In a recent tweet on campaigning in his Riverside ward, Cllr Dudley noted that Maidenhead is at a "tipping point" for its future development. For perhaps the first time ever, I agree with him.
Cllr Dudley and the Conservatives submitted a Borough Local Plan, that, if approved, would set Maidenhead in particular on course to a future as a soulless dormitory community filled with towers of expensive flats to attract Londoners looking for a (relatively) cheaper option. We've seen a glimpse of that future already with The Landing, a towering development that professional planners described as "the slums of tomorrow", and the Vicus Way car park in Oldfield, approved after a "mistaken" vote by current Cllr Derek Wilson. This is on top of the expected destruction of the Maidenhead Golf Course and, if Cllr Dudley has his way, the likely expansion of Claire's Court's Ridgeway site, which will increase congestion on already clogged Shoppenhangers Road and Cannon Lane respectively.
The madness on development spreads beyond Maidenhead. For example, the Council has agreed to destroy ancient woodland and a historic site in Sunningdale to create new homes without accounting for pressures on roads, schools and other infrastructure. They also created a new parking area in Sunningdale that is both dangerous and unnecessary, causing stress for area residents and visitors alike. In the ward of Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury, residents report feeling ignored by the Council as road congestion increases, bus services benefiting the elderly reduced and, again, failure to consider infrastructure when processing planning applications.
We've seen Cllr Dudley and his party wreaking havoc in other parts of our lives as well. In my own community of Cox Green, examples include the disgraceful u-turn on expanding the Lowbrook Academy--the 4th best primary school in England--and expanding Cox Green School without improving parking for the adjacent community centre, which could jeopardise the viability of the Centre itself. We've seen Cllr Dudley humiliate homeless people--our most vulnerable residents--by calling on Thames Valley Police to treat them as vagrants in the run-up to the Royal Wedding. In the end the Conservatives backed Cllr Dudley as their leader despite his views and approach on homelessness. Just this week, in a discussion panel by BBC Radio Berkshire, Cllr Dudley confirmed he still has no regrets for his actions, except for connecting the issue to the Royal Wedding.
Their actions in recent months, even with the heat of an election, fail to show any promising signs. Recent examples include:
· Passing a budget that will leave us spending £8m of taxpayer revenues to service debts the current administration have amassed.
· Spending £22k of taxpayer money to strew banners across the Borough to promote themselves.
· Introducing car parking machines that reasonably educated people--including me--have struggled to use (conveniently, the problem arises when applying the Advantage Card discounts).
· Promising development of the £14m Oaks Leisure Centre--without allocating any funding to make it happen.
· Promising to spend £50m over four years on roads and infrastructure, leaving residents to wonder what they've been doing as our roads and infrastructure worsened over the past four years.
Thankfully, we have a choice on 2 May--and the choice we make will shape our community for decades to come. It is a choice between towers of bland, expensive flats or an attractive, welcoming community where people will want to live and work? It is a choice between a local government that works with the community or one that imposes its will upon the community. It is a choice between a government that supports its most vulnerable residents, or one that simply tries to brush them aside.
For me, the choice is clear, and I will be voting for 'the BOROUGH first'. Above all, I believe in the values that brings tBf together: Integrity, Respect and Collaboration. I have seen these values in practice from tBf's early days and have no doubt they will put these into practice. Others may have a more difficult choice, especially if their own Tory candidate is well-regarded in their community. In that case, remember that, by voting for them, you're also voting for Cllr Dudley and his vision for our community. When I asked Tory candidates on Twitter and Facebook whether they would back Cllr Dudley as Leader if elected, none replied; the silence can be taken only as a resounding 'yes'.
Our votes do matter--especially now, and especially in this local election. Now is our chance to have our say on the future of the Royal Borough. Whomever you support, make your voice heard and take the time to vote on 2 May.
Tony Perry is a resident of Cox Green, Maidenhead.
Published and Promoted by Charles Hollingsworth on behalf of “the BOROUGH first“, both of PO BOX 4919, Maidenhead, SL60 1LS