03:30PM, Friday 16 June 2017
Better the devil you know is the message from town hall chiefs as they prepare to rule on a major and controversial planning document.
The latest draft of the Borough Local Plan (BLP) is due to go before an extraordinary council meeting on Monday, which will determine whether or not it will progress to its final stage.
The document, which ended its latest round of public consultation in January, has provoked anger over proposals to build thousands of homes on greenbelt land.
And Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Maidenhead Riverside), the leader of the council, has urged people to put aside their reservations and back the scheme in case the alternative turns out to be worse.
He said: “It’s a glass half full situation. Some would say the BLP puts at risk the greenbelt.
“Our view is that it helps to protect it because it helps to determine where development takes place.
“You’re going from a situation where there are rules and if you don’t have a BLP then things just happen to you or are done to you.”
If rejected by councillors, who have been promised a free vote, the plan would be scrapped, but if approved it will go through a ‘regulation 19’ process.
This offers anyone the chance to make submissions on its ‘legal and technical soundness’, although councillors were keen to stress this is different to the previous public consultation.
The plan has set a target of building more than 14,000 homes by 2032, of which more than a third would end up in Maidenhead, as well as hundreds more in the surrounding area.
This would mean the council would be able to meet its quota of 13,528 new houses over the life of the document.
At all stages, the council has been keen to stress that if it does not submit a plan which can provide a level of housing acceptable to government inspectors, or does not finalise a local plan at all, then it risks matters being taken out of its hands and losing almost all its power to determine when, where and how development should take place.
“If there’s no one standing in goal they’re going to keep hoofing balls into the net – the BLP is the goal keeper,” Cllr Dudley said.
He added: “We know this isn’t easy, only 30 per cent of local authorities have local plans - it’s difficult and we acknowledge that.
“But the impetus to get local plans means we have to grasp this nettle and this enables us to protect the greenbelt.”
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