02:00PM, Monday 16 August 2021
Wildlife pushed back at Battlemead
Thank you to the 884 people who signed our Protect Battlemead petition and many others who wrote emails to RBWM – a very powerful message to our borough councillors.
But it appears it was not strong enough to get a change of policy.
The council seems intent on putting a path through the East Field at Battlemead, a sensitive wetland area of the site and a national Priority Habitat, whose wildlife will inevitably be disturbed by humans and dogs going through.
The fact that we fully accept the case for us humans to be able to enjoy it too, but only after we have given nature a chance there, was apparently of little significance. Humans and dogs have been made the priority.
The borough council is the landowner and it is their decision to make.
But it is very odd indeed from a council that has adopted an Environment & Climate Strategy which promises to increase biodiversity in response to the environment and climate emergency.
And even odder when this is the biggest area of still largely undisturbed habitat owned by the council, and they could have made a clear statement to signal their intent.
Last year the government committed to protecting 30 per cent of land for biodiversity by 2030.
Only 10 per cent (approximately 5,000 acres) of RBWM currently has any kind of ecological designation, including less than about 50 acres in the East Field of Battlemead.
Surely we want our borough to be one of the greenest and best areas for wildlife?
Where is the other 10,000 acres in RBWM?
How can we ever protect 30 per cent, when the council is missing the opportunities with the 10 per cent identified so far?
Councillors will, of course, respond to the people they represent.
Sadly, in this case, their ears have been more open to those who fail to see that putting human interests first will ultimately come back to bite them, as the accelerating collapse in our ecosystems undermines some of the basic components of life on our planet.
We believe that the 884 who petitioned to keep the path closed for the time being represent a much greater and growing group whose voice needs to be heard.
Meanwhile Wild Maidenhead and WildCookham will be pushing for the appropriate protection for wildlife from the inevitable disturbance.
But we'll also be looking forward to focus on allowing the site to be the best it can be for biodiversity, with the resulting greatest benefit to the local population.
And we hope that the borough council will work with landowners, business and wildlife groups to find another 10,000 acres, and start improving decision-making on its own land.
Ignoring emergency in our biodiversity
I am very disappointed that RBWM is failing to protect a significant wetland habitat in its care by permitting a path to fragment the habitat.
Sadly this is exactly what happens all over the world and until wildlife is treated with respect we can only expect extinction rates and loss of biodiversity to accelerate.
A reader may think Battlemead is small and doesn’t matter but when this behaviour is replicated a million times all over the world, by humans only interested in their own short term gain, it amounts to why we face a dire and impoverished future.
It appears the main political drivers in RBWM are still not treating the biodiversity emergency seriously.
Village landscapes are under threat
To win a ‘Best Kept Village’ competition requires commitment from organisations and property owners.
The Cookham villages were regular winners – but sadly not today.
Visit Holyport – the village green is mown so children can play and community events can take place.
The village pond has clear water where wildlife can prevail and thrive.
Visit Cookham village green, at the Moor – overgrown grass, thistles, nettles, brambles and trees establishing, reducing open space available to residents.
The pond and the stream that flows in and out of it is silted up and overgrown with vegetation.
If the countryside is not maintained, grasses will establish, growing tall, shadowing out and choking off small wild flowers, then brambles and trees will establish and views of open countryside which inspired Sir Stanley Spencer’s paintings will disappear.
Before man was involved, grazing animals restricted this change.
The old village of Cookham has 800 acres of common land. Our ancestors had rights to graze the grassland and fell trees for building materials and fuel and maintained a wide diversity for wildlife.
Today, Winter Hill chalk grass escarpment of wild flowers is now a wood blocking off the views over the Thames to the Chilterns.
Local farmers grazed cattle free of charge on the commons of Widbrook and Cockmarsh.
This restricted the height of the grassland and small wild flowers flourished.
This year, grazing cattle on Widbrook common has become unviable, tall grasses are overshadowing small wild flowers.
Cockmarsh Common chalk escarpment in time will be lost like Winter Hill.
Quarrywood beech woodland not felled for furniture-making was damaged by the 1987 gale – it was not replanted and ash trees established.
