Viewpoint: Should Battlemead path be opened to public?

Email Viewpoint letters to jamesp@baylismedia.co.uk or write to Viewpoint, Newspaper House, 48 Bell Street, Maidenhead, SL6 1HX


Where are the voices in support of path?

On Tuesday, July 20 I attended the council meeting at the town hall to put a supplementary question: "Would you therefore agree that in the case of Battlemead the council has already ensured that there is sufficient access for the public, including the long sought for Millennium Way link between Widbrook Common and the Thames path, and the unnecessary path across the East Field could wait to be implemented after ecologists have assessed the bedding in of the ecological plan in five years’ time?" (abridged – the full question is on record).

In her answer Cllr Stimson mentioned that she needed to appease the anger of those who wanted the path opened.

I have seen no evidence of that anger – on the contrary, of the 226 emails and letters sent last summer on this subject to Cllrs Johnson, Stimson and the parks and countryside team, only 18 were identified as being in favour of such an opening.

Over the course of the last few days hundreds of people have put their names to a petition calling for the East Field to remain closed to the public.

If there are hundreds of angry voices in favour of the path then surely in the interest of transparency they should make themselves known?

Meanwhile a large number of rational citizens continue to ask that the council listen to them and keep the East Field closed and nature there protected.

You can find the link for the petition here https://petitions.rbwm.gov.uk/save-battlemead/ 

DEBORAH MASON

Save Battlemead, Save the Planet campaign


Ignore scaremongering over East Field plans

Battlemead Common was purchased by the Royal Borough nearly three years ago as public open space.

It was also to provide the missing link in the Boundary Walk and the Millennium Walk (from Hurley) that follows the Boundary Walk from Pinkneys Green.

Less than half of the open space is currently open to the public and the missing link has so far been walked twice (for Rotary’s annual Boundary Walk in 2019 and for the 20th anniversary of the inaugural Millennium Walk in 2020, organised by Maidenhead Civic Society and East Berks Ramblers).

The only path across the new common to the Thames is the northern perimeter path, so there is currently no circular walk.

Unfortunately this path last winter was only usable by walkers wearing wellingtons.

There is a car park but it is not currently accessible so drivers park illegally at the entrance.

We want the Royal Borough to expedite the opening of the car park and to open up the Causeway Path - and only the Causeway Path - across the East Field throughout the year.

Unlike Wild Cookham and Wild Maidenhead we have listened to the views of others with an interest in Battlemead and have never sought access to the whole of the East Field.

The causeway path on this field is a legacy from when gravel, from the construction of the Jubilee River, was brought up by barge and hauled by lorries to Summerleaze.

It is a wide path that is flanked by newly created wetlands and gives spectacular view of Cliveden and the Cliveden Reach.

We accept that in the winter migratory wildfowl, unfamiliar with the area, may be startled, but this is a large field with several wetland areas so the path, to be fenced, is unlikely to have a significant impact.

It is certainly not of sufficient impact to justify preventing all access to the causeway path by walkers, as has recently been proposed by a petition from Wild Cookham.

The film used to promote this uses unrepresentative information. For example, the dominant wildfowl, the Canada goose, whose faeces encourage blanket weed, is not mentioned, nor is the American mink, known to occur in the area and a predator on water voles.

It would be interesting to know how much was filmed at Battlemead.

The next meeting of the steering group for Battlemead Common meets on August 3 when the future plans for the common will be revealed.

Readers should know that the amenity societies have done their best to obtain improved access to this new common by contacting the steering group.

Walking has been especially important for mental and physical health during the pandemic. We feel Battlemead should play its part.

So ignore the scaremongering and use an opportunity to experience the landscape and views from the East Field.

On October 3, the annual Boundary Walk will take place.

This will allow you to walk the causeway path to reach the Thames on the missing link in the Boundary Walk/Millennium Walk and judge for yourself what it offers.

