Farm unveiled of a glass plaque commemorating their establishment 21 years ago.
Many Maidonians worked tirelessly to help set up this asset to the town.
It is not just a leisure facility, but a community centre, an educational source and provider of cultural life.
As such it deserves borough support and it is shameful that the council is considering ending that.
The arts – drama, music, dance, film, lectures – are not a luxury but a necessity for a good, full life.
Surely we have all learned in the pandemic that our spirits need to be lifted; that community groups, doing things together is very important.
The popularity of the new Braywick centre shows how good facilities encourage activity. Braywick cannot provide what Norden Farm does and the demand for a centre for the arts’ services is just as important.
Maidenhead suffers from being close to London and to prettier places like Henley and Marlow.
If we cannot create a vibrant community here, in Maidenhead, people will look outwards to these other places and what community we have will be fragmented.
Who is going to buy these smart new flats in the borough?
Young professionals, one hopes, who will want Maidenhead to have a cultural life.
They will want more than commercial facilities and transport links.
The RBWM should not waste money on consultants to decide whether or not they should support Norden Farm, it should be obvious.
Chairman of Maidenhead Music
Building a future with our arts partners
Following questions being asked about the future of arts funding I’m writing to explain further.
Norden Farm and Old Court are indeed very valued partners in The Royal Borough delivering superb arts and culture to our residents and also outside the borough.
They have been financially supported for many years by the council and last year in advance of the 2021/22 budget, discussions were held with Norden Farm and Old Court to say that there would be six months of support (£80k for Norden Farm and £34k for Old Court) in the 21/22 budget plus some funding of £50k which Norden Farm and Old Court may like to apply to explore ideas such as bidding, match funding and an arts consultant
to look at what opportunities may be available.
It was also made clear that there would be no funding in the following year’s budget.
This was because of the financial situation at that time and we expressed our hope that funding in the future may return.
Currently Norden Farm and Old Court have a service level agreement where they have to provide certain returns for the funding they receive.
The council is working to support additional sources of income as well as encouraging diversifying.
Since that time the council have been having discussions with Norden Farm and now are awaiting the report of the independent external consultants to understand what options are available.
The council is also in close contact on a regular basis with the Old Court which is in a building which is owned by RBWM.
We are delighted that Norden Farm secured arts grant funding of £351,000 last year by Arts Council England and Old Court secured £145,000 from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund and Old Court
There are also many opportunities for Norden Farm and Old Court and RBWM to work together in the future as the value of art and culture is important for mental health, Ill health prevention and general wellbeing. Working out how that works for both is the next step.
The RBWM budget consultation is still open for residents to comment and I encourage participation.
Finally I am very hopeful that such a strong and positive relationship continues with our partners as we both have residents at the forefront and they drive our services.
Cllr SAMANTHA RAYNER
Deputy leader of The Royal Borough
Cabinet member for culture and heritage, corporate and resident services and Windsor
Don’t use Norden Farm as a political football
As ward councillors, we have always supported and continue to support Norden Farm.
We personally donated £500 from our councillor allowances in December 2020 to show our commitment to Norden Farm and have pledged to keep doing so.
We only want to see Norden Farm succeed and be as fully independent as it can be so that it can sustain its long-term future.
This is more important given the pandemic and the huge impact on councils.
The council is having to deal with unprecedented pressures, hence why we are increasing, to record levels, the adult social care, children’s services and education budgets.
We believe these are the right choices and decisions, and so we have to look at every part of the council’s budget with due diligence.
We have also been making representations to central government about the need for central funding solutions as councils cannot pick up every cost of the pandemic and the arts needs sustainable long-term funding and planning.
It is disappointing to see opposition parties using Norden Farm as a political football – by using it to spread misinformation to the public with one misconceived leaflet claiming ‘Don’t let Norden Farm become a block of flats’.
There are no plans whatsoever to build anything, never mind flats.
Whilst many councils have scrapped arts funding, we as a Conservative administration took a different approach by providing £80,000 as transitional and emergency funding despite the pandemic devastation.
We are also having ongoing and helpful discussions with the chair of trustees of Norden Farm and will continue to keep a clear and listening dialogue.
Councillor Samantha Rayner has clearly outlined that we are working closely with Norden Farm and now await the outputs of an independent expert consultant report to see how Norden Farm can be made more viable and sustainable.
That is why there is currently no budget line item, as we have brought forward the earliest budget consultation in recent RBWM history and wanted to get the ball rolling on public engagement.
Having the facts and evidence independently set out is quite right before decisions can be made on the level of additional support.
It is amazing opposition political parties seem scared of independent facts and evidence and instead have chosen to politically weaponise this important policy area, including throwing abuse at us on social media.
The council is also looking at introducing a local lottery for future funding streams of which Norden Farm would be a priority partner.
All local authorities have to balance budgets every year under law and so we have to look at every penny and pound in forensic detail.
