08:00PM, Friday 11 December 2020
We put faith in Phil Haseler’s integrity
Having taken several deep breaths, I am replying to Lin Chen’s letter (Viewpoint, November 26).
Ostensibly concerning the Planning Inspectorate appeal into refusal by RBWM to grant planning permission to Claires Court School to develop the 42 acre Grade 2 agricultural greenbelt site, the letter was primarily a personal attack on Cllr Phil Haseler, and by extension the community group Cox Green Says No (CGSN).
Like, I assume, Lin Chen, I am the mother of a son who attended Ridgeway School: unlike Lin Chen I have lived on the affected part of Cannon Lane for over 28 years and have close knowledge of CGSN.
Phil has given a full rebuttal of her claims re his own actions (Viewpoint, December 3) but I would like to add some further thoughts from a community perspective.
CGSN is a voluntary group of many people who live in and around the area, with a substantial Facebook group as the main means of communication.
Many of us have contributed to the evidence used in the appeal, through assisting in traffic counts and providing photographic support for reports of our daily experience of traffic levels.
We know the reality of Cannon Lane’s traffic, and together with several parish councils and other local groups in the surrounding the areas, realise the increased chaos, pollution and social cost that will result from installing the required infrastructure and subsequent substantial increase in traffic movements on this over-used road.
It remains a mystery as to why RBWM’s highways department fails to acknowledge it.
Phil Haseler has been the main spokesperson for Cox Green Says No since its formation in 2016, and his election as a first-time RBWM councillor in 2019 (topping the poll in Cox Green) is testament to the belief that the Cox Green community has in him. His conduct throughout the recent eight-day appeal was exemplary: his approach was professional and fact-based throughout, and the value of his contribution on behalf of local residents was acknowledged by both of the barristers involved and the Planning Inspector.
CGSN has no financial support – everyone involved gives their time and knowledge freely. We have been amazingly fortunate to have someone who combines a belief in his local community with a family who are willing to support him wholeheartedly in doing so.
Sadly, Lin Chen has chosen to use terms of personal abuse in her letter that are both unwarranted and wrong.
As Daniel Moynihan wrote ‘everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts’.
JAY WILKINSON (Mrs)
Other schools have built on greenbelt land
I write in response to three letters in Viewpoint (December 3) concerning the Claires Court School redevelopment plans.
Just for Mr Gavin Ames’ benefit I will declare my hand as thus; I am a former pupil of the school, parent of two children at the school and a lifetime Maidonian .
I do hope Mr Ames is satisfied with my declaration. For the record my children will not benefit from the redevelopment due to their respective ages, so that should allow me to have my say, in line with his own baffling logic!
I would also take to task Mr Ames’ use of the word ‘vitriolic’ when describing Lin Chen’s letter (November 26).
Unlike Mr Ames, I don’t need a dictionary to know what ‘vitriolic’ means but I would suggest he’s had a very sheltered life.
Cllr Haseler wrote last week that his concerns are in part supported by his residence in Cox Green of 35 years.
I’ve lived in Maidenhead for over 45 years and I can tell Cllr Haseler and his fellow councillors that during this time their calamitous planning proposals have changed our town and surrounding area for the worse. Now we have a proposal that provides so many obvious positives and they choose to reject it. That is the rank hypocrisy that is clear for all to see!
There is just no common sense, no vision and no overall ambition for Maidenhead according to Cllr Haseler’s view, although I’m sure it’s more his own view from his window that he is more worried about!
Other schools have been built on greenbelt land in Maidenhead in recent years so consistency must be applied, whether planning be for a state or private school.
In my opinion, the school has not been treated fairly by the council throughout this process and to have Cllr Ross McWilliams (December 3rd) include a pointed attack on the school plans as part of a wider letter just shows that to be evidently true.
I just can’t believe that we aren’t moving on with this project and celebrating a local success story.
It really is sad and unfortunately sums up the jumbled thinking of our council.
Add time for say on Nicholson Quarter
All credit to Areli for holding a public webinar last week to discuss their revised proposals for The Nicholson Quarter, as you reported.
