Viewpoint: Remembering the women of the Air Transport Auxiliary

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Landmark date for women pilots

Eighty years ago, Britain had for almost two years been fighting a war which saw women fulfil many traditionally male roles – like being pilots, for instance.

Last Monday, July 19, was a real milestone for the women who had joined White Waltham based Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) from January 1940 onwards.

For 18 months the boy’s toys such as Hurricanes and Spitfires had been reserved for the men, the women being left with trainer aircraft and obsolete types.

But at Hatfield on that July morning in 1941, they broke a glass ceiling and proved that there is nothing essentially masculine about flying a high performance aircraft. Some of them, including diminutive Joan Hughes, an instructor at White Waltham after the war, went on the fly four-engined bombers.

Finally ATA became one of Britain’s first Equal Opportunity Employers by awarding its women exactly the same salary as its men.

Maidenhead Heritage Centre celebrates the story of all ATA pilots and invites women reading this letter to come and discover that modern women can do it too.


Maidenhead Heritage Centre

Spared of justification and pontification

Sunday’s COVID self-isolation U-turn by Downing Street has to have been the fastest ever.

Since Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight we’ve watched many others, now including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, treat the public with contempt as they seek to avoid the rules they themselves opposed on us.

It is deeply ironic that the three most important people in government were self-isolating on the so-called ‘freedom day’.

Thank goodness Mr Johnson had to cancel a speech to mark the occasion, when he would, in faux-Churchillian language, have claimed total responsibilty for the success of the vaccination programme – all the while wrapped in a union flag.

In the midst of a pandemic, when people have lost faith in its politicians, we deserve real leadership and a clarity which is nowhere to be seen.



Final leg in creating Borough Local Plan

This is a very important week for the Royal Borough.

We have now entered the final lap of achieving a sound Borough Local Plan.

Let me remind you what the plan does for us all – It shapes the future of the borough not just physically but with all the policies necessary to secure the environment that we all want.

It secures the sites we need to meet the needs of residents of today and tomorrow in terms of housing and employment.

It protects the greenbelt for future generations. Most importantly it provides the range of housing including affordable to meet the needs of all our residents of today and the future.

We have now started the final public consultation on the plan.

This is not on the whole plan but only on those aspects that the inspector raised after the last examination in public.

There are some minor changes to sites and several new and improved policies.

In each case the Inspector has already indicated her agreement to what is being put forward.

Any response on any other part of the plan will, I regret, not be considered.

We have extended the normal period by two weeks to September 5 because of the holiday season.

The documents and forms for responding can be found at:

Hard copies will be in the libraries from the end of the week.


Cabinet member for planning, environmental services and Maidenhead

Why are climate issues not in corporate plan?

RBWM’s ‘Draft Corporate Plan framework’ will be considered by the Cabinet on July 22 at 7pm. You are invited.

This working document sets out the key objectives that must be met by all other documents, decisions, guidelines and policy presented, made, and issued including spending and transformation decisions and, arguably, planning regulations and property company investments.

It sets out where are we heading and how are we going to get there, and, by corollary, where we will not be going and what we will not be taking seriously.

This is the most crucial report this council will present for decades to come as it will define and shape strategy and policy decisions.

It is akin to the One Ring to rule them all.

But here's the problem, the report does not mention climate change, climate resilience, biodiversity restoration or other environmental issues such as plastic use.

I have been proposing to lead members and senior management that all future decisions must be taken based on a number of factors and measures, including their impact on carbon emissions, preparing the Borough to be able to withstand the extreme weather predicted by even the Met Office in the near future and, restoration of native biodiversity.

However, this seems to have fallen on deaf ears as the corporate plan will allow the council to talk the environmental talk but deliver little substantive change.

This will off course be too late to save the livelihoods and wellbeing of future generations unless this current incarnation is amended.

Although a consultation on the draft is proposed, residents should be wary of the framing of the questions which seem to seek affirmation of the plan rather than major, constructive amendments.

So, I urge residents who care about the future of our planet to ask that the plan is amended to address these failings.

Please write to the leaders, Cllr Andrew Johnson and Duncan Sharkey, MD, to request that environmental issues are considered front, left and centre in the plan and therefore all future decisions.

After all, there is a climate emergency and our children’s futures depend on it.

Hopefully, unlike the fictional One Ring, the plan can be recreated to do good.


WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West

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