The Degeneration of Maidenhead

Like many, I read with despair the recent articles in the Maidenhead Advertiser titled ‘The foundations put in place’ and ‘A new ‘heart’ for Maidenhead’ about Cllr Simon Dudley’s vision for the regeneration of Maidenhead. It’s true that Cllr Dudley will achieve his wish for advertising hoardings and cranes over Maidenhead in time for the May elections, as if it’s a sign of progress. The question isn’t whether something is being built, but whether what’s being built can benefit the community.

Cllr Dudley’s vision, as outlined in the already-failing Borough Local Plan (BLP), is to create towers of flats. He dreams of lots of flats—mainly 1 and 2 bedroom flats, the vast majority of which will be priced beyond the reach of those already here. The Landing site, approved in November, is but one example that warmed Cllr Dudley’s heart. The 16-story towers gave the Council’s professional planners grave concerns for the quality of life for its future residents; planners described The Landing as the “slums of the future.”

Does this concern Cllr Dudley? Not in the least! According to Cllr Dudley, “… [to make it] viable… [you need] a certain density and height… that is how capitalism works.” It isn’t just about The Landing’s future residents, who Cllr Dudley blithely says “will be making a conscious decision to be living there.” It’s about those living around them too.

Cllr Dudley now says that those near St Cloud’s Way, the current site of the Magnet Leisure Centre and now demolished Ten Pin Bowling, will also have to suffer this “trade-off between height, bulk and mass … [as] it may be that we want to put more social housing there which has a lower value so you need to go higher”. I’m sure all those who live north of this site in two story family houses will be delighted to hear that they are also likely doomed to live in constant shadow from these high-rise towers as well!

Cllr Dudley’s lecture on how capitalism works sounds far too much like the easy answer, rather than the right one. Of course developers want to cram as many flats as possible into the smallest possible space—but the Council’s job is to look beyond what’s easy to get to decide what’s beneficial for Maidenhead’s residents and businesses.

The Landing isn’t in the BLP but it shows what many concerned residents have feared: The transformation of Maidenhead into a dormitory community, a place for people to do little more than spend the night, with nowhere for families. The Council has attempted to push it’s BLP through the approval’s process, and the Inspector found several areas that needed significant work and further consultation. Rather than take her advice to “consider whether continuing with the examination of the presently submitted document is the most efficient and prudent course of action“, the Council paused the application process so they can continue the myth that all is well until after the local elections in May.

Cllr Dudley’s cranes and advertising hoardings aren’t a sign of progress, but a warning—and the chance to choose for Maidenhead’s residents. Do residents embrace the future of a high-rise, rabbit-hutch dormitory community, or do they envision an inspiring place where they can meet and interact with each other, be entertained, make friends and have fun? I—along with many other people in this town—envision the latter. At stake is nothing less than the ‘heart’ of Maidenhead.

Day by day, facilities valued by residents are leaving us. Ten Pin Bowling—gone! Leisure facilities in the town—gone! Community meeting and entertainment places are under serious threat. The Desborough Theatre and the Town Hall are losing their car park, making it harder for the public to engage with entertainment and democracy.

One thing is certain: Cllr Dudley’s vision is NOT regeneration. It is the degeneration of Maidenhead. Is there another way than Cllr Dudley’s dream? Of course there is!

Residents deserve better, and, in May, they’ll finally get their chance.

Councilor Claire Stretton is a member of ‘the Borough first’ and represents Boyn Hill.

Published and Promoted by Charles Hollingsworth on behalf of “the BOROUGH first“, both of PO BOX 4919, Maidenhead, SL60 1LS

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