ANN DARRACOTT

Maidenhead Civic Society

STEVE GILLIONS

East Berks Ramblers

DICK SCARFF

The Cookham Society


Battlemead purchase puts council in a pickle

Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is a contract law principle familiar to anyone involved in buying property but I’m afraid the council may have overlooked this warning back in 2018 leaving them in quite a predicament today.

It was at the start of September 2018 that RBWM exchanged contracts for the purchase of around 112 acres of land next to the Thames, which they later named Battlemead Common (rather misleadingly, as it’s not legally a common).

When the opportunity arose, despite having no approved budget for it, the administration jumped at the chance to invest £1.16m of public money in acquiring the land using ‘urgent decision’ powers to commit to the transaction before seeking permission for the extra budget.

The confidential report presented retrospectively to the full council (released under Freedom of Information) shows they felt compelled to hurry the purchase to avoid missing out on the chance to acquire the land enabling completion of key pathways and providing additional public open space.

Yet this was risky as the administration failed to conduct robust due diligence before exchange, most significantly not performing an ecological survey.

Now, given what the CIPFA report has taught us about the deficiencies in financial governance during this period, particularly relating to capital investments, it doesn’t take a massive leap of imagination to assume there would have been significant pressure from the top to make this happen regardless.

When an ecological survey was finally undertaken it became clear they hadn’t fully understood what they’d purchased; Battlemead is home to several Habitats of Principal Importance, designated at a national level, supporting sensitive wildlife such as ground-nesting birds.

Councils have a legal duty, when managing their land, to have regard to the purpose of conserving biodiversity.

Our council has also adopted an Environment and Climate Strategy with a focus on enhancing the natural environment.

It’s therefore very disappointing that the administration now seem resolute in pushing ahead with opening up even more public access at Battlemead on top of what has already been provided, specifically adding a path right through the middle of a highly sensitive wetland habitat.

Personally, I’m delighted that, serendipitously, RBWM acquired this haven for wildlife and I know many share this view with several hundred signing the live petition (https://bit.ly/2UZSbAB) to reject proposals for this new path.

Whilst I genuinely sympathise with those that saw the acquisition of Battlemead as fulfilling long-held ambitions for public amenity, RBWM cannot simply derogate from its obligations just because it made promises that it should not have.

If anything, it’s not the conservationists’ desire to protect this precious site that should be seen as a source of annoyance but rather the council’s introduction of that most troublesome of species, the white elephant.

ADAM BERMANGE

Boyn Hill Close

Maidenhead


Neighbours voted to reject golf club plans

How sad that RBWM councillors think so differently from Reading Borough Council’s planning applications committee who, on July 15, 2021 voted unanimously to reject the proposal to build 257 homes on Reading Golf Course at Emmer Green.

In a council report, planning officers said the Reading Golf Club development would lead to a loss of a significant amount of open space.

The council went on to say any development would have an ‘adverse effect’ on trees and a ‘net loss of biodiverstity’.

They added the plan would fail to meet zero carbon home standards.

Campaign group, Keep Emmer Green, has revealed an alternative proposal to turn the site into an arboretum which would make the site into a public open space.

This is similar to the proposal to turn Maidenhead Golf course into Maidenhead Great Park which was sadly defeated by a single vote at a recent council meeting.

The massive overdevelopment of Maidenhead town centre is now obvious to everyone and therefore the importance of retaining Maidenhead Golf Course as a green space for our town is essential.

GEORGE MIDGLEY

Walker Road

Maidenhead


Fines should go to council bin contractors

I read the article in the Advertiser (July 22) regarding someone being fined for 'fly tipping' after leaving recycling on top of full bins.

This is very hypocritical of the Royal Borough and their contractors – over the last few months Serco refuse collection drop refuse on to the highway and this is not just clean recycling but grey bin and food waste.

Could District Enforcement follow Serco on the bin rounds and issue fines for every item dropped and not cleaned up, or is this one rule for us hard working rate payers and one for the council?

It is obvious that the council is not monitoring its contractors closely enough.

