Wednesday 5th June, 8pm. The Council Chamber at Maidenhead Town Hall was packed with local residents, and it was standing room only.
Proceedings opened with RBWM’s planning representative summarising the applications under consideration, and recommending the approval of all except the cash machine. At the eleventh hour, application 13/01018/FULL (Creation of new area of hard-standing) had been withdrawn by Tesco, so there were five to consider.
Representation from the FPAG and CAMRA
Cllr Wilson (Chair) then invited the FPAG (Furze Platt Action Group) and CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) to speak against the applications.
Alasdair Donaldson (representing CAMRA) opened by speaking about the Localism Act, and the fact that the Golden Harp has been listed as an Asset of Community Value. He suggested that the Panel could use this as a reason for refusing the planning applications.
Nadeem Asif, manager of the nearby Best One store, spoke about the impact a Tesco would have on local businesses – specifically that takings would nose-dive, and they would likely be forced to close. In the case of the Best One store, this would also result in the closure of the integrated Post Office.
Paul Scullion spoke about the dangers from the inevitable increase in traffic movements at the busy Furze Platt Road / Courthouse Road / Malvern Road junction. In particular, he highlighted the real accident risk to the many children that walk by on their way to school.
Ian Rose spoke about the historical importance of the Golden Harp, and the carefully-thought-out way it was designed as a community meeting place. His message was that none of Tesco’s proposals could be considered to enhance the Golden Harp or the conservation area in which it sits, and as such, the applications could be turned down on conservation grounds.
Mark Newcombe highlighted the less-than-desirable way in which Tesco operates, such as adding last-minute amendments and late appeals. He called on Tesco to withdraw, telling them that we know they don’t care about our community or the safety of our children. He ended with a plea to the DCP:
“Please, in the name of common sense, refuse all of these applications”
Representation from Tesco
Then it was the turn of two speakers representing Tesco – Beth Greenhouse (Tesco corporate affairs manager) and John Ferguson (CGMS Consulting). They were keen to stress that they had every sympathy with residents’ concerns over safety, and that this was a high priority for them too.
They claimed to have commissioned an independent traffic report, which classified the Furze Platt Road as moderately busy, and stated that there were no safety issues. A Panel member later told them they had their facts wrong, and that Furze Platt Road is in fact an arterial road, and that it is very busy, particularly at the start and end of the school day. Tesco had not made this report available to either the DCP or the general public.
Development Control Panel
First to speak from the DCP was Cllr Claire Stretton, who had been in contact with Thames Valley Police. In response, their Traffic Management Officer had sent her a report, its conclusion stating:
“In my professional opinion, and based on my experience of the local area, I have real concerns about the increased road traffic that the proposed development would entail. Additional vehicular traffic entering the site from either Courthouse Road or Furze Platt Road would aggravate an already busy area. The limited number of patrons visiting the site when it was a public house did not cause any particular policing or road safety issues. This clearly would not be the case if a change of use to a supermarket is allowed.”
Subsequently, many more Panel members spoke out forcefully against Tesco, and repeatedly called on them to withdraw. It was quite clear that none of the Panel wanted a Tesco at the Golden Harp – the question was, what reason would they cite for refusing the applications?
Repeatedly, the Panel were reminded by the Development Control Manager and the Chairman that highways concerns could not be given as a reason for refusing the applications, as (with the possible exception of the cash machine) none of them could be said to relate to traffic. The only other possible exception was the hard-standing application that Tesco had withdrawn at the eleventh hour. A coincidence….? Hmmm…
Eventually, a motion to refuse all five applications on CA2 (conservation) grounds was proposed, seconded, and then unanimously supported by the Panel.
Well, that remains to be seen – watch this space…
Thank you, Panel members, for all your hard work, and your determination to refuse these applications.
Many thanks too to our speakers, and the members of the FPAG who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes researching, putting together arguments, speaking to councillors and myriad other things. It’s a time-consuming business fighting a corporate giant…
Finally, thank you to everyone who wrote to object to Tesco’s proposals, or who attended the DCP meeting.