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Inspector questions council over flood risk sites in Borough Local Plan

Last chance to have your say on Borough Local Plan

Questions over elements of the Borough Local Plan will need to be answered by the council ahead of the next examination stage.

The plan, which will guide developments in the borough up to 2033, is undergoing inspection and the first hearing was held over three days at Maidenhead Town Hall in June.

The government inspector, Louise Phillips, has written to the council to ask for parts of the plan to be clarified and said she had not reached ‘firm conclusions regarding the soundness and legal compliance’ of parts of the plan.

Among the issues is a request for the borough to show how proposed development sites in an area of high flood risk are justified. Ms Phillips noted concerns raised by the Environment Agency (EA) following a strategic flood risk assessment.

In the letter, she wrote: “In particular, the EA was not satisfied that the conclusions of the report were based upon a sufficiently precautionary approach to climate change.”

Sites allocated for areas of high flood risk must pass an ‘exception test’, which shows how that risk will be managed.

Ms Phillips wrote: “Firstly and generally, I am not yet satisfied that sites without a safe access/ egress are capable of passing the exception test at the allocation stage.”

She also pointed to concerns about the availability of documents and the legality and fairness of the council’s local plan consultation, which were raised at the examination.

A pressure group of people who oppose the local plan, RBWM Residents Action Group (RRAG), said they hoped a new plan would be drafted ‘based on genuine consultation with residents’ and added in a statement: “It remains RRAG’s view that this local plan is unsound and not legally compliant and we hope it is rejected.”

Ms Phillips has set an initial deadline for the council’s response of Friday, August 17. She will advise on the next examination stage when the council responds.

Cllr David Coppinger (Con, Bray), cabinet member for planning, said the council would work with the EA to address issues raised and added: “We are pleased the inspector has asked to proceed to the next stages of the local plan examination.”

His comments were picked up by RRAG member Naheed Majeed, who described the quote as ‘misleading’ and noted a tweet from the Royal Borough containing the statement had been taken down.

Cllr Coppinger said yesterday (Thursday) his statement was ‘absolutely correct’. But leader of the opposition Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old Windsor) tweeted: “Surely there can be no ‘moving on’ until this conclusion is reached.”

This story was updated on Friday, August 3.

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