05:00PM, Wednesday 26 May 2021
A petition has been launched urging the council to reintroduce two separate panels for development decisions in Maidenhead and Windsor.
In the council’s development panels, a select group of elected councillors approve or reject officer recommendations for planning permission for developments in the area – new flats or houses, or extensions, for example.
Before COVID-19, the Windsor area development panel discussed developments in Windsor, while the Maidenhead area panel discussed those in Maidenhead.
During the coronavirus pandemic a decision was made by the borough to move the development panels into a single panel rather than hold two separate Zoom meetings.
Now that the council is going back to face-to-face meetings as per Government requirement, a petition has been launched for the Royal Borough to reintroduce the two separate panels.
The ‘Royal Borough’ development management panel has nine members – five councillors representing Windsor ward and four representing Maidenhead.
Previously, each separate panel had nine members each.
“Having more councillors involved in the decision-making by going back to 18 councillors, nine for Maidenhead area and nine for the Windsor & Ascot area would make for a much better, more informed debate,” said petition leader John Webb.
He added that the development panel should be for local people to make local decisions about local issues.
“You get the local knowledge of the local councillors having a valuable input, rather than somebody from Maidenhead second-guessing what's going on in the depths of Windsor,” he said.
“Councillors representing a ward understand the nuances of their residents and its history.
“If planning consent (is) required, I’d rather have local people to make a case to than someone who has no interest in the local area.”
However, Cllr Phil Haseler, chair of panel, said that he did not see an issue with Maidenhead councillors discussing Windsor applications – as even within the Maidenhead or Windsor specific panels, not all councillors have equal local knowledge.
“Furze Platt councillors won’t necessarily know the issues we have got in Cox Green,” he said.
He added that the desire to have local councillors speaking up for their residents was understandable but that the panel has to be objective.
“If we make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons, we could be in big trouble with the planning inspectorate, there could be a judicial review,” he said.
He added that no decisions have been made in either direction.
Part of the discussion is whether it might be more efficient to have one panel for the officers working behind the scenes, as sometimes there are only a few planning applications to be discussed across the whole borough.
The issue is set to be addressed at an extraordinary council meeting on June 29. The petition’s deadline is June 24.
The petition had 100 signuares at the time of going to press.
To see the petition, visit https://petitions.rbwm.gov.uk/Planlocal/
The changes could see Colnbrook with Poyle, Langley Kedermister and Foxborough wards moved from Slough to the Windsor parliamentary constituency.