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Latest plans for Battlemead a compromise with room for improvement

A group of interested parties have now had their say on proposals for Battlemead Common after the council’s ‘masterplan’ for the area was met with a backlash.

The revised ecological management plan, updated in July, attracted criticism from several groups and residents and prompted the council to halt plans and commence a consultation.

The consultation, which began in September and closed on Monday, was open to the Friends of Battlemead Common – a group formed by the council to have a say over the site’s management.

Speaking to the Advertiser in July following the public outcry, cabinet member for parks and countryside, councillor Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s), said: “We just did not give them an opportunity to comment.”

Battlemead Common is a 110-acre piece of land off Lower Cookham Road bought by the council in December 2018.

The aim of the plan is to achieve a balance between protecting and enhancing the wildlife and biodiversity of the site, and enabling residents and visitors to enjoy the area.

Friends of Battlemead groups which have given feedback on the latest plans include WildCookham and Maidenhead Civic Society (MCS).

Both groups are, overall, quite happy with the plan – but there is still room for improvement.

“We’re in agreement with much of what’s in there,” said Mike Copland, chairman of WildCookham.

“There’s a lot of consensus across the friends for a lot of the content, we do have though some remaining important concerns and they’re mostly around the East field.”

Mike says this part of the land has always been ‘an area of disagreement’ between the Friends of Battlemead but WildCookham and MCS are two groups united in their opinion on plans for a new footpath.

The footpath would be open to the public in the winter and run parallel to the River Thames.

It is in addition to the causeway which, it is proposed, would also run through the East Field and be open April to September.

Mike and Ann Darracott, project co-ordinators for MCS, both say they ‘don’t see the point’ of it.

Ann added: “If you want to make a circular walk available all year round, you’re better off making a path through the willow fields.”

But the council has stated in the plans that the ‘Willow Woodland’ area in the southern part of the common will remain closed to the public.

It says it would require the installation of a footpath and associated tree clearance which would adversely affect the wildlife in the area and significantly reduce its biodiversity value.

However, Mike says WildCookham and Wild Maidenhead would like to ‘see a more complete assessment of that, to see the relative risks of that site compared with the proposed causeway path’.

Ann added that a circular route through the Willow Woodland would ‘provide a better experience for local people than going up and down the east field with this new North/South path’.

MCS also has concerns over the council plans to close part of the causeway from September to April and requested an extension to October so the yearly Boundary Walk can go ahead.

With each group having their own agenda, Ann said the plan is a ‘compromise’ and Mike agrees, although he says protecting the wildlife and enhancing the habitats ‘must remain a priority for all of us’.

Mike hopes the consultation will result in another discussion with the council before anything is decided.

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