Their amended plans, submitted on November 17, represent the probably the biggest change Maidenhead town centre has ever seen but, while Areli have done more than most to engage the community in the run-up, the period allowed by the council for public comments on the application has been less than a month, with a closing date tomorrow (December 11).
Moreover the application is expected to be considered in February by a planning panel restricted in numbers during the pandemic, containing just two councillors from Maidenhead’s seven unparished wards.
As others have rightly said, the Nicholson redevelopment presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for Maidenhead.
It also has major implications for the social and environmental well-being of the community and the character of the town.
On behalf of the Civic Society, I urge the council actively to seek public opinion on the plans, extend the deadline until after Christmas and ensure that the application is considered by a properly representative committee, if not the full council.
Maidenhead Civic Society
How to make wardens’ work more efficient
Earlier this year I took on the responsibility as opposition lead for infrastructure for the Independent Group and within a few months also secured the role as vice chair of the infrastructure overview and scrutiny panel.
I take these roles seriously.
One of the first projects I had as councillor was to finalise plans for The Limes to become a resident-only parking area. Happy residents.
Within months RBWM had decided that residents had to start paying for parking permits. A resident changed vehicle and had to start paying even though they’d not used the full permit period. Unhappy resident…
I resolved the problem but why are the rule changes not being thought through and a clear plan of execution adopted?
Residents complain of people parking on double yellow lines… where are those enforcement officers to prevent this from happening?
Currently we have three sets of wardens: parking, environmental and community all run differently!
We pay the parking wardens contractor circa £80k a month for 24 people and they generate circa £50k a month.
That doesn’t stack up – they need to be issuing more tickets for parking to keep my residents happy!
Another contractor which is keeping all the fines is working harder, generating similar money with circa six people in play!
The District Environmental Crime Officer trial contract is for 12 months and you don’t have to be a businessman to understand if you owned that contract you’d be milking it.
“Oh, you there, parked on that double yellow line, yes you, did you just drop your cigarette down the drain? That’ll be £100 quid for the fag son, not bothered about the double yellow.”
Our community wardens don’t generate income. They spend their time looking after the public in a variety of ways.
A great deal of time has been spent helping the vulnerable during COVID and this has had a huge impact on officers both mentally and physically. They cost, with tweaked budgets, around £600k a year.
There is a huge disconnect across these services, which creates an opportunity.
We need to move away from silo working and start talking more to work out solutions for the long term benefit of our community.
If this team generated £2.4m a year from parking, fly tipping, fag butts, low level disobedience and 20 per cent was used for education purposes within schools and 5 per cent for the marketing team to generate and distribute relevant messages then that would leave 75 per cent or £1.8m or 45 people plus support team (If the average cost of a head count is circa £40k a year).
That’s two officers per ward who could get to know the community well and know who to warn, who to fine and who to give a cuddle (COVID permitting).
There are bound to be issues but if we had two officers on the beat, one good cop, one bad cop, then folk would soon start pulling their socks up and taking note.
Cllr JON DAVEY
WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth West
Sense and sensitivity over the Irish border
Phil Jones surprised me by reverting to the topic of the ‘light touch’ border between Norway and Sweden (Viewpoint, December 3). I thought our discussion on that was concluded on October 3 2019, with my letter headed ‘Border ‘molehill’ has become a ‘mountain’’.
It long ago became clear that on the EU’s politically driven trade model the Irish land border could only be left as open as now if the UK remained under many of the rules of the EU Single Market, as well as continuing in some kind of customs union with the EU.
As neither of those conditions would be acceptable to the UK it became necessary to devise some alternative arrangement, and in another reply to Mr Jones I referred to a proposal from Sir Jonathan Faull, previously a Director-General at the EU Commission.
That letter was published on October 31 2019, under the heading ‘Simple solution to the Irish border ‘problem’’, and Mr Jones could still easily find that simple solution through an internet search for its title, ‘An Offer the EU and the UK Cannot Refuse’.
Sadly the title proved too optimistic, as this eminently sensible proposal was promptly rejected by the EU and silently ignored by the UK government.
Dr D R COOPER
Belmont Park Avenue