RICHARD O’KEEFFE

Maidenhead


Does golf course policy protect the greenbelt?

In his letter on the Borough Local Plan (Viewpoint, July 22) Cllr Coppinger includes the following quote: “It protects the greenbelt for future generations.”

I wonder if the same quote accompanied the gift of land for the golf course all those years ago?

JOHN HENESY

Pinkneys Green


Take action to avoid unsustainable future

Cookham and northerly routes from Maidenhead are jammed to a standstill daily.

‘The Troubled Bridge over Water’ has stationary traffic in all directions.

RBWM have modelled but disguised this in the local plan.

Residents of Cookham and the wider RBWM – take action to avoid condemning yourselves and children to a grim unsustainable future.

Councillor Coppinger last week explained the latest consultation was the ‘last lap’.

He ‘regrets’ you can only consult on the elements he has agreed with the inspector (the transparent process was removed by a cabinet decision).

Really?

The vital issue isn’t addressed. Don’t be distracted.

For four years I have analysed the visionless plan, specifically the traffic modelling.

I concluded using data sent, only to me, by the head of planning, the traffic model and its defence is fundamentally flawed.

If you live in Cookham or travel through it in the morning, the building allocations and consequential traffic show a 540 per cent increase in travel time, less than walking pace at best, but likely gridlock on the High Street and in The Rise.

Other basic anomalies exist.

Furthermore, the council has now refused to specifically acknowledge the effect on Cookham of 600 approved new homes just over the bridge in Bourne End.

Tweaking the bridge traffic lights – the farcical antidote!

I individually represented the case at the inspector hearings.

I contend she has been, for whatever reason, misled and the RBWM plan being ‘unsound’ (a technical failure term).

My detailed analysis was sent to all cabinet councillors and officials – not a single response.

Councillor Clark not only representing Cookham, but traffic lead for RBWM, has been silent.

Is he for his constituents or cabinet?

Councillor Coppinger agreed to talk but not in the context of the local plan.

I didn’t waste my time.

The reason is simple.

Cookham and two of the three northern routes out of the borough are at or over capacity.

They want to build 600 homes in or close to Cookham, notwithstanding the 600 over the bridge – the traffic scenario just does not support it.

RBWM will not acknowledge this.

I’m not against development.

I provided alternative scenarios.

As for ‘it protects the greenbelt for future generations’, guess where over 90 per cent of the ‘Cookham 600’ are destined for?

For now, relegate the main modifications consultation and any political allegiance.

Time is critical – write to the inspector within the next three weeks.

She still has the option to question the process.

Ask her to review the traffic situation facts and the home allocations for Cookham. Question the councillors mentioned, start a discussion on the local social media, request a face to face public meeting in August with RBWM to explain why they plan for Cookham gridlock.

Perhaps initiate a petition.

For Cookham, the data is fact not opinion.

I will continue to be ignored, as a lone voice.

It’s now in your court, your decision, not too late yet.

Gridlock is the default.

Inspectors programme officer: Charlotte Clancy: bankssolutions@gmail.com.

PAUL STRZELECKI

Berries Road

Cookham


Self-interested Tories rejected town council

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the sheer number of volunteers and community activists who helped support the campaign for Windsor Town Council – collecting the 2,000+ petition signatures, attending Zoom meetings and submitting responses.

The limitations on volunteers being able to energise a community during a global pandemic cannot be underestimated.

Despite these obstacles, there was a clear mandate in favour, after all this was not a referendum.

The vote last Tuesday not to establish a town council for Windsor underlines the sheer dysfunctional nature of the current council.

We have a proposer for the report, who then voted against his own proposal, we have current parish councillors voting against the formation of a parish council and we have non-Windsor residents patronising Windsor residents with their views of what would suit them best.

Judging by the speeches, it was clear that many members had not even bothered to read the rather excellent community governance report which took a year to produce and made a clear statement of support.

As an aside, every voter against, either lives outside the town or enjoys the extra democratic representation of a town or parish council within their constituency.