We are committed to a fully facts and evidence-led process.
We therefore eagerly await the independent expert consultant report, which shall be imminently published and, once we have those key outputs, we stand ready to look at what support is needed.
Cllr GURPREET BHANGRA and Cllr STUART CARROLL
Conservative councillors for Boyn Hill
Onwards and upwards as we live with virus
Let us hope that Thursday, January 26 finally marks the end of restrictions for good.
Some 22 months after lockdown one, which was for an initial three weeks duration, and ended up dragging on for months leading on to a partial release in summer 2020, only to be followed by the November ‘circuit breaker’ and the on/off/on and finally off Christmas fiasco, culminating in the tier one and two and, almost overnight, four – lockdown in all but name.
April 2021 saw the beginning of the ‘roadmap’ and ‘irreversible’ route out of restrictions leading to an again delayed release in July, only for the milder omicron variant to pop up in November and not only once again threaten Christmas, but brace the population for yet another lockdown as early as Boxing Day, given the noises from Downing Street at the time.
Covid mutates as do all viruses and typically mutates downwards – ie less dangerous
Interestingly around 8 per cent of modern human DNA is comprised of ancient viral codes making us who we are.
I felt COVID was almost becoming a brand name – you name it, it has been stopped or hampered by the aforementioned.
It really is time now to ditch the terrifying stigma attached to the word and add it to the long list of respiratory diseases that, whilst nasty and even fatal, do not cause mass panic and close the world down when they seasonably flare up.
A new Prime Minister should take heed
As we wait with bated breath for the outcome of the official inquiry into boozy lockdown ‘gatherings’ in Downing Street I thought it would be timely to write to all Conservative and Unionist MPs in case they had to choose a new leader and Prime Minister.
I simply pointed out to these Tory politicians that the Irish protocol is absurd, and that is because it is based upon an absurd premise adopted by the Irish government, namely that ‘any checks or controls anywhere on the island would constitute a hard border’.
I actually mentioned this nonsensical claim in a letter which the editor was kind enough to publish on April 8 2021 under the accurate heading ‘EU deal has created a hard border in Ireland’, but then it had been a peculiar utterance by just one Irish politician.
Subsequently it was revealed by a former Irish diplomat, Rory Montgomery, that this had become the ‘firm position’ of the Irish government in 2017 after Leo Varadkar had taken over and the EU Commission had rejected any possibility of a flexible approach.
Whether or not we are to have a new Prime Minister we should not continue to risk the unity of our county by pandering to the irrationality of the EU and the Irish government for the sake of a special trade deal of no more than slight value to our economy.
Dr D R COOPER
Belmont Park Avenue
Will lunatic fringe deal with thorn in its side?
It is pertinent that D.R. Cooper points out that the vexed question of the border in Ireland has been a thorn in the side of negotiators since the referendum result in 2016. Prior to that, all leading proponents of leaving the EU declared the UK would remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union, and many voted Leave assuming that would be the case. Had that position been maintained, the Irish border would not be an issue. Sadly, the moderate wing of the Conservative Party has been taken hostage by its lunatic fringe, leading to a paralysis of politics, an unashamed liar as its leader and divisions galore.
It’s worth remembering that the original development of the European Union was to ‘make war unthinkable and materially impossible’ in which it’s been successful.
Indeed, the UK benefitted hugely from its EU membership, as has every country.
Even one of the greatest proponents of Brexit, the crown prince of pomposity, Jacob R. Mogg, said it could well be 50 years before the UK saw any benefit from leaving the EU.
Perhaps a Leave supporter might care to explain what on earth was the point.
Maintaining peace in Western Europe
For quite some time now I have been a keen observer of the spat between D.R. Cooper and members of the European Movement, regarding the benefits or otherwise of the EU.
These letters remind me of interviewing potential MEP candidates some years ago to represent the Conservative Party for the South East constituency. On asking what they thought the major benefit of the EU was, one applicant stated that the EU had kept the peace in Europe, though I suspect he meant Western Europe.
I asked if he thought that the presence of 50,000 UK troops in BAOR (British Army of the Rhine), 5,000 Canadians and 250,000 Americans might have been a contributory factor? His answer was equivocal.
I had spent the best part of my late teens and much of my twenties practising protecting western Europe by attempting to hold back any Russian led attacks via East Germany, tactically withdrawing for two days, and, if we weren’t successful, ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ would be used and, if that didn’t work, we’d sue for peace – well we squaddies wouldn’t as we’d all be dead.
He didn’t get my vote.
Given the current tensions over Russia and the Ukraine, the fact that BAOR is no more, the Canadians have gone home along with nearly all the Americans, I hope he was correct, and that the EU matches his faith; let’s hope so.
Burnham Park Academy and a scenic spot near Windsor and Eton Bridge are among the locations to feature in a new romantic drama on Netflix.