In our shared backyard…

Claires Court’s senior school prize giving was held on Thursday, our annual celebration of the last academic year’s main achievements, scholastic, social, spiritual, sporting and service. If you’d like to watch the event, you can see that here on the school’s YouTube channel – https://youtu.be/bwPOS5-jOho – fyi, our Principal guest was Dr Peter Woodroffe, former pupil and now Deputy CEO of the Independent Schools Association (ISA).

Given our long term commitment to RBWM, we invite all the leaders of the local community with whom we engage, including all of our elected council members and important council employees. Our local ‘relations’ so to speak stretch across the sports clubs we partner with, such as Maidenhead Rowing club and Phoenix Rugby Club, major social welfare organisations such as Lions and Rotary, through to the Chamber of Commerce and local newspaper editors. It was with great pleasure we welcomed Simon Dudley, just recently stepped down as leader of the council and as our local member for Riverside, in which the Senior Boys school sits. We’ll be having a by-election soon for his replacement, and it will be interesting to see who get’s elected in his place. I copy below Simon Dudley’s tweet from the event, great affirmation from a person of such influence.

Cllr Dudley’s support for our own school’s planning application to consolidate onto one site did us little good it seems, with so many of the local planning counsellors speaking against our proposals. More broadly, it’s fair to say the borough’s entire planning management seems in complete disarray, what with RBWM Planning manager Jeni Jackson now resigning and the Mayor calling an extraordinary general meeting of the RBWM Council for 23 October, at which the Borough Local Plan BLP) submitted version will be reopened or as likely, withdrawn.

The problem with the BLP is that it seems it was submitted prematurely, before so much of the detailed consultations and evidence gathering had been completed. As one example of many, the BLP included a plot of open green belt land near our Junior school, just the other side of the Railway bridge on Cannon Lane, known as plot HA22, despite the fact that it sits as a ‘bale-out’ area for planes taking off from White Waltham aerodrome! In her most recent letter to the National Inspector of the RBWM BLPsv, Louise Phillips. Ms jackson writes “Further thought has been given to the proposed allocation of the site for housing in the light of the agreed safeguarding position with the Airfield. The Council intends to consult on a recommended proposed change to remove this as a housing site allocation from the Borough Local Plan. This would resolve the conflict with the Neighbourhood Plan designation as Local Green Space and respond to the Regulation 20 representation from the owners and operators of the Airfield”.

The political landscape of Maidenhead has been completely redrawn by the emergence of ‘The Borough First’ party, formed from previously affiliated councillors of the Conservative party, angry at the railroading through of the BLP without sufficient local discussion. One major iconic piece of land, that of Maidenhead Golf club, has been included, the proposal including the building of 2000 houses and a secondary school on the 150 acres of mature woodland, with views that stretch across the Thames Valley to Windsor Castle. With the local council completely redrawn, it will be fascinating to see how what the new shape of Maidenhead will look like in 2020.

As this is our shared back yard with Maidenhead, here our my thoughts on the adjustments needed, both to the wider Borough plan, to include the missing strategic infrastructure Mrs Phillips has recognised are absent from the BLP, as well as our own movement to a one site solution for the school. For Maidenhead to hit its required housing solution by 2033, some 13,000 houses must be built. Whilst local planning continues to suggest it only has to find 7000 dwellings/houses in the remaining 10 years, in reality it is so far behind in the release of new housing that actually double those numbers are needed. Moreover, as it has planned none of the additional infrastructure required, it’s hasn’t yet placed a new sewage plant nor roadways to serve the new housing estates. One of the unique features of the plan is that it envisages half the housing load being built in our existing gardens, and that for half the other half, the flood plain will serve as a suitable place to build. The latter has the Environment agency ‘frothing’ so to speak, for with the change in our weather climate, when the ‘wets’ come they’ll be coming in typhoons, so using higher land out of the flood plain is their alternative solution for RBWM.

For our town, with the high ground to the west and north west in the ‘green belt’, the solution can only be to reopen the consultation on its usage, and the Mayor has already suggested that has to happen, by calling an extraordinary meeting of the Brough council for Wednesday 23 October. The major additional road infrastructure needed to help carry the load of the North-South traffic as it passes around Maidenhead are additional roads to the Braywick Road (A308), running from the A404 at Bisham south through the town to Bray and Windsor. The obvious solution is to upgrade the B3024 and adjacent Drift Road which run parallel to the A308, around the south west of Holyport from Oakley Green and Ascot through to White Waltham and Twyford. The final link from White Waltham to the A4 would be completed by adopting the road along the edge of the aerodrome, connecting it the major road over the railway at Westacott Way, before joining the A4 at Maidenhead Thicket. Whether national and local government will find the funds for that relief road improvement yet is for others to decide, but for sure, until that happens, the pressure on the local roads around Woodlands Park, Holyport, Bray and Maidenhead by the Railway station cannot be relieved.

As for the school, inside that great geographical arc around Maidenhead I have described by way of road infrastructures, the land involved has only 4 ‘owners’, RBWM, the National Trust, the Copas Family (Farms) and the Prior family (Summerleaze gravel), apart from that which we own, 60 acres on Cannon Lane. Given the ‘locked-in’ nature of the other land, the only destination that we can target is our edge of settlement-land where Claires Court Junior Boys sits. The compelling ‘very special circumstances’ case remains, and it needs to be heard fully, either through re-application to the RBWM Borough wide planning committee or by appeal to the Secretary of State. You can read that case here – link – and our closing letter to RBWM planning here. Please do give me direct feedback if you wish on these ideas, for Claires Court is a major education provider and employer in our own back yard, and we have every intention of serving Maidenhead for generations to come.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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1 Response to In our shared backyard…

  1. Ann Jesseman says:

    I was chatting with a lady who lives on the Cox Green area this week and interestingly we got onto the subject of CC and planning. Her comments to me were that they were certainly not against the school moving to our be site but for her the real issue is the infrastructure i.e Doctors Surgery currently only one and you have to book two weeks in advance to be ill! This is a huge issue currently and the thought that more houses could/will be built and no further discussion on how these will be serviced. Not the badgers!

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