Are they suggesting we abolish all of these?

Let's be clear, rather than the woolly and unsubstantiated arguments about money and bureaucracy, this vote highlights the sheer malaise in the current local Conservative Association.

One speaker spoke against the need for 21 councillors, despite this being the number proposed by his own association.

The reason is because they would struggle to find 21 candidates willing to stand under the blue rosette.

Feral self interest by those in power, fearful of losing influence over the town was the primary reason for this rejection.

This must be the first consultation in history where the views of 100 people outweigh the views of over 500.

A Windsor Town Council will replace the ineffective and ludicrous Windsor Town Forum sooner rather than later, whether that is time to save the political careers of those who put their party ahead of their residents, only time will tell.

RICHARD ENDACOTT

Kingsfield

Windsor


Elections Bill attacks democracy foundations

The newly published Elections Bill will allow ministers to define and curtail ‘campaigning’, could make coordinating opposition an offence, and permits political meddling in the Electoral Commission.

A free election is one where unaffiliated organisations, charities and even the person on the street can be part of the debate.

And where independent groups like Best for Britain, can provide voters with information on parties and their policies.

By putting restrictions on campaigning and cross-party co-operation, this bill stifles healthy opposition.

It is an attack on the foundations of our democracy.

DAVID WEBSTER

Raymond Road

Maidenhead


EU exports policy is better late than never

On February 22, 2018 the Advertiser kindly printed a letter headed ‘Easy solution to EU border conundrum’, in which I proposed:

“There is an alternative, and perfectly reasonable, approach, for after we have left the EU, and that is for the UK Parliament to pass a new law requiring all exports to the continuing EU to meet all EU requirements, on pain of penalties.”

Concluding with the explanation that:

“If the existing UK law provides a sufficient guarantee to the Irish and EU authorities that there is no need to check imports from the UK at the border, as it does, then there is no reason why a new UK law could not also provide such a guarantee.”

Now 41 months later I read in paragraph 43 of the government policy paper ‘Northern Ireland Protocol: the way forward’:

"We also stand ready to bring in new legislation to deter anyone in Northern Ireland looking to export to Ireland goods which do not meet EU standards or to evade these enforcement processes."

And, again, in paragraph 62:

“ ... we are also ready to put in place legislation to provide for penalties for UK traders seeking to place non-compliant goods on the EU market.”

One could say ‘better late than never’ for the UK government to ask Parliament to take this action, which could provide the basis for a system of export licences as suggested in other letters also copied to our local MP when she was Prime Minister, and which would not require the agreement of the EU or the Irish government.

And one could also say ‘the sooner the better’, as that system of regulating the carriage of goods out of Northern Ireland into the Irish Republic would make redundant the present crazy system of EU checks and controls on all goods entering Northern Ireland, even though only a very small fraction of them later cross the border.

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue

Maidenhead


Remembering those we lost in Korean War

I am acting on behalf of the authorities at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, Busan, South Korea, where over 800 British Servicemen are buried.

The authorities there wish to obtain photographs of those servicemen interred there, and, also of those who died but have no known grave (200+).

Copies of the photographs will be placed in the mans records,and will also be displayed on the walls of the cemetery Hall of Remembrance for all time.

The following names are just some of the young men from Berkshire who gave their lives in the Korean War:

Spr Ronald P Bootle, 2nd Lt Andrew JE Albrecht, Pte Sydney AW Allum, Lt John AC Milner, Cfn John Hearne, Acn 1 Leslie M Edwards and RN Pte Dennis R Cresswell.

Any family, or friends, who lost a loved one in the Korean War and wish to take part in this project can send the photograph to me.

Brian Hough 116 Fields Farm Rd, Hyde SK143NP, Greater Manchester. If more details are required you can phone me on 0161 368 5622, or, 07467037742. You can also email me bhough116@gmail.com

BRIAN HOUGH

Hyde, Greater Manchester

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