The view from Marlow is of dying ash trees. The remaining beech trees will, in time, also disappear.
The River Thames river bank trees were originally maintained by the Thames conservancy.
Trees which have fallen into the river remain, which allows silting, restricting flow and increases the risk of flooding.
Hedges untrimmed will become a row of trees. Roadside grass verges and hedges unmaintained will become trees, shadowing out the wild flowers and screening off road signs.
RBWM has purchased some farm land for over £1million and named it Battlemead Common, becoming the only common where access is restricted and ratepayers will be responsible for its future upkeep.
The English countryside we love was created and maintained by farmers to produce food. Woodland was managed to produce building materials and fuel, crops and trees were planted, farm animals maintained grassland.
The number of farmers continues to decline, so does the area of land farmed following the loss of Government support so to maintain biodiversity, man should use all the modern tools available and not rely on going wild and returning the countryside to forest, which will reduce the bio-diversity.
Like winning ‘Best Kept Village’, to preserve our greenbelt countryside we need practical commitment from local organisations and property owners who understand that to be successful it must be viable and sustainable and not restricted by single issue groups who can ignore or forget the potential negative side effects of their proposals.
This report is the only thing that’s chilling
What some of us have known for a while – how humans are effectively heating our world towards extinction – has now been verified in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. It’s chilling reading.
My question for RBWM council is this:
Will you now withdraw your plans to build on the land currently leased to Maidenhead Golf Club?
This space is a vital ‘green lung’ for those of us currently living in Maidenhead, our children, and future generations.
I’d like to suggest that you embark on a project to plant thousands of trees instead.
To continue with the intended scheme would indicate a complete disregard for the facts, and that financial gain, rather than heeding the dire warnings of the climate change report is more important.
And perhaps that we have a morally bankrupt local council!
Drivers are ignoring mini roundabout
Further to the comments by your reader regarding the mini roundabout at the junction of Howarth Road and Stafferton Way (Viewpoint, August 3), I too find many drivers completely disregard the roundabout when driving in an easterly direction, which, apart from breaking the law, it makes it extremely hazardous for cyclists and pedestrians and vehicles exiting from Howarth Road!
You expect vehicles to slow down on approaching the roundabout, but instead they treat it as straight-through road.
I have to admit that the siting and relevance of the roundabout is questionable, it would be far safer to return it to a ‘T’ Junction, but whilst it’s there, drivers should obey the Highway Code.
Act on overloading in the Local Plan
In his letter (Viewpoint, July 29), Paul Strzelecki details his view of the future of North Maidenhead and Cookham if the development detailed in the emerging Borough Local Plan (BLP) goes ahead unchecked. Sitting here south of Maidenhead we can see exactly the same happening in Bray Parish.
Having produced a plan that fully met the RBWM housing requirement figure of 14,240 dwellings over the plan period of 2013 to 2033 (ie 712 units per annum), RBWM added, at the last minute, an extra approximately 2,000 dwellings to the plan.
In this same period, I believe central Government predictions of national housing requirements have been reduced. This plan has resulted in the following sites in Bray Parish alone being put forward to be taken out of the greenbelt unnecessarily:
This development, on greenbelt land, is concentrated on a short length of the already overloaded A308 Windsor Road.
In addition to the extra traffic on this road, caused by BLP development, there are a number of recent planning approvals and applications that will further increase usage of this route.
Gravel extraction at Water Oakley – behind the old Queens Head public house.
Aldi supermarket being constructed just off the Windsor Road in Dedworth.
In addition, a planning application has just been lodged for a significant expansion of Bray Studios.
Also in Bray Parish is the 55-acre greenbelt Triangle Site (formerly the Littlewick Showground) which is earmarked for industrial and commercial use.
This site is susceptible to flooding – a current ‘hot topic’ due to recent global warming extreme weather events.
Forty-five per cent is in Flood Zone 3 – High Risk and 30 per cent is in Flood Zone 2 Medium Risk
In view of this any development of this site cannot make optimum use of the land.
The unnecessary development detailed above will do great environmental damage to the parish of Bray and the southern approach to Maidenhead.
