05:55PM, Monday 26 July 2021
A public consultation will begin next month on the Royal Borough’s draft corporate plan, cabinet announced on Thursday (July 22).
At Thursday’s meeting, leader of the council Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and the Walthams) presented a report outlining the plan.
The new plan was originally set to succeed the former council plan 2017-2021 but was paused due to the pandemic. An interim council strategy was approved in July 2020 to mitigate the challenges of the pandemic, with the new corporate plan designed to set out the council’s ‘strategic focus’ over the coming years.
The report said that whilst the borough is a ‘healthy, safe, affluent and pleasant place’ to live, work and visit, ‘particularly acute’ housing costs led to securing sustainable rented accommodation and getting onto the property ladder being ‘difficult for many’.
Addressing councillors at the meeting, Cllr Johnson said he was ‘very, very pleased’ to present the report.
“It currently looks to build upon the work already undertaken in terms of the interim strategy adopted in July 2020 in recognition of the significantly changed operating context for the local authority brought about by COVID-19,” said the leader of the council.
“There is, as you would fully understand, a need to succeed that interim strategy with a new forward looking corporate plan – a corporate plan which sets out the clear strategic direction of this council over the next period of four to five years.”
“What the plan sets out to do is effectively crystalise focus on the core areas where this council most needs to drive forward change but also to help the crucial allocation of guidance, resources and energy in delivering that change."
He added that the new plan would go through a ‘thorough and rigorous’ scrutiny process as well as a public consultation before being brought to full council for adoption in the autumn.
Cllr Wisdom da Costa (WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West) said it was ‘absolutely right’ that proposals and investments which did not meet the criteria set out in the plan should be rejected, although he emphasised his concerns that the plan ignores climate change warnings.
“You say that [the plan] is evidence-led, but it’s really ignoring climate change dangers that we’re starting to face and the need to protect residents and our infrastructure from the extremes of weather that are currently predicted by the Met Office,” said Cllr da Costa.
“This is akin to evidence; this is what’s going to happen in the next few years. We’re starting to see it happen and, if the evidence is there, we must include it.”
In response, Cllr Johnson said: “I would draw your attention to the very final statement of the Draft Plan framework which is ‘promote awareness of a clean, sustainable, and biodiverse environment in every decision we make’.
“That is the top-line statement, below which will sit all of the other council strategies and policies, including the adopted climate change and climate resilience strategy and indeed all of the follow-up work that my colleague Cllr Stimson [lead member for climate change, sustainability, parks and countryside] is working on."
He added that the statement would play a central role in ‘all of the decision-making’ going forward from the council but stressed the need to balance that with the demand for new homes, economic opportunities and jobs for the borough’s ‘growing population’.
The report was approved by cabinet, with the public consultation set to begin on Monday, August 2.