02:07PM, Thursday 25 November 2021
Councillors and residents have raised concerns about the recent announcement of an extraordinary meeting of the full council to discuss the Borough Local Plan.
On Tuesday, there was a full meeting of the council to consider the borough’s corporate (five-year) plan and discuss any petitions or motions. It was originally set to be the last full council meeting of the year.
The next day, councillors heard that an extraordinary meeting had been added to the calendar for December 14.
This is to discuss the Borough Local Plan (BLP) – which sets out a blueprint that will decide where thousands of homes can be built across the borough.
A councillor and a protester from outside Maidenhead Town Hall on Tuesday have both raised concerns about the new scheduled meeting.
Debbie Ludford is one of the organisers for the protest to save Maidenhead golf course from development into 2,000 homes.
The campaign group instead wants to turn it into the site into Maidenhead Great Park to protect the borough’s greenbelt and ‘green lung.’
The group is against the Borough Local Plan (BLP) because it has earmarked the golf course as a key site for its planned delivery of new homes.
Having heard the BLP is set to be discussed at the December meeting, Debbie raised concerns that the plan will be ‘rushed through’ before Christmas, so that objectors have no time to lobby against it.
Cllr Geoffrey Hill (The Borough First, Oldfield) said that the BLP is ‘hardly an extraordinary item’ and the discussion should wait until a period after the independent planning inspector has reached her conclusions.
“It’s business as usual so, should be heard in, say, February – once councillors have had a chance to read and digest this lengthy and important document,” said Cllr Hill.
The inspector, Louise Phillips, is currently considering public comments on her proposed ‘main modifications’, put forward after the examination hearings at the end of last year.
These modifications are intended to make the plan sound – but in September, parish councils raised concerns that the modifications did not fully address some key issues.
This includes recent gains in housing which parish councils think should affect the Borough's decision on whether to release greenbelt land for development.
If the inspector finds the BLP to be sound and lawful, the next step is to take the report to full council, recommending that it is adopted.
Cllr David Coppinger, lead member for planning, environmental services and Maidenhead, said:
“Given the borough-wide significance and scope of local plans, it is common practice for councils to schedule dedicated extraordinary meetings for their adoption, in order to ensure all members have the opportunity to contribute to discussion.
“As a practical preparation, the mayor has agreed to an extraordinary full council meeting to allow members to consider (this).”
He added that the meeting date is ‘subject to the timely receipt’ of the inspector’s report. Members have also been advised of an alternative provisional date of December 21.
Cllr Hill is concerned about the timing of the meeting.
“We never have full council meetings in December as so many councillors are away or have family commitments,” he said. “Unsurprisingly, I have commitments on both days as I'm sure others will.
“In the light of [Tuesday’s] highly successful protest outside the Town Hall, this really does smack of a knee-jerked panicked reaction to the strength of public feeling against developing on greenbelt sites,” he added.
But Cllr Coppinger said that ‘both dates are normal working days for the council.’
He added: “The content of the Local Plan should not come as a surprise as it has been shaped over more than a decade.”