Climate fears as council corporate plan approved

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Throngs of people including children showed up in the public gallery for a full council meeting on Tuesday.

Protesters against the plan to build 2,000 homes on the greenbelt in Maidenhead arrived inside the town hall to watch the meeting, which addressed councillors’ environmental concerns, air pollution and the council’s five-year plan for the borough.

A significant motion put forward by Cllr Karen Davies (Lib Dem, Clewer East) addressed concerns about air quality.

She asked for the Royal Borough to increase its measurement of air particulates; review its Air Quality Improvement Action Plan in the light of updated WHO guidelines; and write to the Government asking these guidelines be updated into law ‘as a matter of urgency’.

Councillors supporting the motion noted that, even though reports state that the air quality across the Borough is ‘generally good,’ this is ‘not what (residents) feel’ in their everyday lives.

Others raised concerns about air quality on busy roads near multiple schools in the borough, considering the death of nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah in London, who became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death.

However, leader of the council Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) said new guidelines on particulate matter ‘look close to impossible to deliver’ and he would therefore not commit to writing to Government at this time.

Instead Cllr Davies agreed to alter the motion, taking forward only a commitment for the council to review its Air Quality Improvement Action Plan.

The council unanimously agreed.

Also at the meeting, the council approved its corporate plan, which outlines some key changes it aims to set in motion in the next five years to improve residents’ lives.

The corporate plan covers changes to buses, carbon emissions, health, education and housing.

As in a previous meeting, the plan was criticised for its ‘lack of ambition’ and its ‘disappointing’ environment focus.

Cllr Geoffrey Hill (The Borough First, Oldfield) said:

“Residents (outvoted) everything else in favour of protecting the climate.

“We’ve just seen several hundred residents outside demonstrating in the cold because the council wants to build on the golf club.”

Leader of the opposition Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) said he wanted to see stronger targets on eco homes.

“There’s no point declaring a climate emergency if you continue to build homes that don’t work towards that target,” he said.

This statement collected applause from members of the public, many of whom were part of the Maidenhead Great Park protest outside.

However, Cllr Johnson said:

“As I recall, a statement was made saying we should look to consider ‘a considerable number’ of eco homes on land that the council owns.

“A considerable number in my view would be north of 100, maybe even getting to 1,000 if we were ambitious.”

He said that there were not many places where such developments could be, outside of ‘the major site in Maidenhead, which we all know about.’

Opposition councillors also called for a longer length of time to review such key documents as the corporate plan – as they felt the week they were given was not long enough to examine it properly before it came to scrutiny.

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