THE controversial plan which reserves multiple sites for thousands of homes has been passed by the ruling Conservative group despite criticism that it is ‘fatally flawed’.
After more than a decade of work, the Borough Local Plan (BLP) 2013-2033 was officially adopted at an extraordinary council meeting at the Holiday Inn in Maidenhead on Tuesday 8 February.
The plan calls for delivering at least 14,240 homes, or 712 homes a year, to meet projected housing needs as the Royal Borough’s population and economy grow over the years.
The meeting was triggered after government-appointed planning inspector Louise Philips found the plan to be “sound” after a rigorous review period and public hearings.
In the plan, one percent of green belt sites have been set aside for development to meet housing needs. The borough will protect 82% of its greenbelt sites, according to Cllr David Coppinger (Con: Bray), senior member for planning.
READ MORE: Planning inspector finds BLP ‘sound’
Cllr Coppinger said it was “the most important document” he brought to council, adding that the borough was “desperate” for affordable family housing.
He warned that if the BLP is not passed the government will ‘force’ the council to pass it as all local authorities must have an updated plan in place.
Meanwhile, council leader Andrew Johnson (Con: Hurley & Walthams) said it would be ‘foolish’ to reject the local plan as greenbelt sites could become a ‘free for all’ for developers s is not adopted.
However, he admitted that the BLP is “not perfect”.
Adoption of the plan does not mean that development will begin immediately for designated sites, as all sites are subject to individual planning applications which will be determined by a planning committee.
During the meeting, a rowdy public gallery of Maidenhead Great Park residents and activists can be heard shouting ‘shame on you’, ‘this is a joke’ and ‘stop lying’ as councilors discussed the plan.
A “Stop the meeting” chant wrapped where he urged the mayor, Cllr John Story (Con: Ascot & Sunninghill), to adjourn the meeting for a few minutes.
In the plan, Maidenhead Golf Course, a 132-acre green space, is intended for more than 2,000 homes, 40% of which are affordable, a new school, medical practice and parkland.
Activists have argued vehemently for the golf course to be turned into a large park so that Maidenhead can retain its ‘last green lung’ and for brownfields to be developed instead.
Cllr Coppinger said: ‘Given the inspector agreed with the housing requirement and given that we all know we need family homes, especially affordable homes, where are we going to build them?
“It has to be the green belt. Where is he of green belt sites within walking distance of a train station? Where is he has green belt sites near a city, especially a city that now reborn with many exciting new upcoming stores?
“Please tell me?”
Meanwhile, Cllr Johnson said: ‘We have enough brownfields to accommodate all the housing growth we need without obliterating our employment space.
“I’m not here to go around all the job sites in the borough just to build new houses. We also need economic growth.
Activists also say the development of this green space is unnecessary as the borough’s housing needs have more than halved since its initial calculation in 2012 and the vehicles that will accompany family homes will exacerbate air pollution. air, exceeding World Health Organization guidelines.
READ MORE: Protesters at Maidenhead golf course stage third protest
Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF: Oldfield) said: “RBWM has declared a climate emergency. It makes no sense to build on a greenbelt, especially 2600 homes on Maidenhead Golf Club and Harvest Hill Rd destroying two great natural habitats. The result will be massive CO2 emissions, chaos on our roads, during and after construction.
“We are going to lose Maidenhead’s last green lung, the last great carbon sink, a major water retention area, a pollutant adsorption system and a major oxygen plant.
“We will replace that with the persistent release of greenhouse gases and pollutants from thousands of car journeys and homes every day.”
READ MORE: Drivers in Windsor and Maidenhead see new changes to parking enforcement
Cllr Coppinger previously said it was “completely incorrect” to say the borough’s housing projection had halved, adding that the recalculation was based on “too short a period” and “unrepresentative” and, therefore, does not justify reducing the number of dwellings.
Doubts as to whether affordable houses could actually be considered affordable for a young family were expressed and a question was posed to Cllr Coppinger about the cost of affordable houses. Cllr Coppinger replied, “I’m not a realtor”.
Leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, Cllr Simon Werner (Pinkneys Green) said: ‘At the end of the day we all know what the local borough plan is really about, it’s all about the money.
“Over the years the council’s debt has skyrocketed to around £215million. Coincidentally, somewhat oddly, the sale of the golf course will increase roughly that amount and I think that’s why there’s such anger among residents and councilors on this side. [Lib Dems & Independents].
“For years we have been ignored where we have raised all these issues; floods, biodiversity, sustainability, all these arguments. If you [the Tories] listened, we wouldn’t have had a flawed plan now, we would have a great plan.
The 22 Conservative councilors voted to pass the BLP while 17 of the independents and opposing Liberal Democrats voted against.
Cllrs Catherine Del Campo (Lib Dem: Furze Platt) and Helen Price (TBF: Clewer & Dedworth East) were in attendance virtually but were unable to vote.