These matters will be considered further, later this month, by Bray Parish Council.
It has been suggested that if the sites in your local area have not been modified that it is not worth responding to the current consultation.
You can see that, developments outside the BLP can have serious implications on the local environment and should be brought to the attention of the inspector.
To quote Mr Strzelecki the inspector’s programme officer is Charlotte Clancy: email email@example.com
Tithe Barn Drive
One extreme to the other on isolating
We finally managed to visit our French cottage at the end of June – the first time in nearly eight months.
We needed proof of our double Covid vaccination and written evidence of a negative antigen test to be allowed into France (cost £29 each) to be taken within 48 hours of departure.
After we had booked and paid for this, Brittany Ferries cancelled our chosen overnight crossing, so we had to take the next early morning boat.
We hoped England would do away with quarantine and Day two and eight tests as cases were lower in France than England so when England announced on July 7 that travellers returning after the 19th did not need to quarantine, we delayed our departure by a week.
However on July 17, England performed another U-turn and insisted again on quarantine and double tests (cost £129 each). Apparently there were rising numbers of the dreaded new variant in France. The fact that they were 5,000 miles away on The Isle de Reunion, and in only 1 per cent of cases in France was irrelevant.
We duly attended our local hospital for a PCR test to be allowed back into England. (cost: free with our UK health card).
Our boat sailed at 11pm on July 20 and we were home before 9am on the 21st. However the first day is Day 0 and does not count towards the 10 day quarantine period.
About 11am on the 21st an official rang us to make sure we were back, checked where our house was situated, and that we knew the rules. We then both received phone calls every day, many of them from people whom we could barely understand.
The trackers read out a list of regulations, basically forbidding us to leave our house, and threatening us with a £10,000 fine if we disobeyed. We were made to feel like criminals, not innocent pensioners who had dared to leave the country.
We also know of people who have had officials banging on their doors. We do not feel that this aggressive behaviour can be justified.
Quarantine has to be one of our most unpleasant experiences and I can sympathise with anyone locked in a hotel bedroom.
We at least had our own home, but after spending most of the last year in lockdown had already dealt with any outstanding jobs and were bored with reading, films etc.
Not to even be allowed to take exercise is surely against one’s human rights!
We were also in France last October when they entered Lockdown 2. We filled out our relocator forms to return to England and waved them at immigration when we arrived in Portsmouth but they were not checked.
We again had to quarantine when we arrived home, but never received a single phone call or visit, despite the fact that there were no vaccinations or tests available at this time.
Our government seems to have gone from one extreme to another, while paying no attention to the actual facts. Is there nobody in government with any common sense?
Thanks to our brilliant community chemists
I do agree with the comments about doctors’ surgeries being given awards (Viewpoint, August 12).
I’m now taking my own blood pressure and sending it to the surgery and going to St Mark’s for blood tests at 86.
Life has changed.
My award would go to chemists, especially our Wessex Way pharmacy.#They have worked so hard serving their customers, giving advice and help.
Not forgetting the wonderful ladies that deliver the prescriptions in some of the worst weather.
Thanks to you all.
Cycling trends and the risks of the Thames
I totally agree with the fire brigade going into schools to warn of the dangers of swimming in rivers and lakes.
The only problem is the fire brigade brings a message which totally contradicts the trendy view that wild water swimming is healthy and beneficial.
We are all aware that, in the last few years, wild water swimming has become trendy, but who would like to swim in, say, the Thames which is fast flowing?
On the surface it looks OK, but what is going on underneath the surface?
Talking of trendy, I see the council is right on trend approving an office block refurbishment with 153 cycle places (Star House in Maidenhead).
So I take it that office workers will cycle to work summer and winter regardless of the weather conditions.
I think the council needs to live in the real world. I’m wondering if there will be any showers/changing rooms provided for these intrepid cyclists. After all, some might have cycled a fair distance.
Ok, so this office block is a refurbishment, but who is going to occupy it with all this home working?
New images have been released showing how Slough High Street could look if the redevelopment of the Queensmere Shopping Centre goes ahead.