Registered Charity 257224

Cookham Plan   

Cookham Society observations

1. Summary

2. Housing, Development and Land

3. Business and Economy

4. Environment  

5. Infrastructure

6. Appendix  

1.      Summary

This report aims to set out what the Society would like to see taken into consideration in the development of the Cookham Plan. It does not give a picture of exactly what we would like Cookham to look like in 20 years time but identifies some of the issues which we believe should be addressed to keep Cookham the desirable place to live that we all want. The Society is not against development as such. We believe that change is inevitable and welcome it where it is acceptable in style, size and location.


The Objects of the Society should be borne in mind when considering this paper:


“The Charity’s objects (“the objects”) are for the benefit of the public, to protect, preserve, develop and improve features of general public amenity and historic, architectural or artistic interest, or natural interest or beauty within the geographical area known as "the Cookhams" in Berkshire. The Charity is neither political or sectarian.”


In addition, the Society represents a significant proportion of the Cookham population:


The December 2006 Electoral Roll shows that within the three Cookhams, the number of dwellings as 2,500 with a combined Adult population of 4,492. Of this total, The Cookham Society has 1,289 members, ie, 29% of the total Adult population. Of our membership, 243 (19%) live in Cookham Village, 688 (53%) live in Cookham Rise and 358 (28%) live in Cookham Dean. The Society also has 183 members who live outside Cookham who have a continuing interest in preserving its character, features and general public amenity.


2.         Housing, Development and Land.


2.1       We seek the integrity of the Cookhams as a village, with the preservation of its boundaries of paramount importance.


2.2       Development sites

Without being specific, some areas might be preserved for conservation reasons while others are of less significance for posterity and should be regarded as potentially suitable for development.


There is some significant pre-developed land within the Cookhams such as the gas holder site.


2.3             Green Belt.

Put simply, the purpose of the Green Belt is to prevent the coalescence of settlements and to maintain the openness of the countryside. The Local Planning Authority is entitled to review the Green Belt boundaries and it should be asked to do so, to ensure that any land that is contiguous to an existing settlement is appraised to see whether there is any merit in moving it within the settlement boundary and whether this would be detrimental to the Green Belt.


The present Green Belt was drawn around the Cookhams in a manner which has resulted in a number of small areas of land for which there is no apparent use – too small for agriculture, located in the middle of the settlement, or partially Green Belt. Such sites could be considered for future development subject to care and consideration to existing properties, housing density, style, finish and a general quality. Nevertheless in principle the existing Green Belt boundaries and Conservation Areas should be preserved and extended wherever possible. The open space between Cookham and its neighbouring towns of Maidenhead, Bourne End and Marlow must be preserved at all costs.


2.4       Housing Density and Location

Whilst Cookham Dean has almost totally escaped development, the same cannot be said about Cookham Rise and Cookham Village. Since the 1950’s, the number of dwellings and adult population of Cookham Rise has risen by almost 40% through sacrificing farm land and other open spaces to the building of housing estates such as Westwood Green, Southwood Gardens, Burnt Oak, Broom Hill, etc, In Cookham Village, the developments at Sutton Close, Sutton Road, Woodmoor End and Vicarage Close have added 35% more dwellings and adult population.


Therefore, any further housing should only be permitted through limited in-filling.

Future development should take account of its location in the surrounding area. The density of such developments should also be appropriate to the location. We would wish to ensure that large buildings (eg blocks of flats) are not built in the middle of small houses.  We would therefore look for small scale development which is sympathetic to its surroundings and carefully executed to ensure minimal impact and a relatively seamless change to the local street scene.


2.5       Building quality control

The quality of buildings should be appropriate to the surroundings. Materials too should be appropriate to the general surroundings (eg we would not wish to see a modern steel and glass building located among a number of 19th century buildings).

Building according to approved plans should be closely monitored and strictly enforced. Any departure from approved plans should be resubmitted for approval. Particular care should be taken to ensure that materials used for extensions should be the best possible match to the existing building.  

This can be achieved as witnessed by the old garage site in Dean Lane, Cookham Dean. This should be especially enforced on new builds which are often badly executed and out of keeping with surrounding buildings and will eventually spoil the feel of the village and turn it into a pastiche of itself.


2.6       Special needs

We support the provision of affordable housing to encourage young people to stay in Cookham and to cater for people in essential occupations (including agricultural workers to support the continuation of farming in the Cookhams). We would also like to see more sheltered housing available to meet the changes in the demographic patterns of the population.


Any permitted ‘Affordable Housing’ must be strictly controlled to ensure that it is ring-fenced to meet the needs of the young as well as essential service occupations such as Healthcare, Teaching, Policing and Fire Services. We would prefer that all affordable housing in the Village should be of the shared equity variety and if possible managed by a Parish monitored/controlled housing association which is targeted at Cookham residents or those having close ties with Cookham. Occupational policy would therefore reflect local circumstances.


3.      Business and Economy

We would wish to see the retention of the vibrant retail centres of the Village and Station Parade. In particular, essential retail services such as the Pharmacy and the Post Office should be preserved. We would also wish to see the continued presence of non retail business activities to provide employment in the area. A balance of retail and light industrial business is essential to keep local work opportunities available - we would prefer that no more than 'two of a kind' of outlets are permitted so that variety and quality of outlet is sustained for the benefit of the village and to attract custom from non-residents to support the village economy.


Business closures to enable property development to housing stock should be discouraged and efforts to keep existing businesses thriving should be made. This would also mean people making the effort to support local business and using the services we have available to us.


We would like steps to be taken by all concerned to improve the environment of the Station Parade/Station Hill area.


4.      Environment

4.1       Telecoms masts

We would like to see the Borough adopt a strict policy of mast sharing and use of the minimum number of sites to provide the required cover. The use of the Cliveden escarpment for masts offering coverage to the whole of the Cookhams would be a desirable alternative to the present multisite approach (the television and digital radio signals already use the escarpment).


4.2       Leisure facilities

4.2.1    Footpaths


We should support the existing network, although it is probably used in the main by a minority of our villagers. However given the unhealthy lifestyle of modern living with little exercise we foresee a return to walking in the future if only for self-preservation.


4.2.2    Sports

There is a case for a small health club (gym, exercise studio and swimming pool) to be located in Cookham but this may not be considered commercially viable. However, there could be potential for a private organisation such as the Odney Club or one of the independent schools, to share its leisure facilities with Cookham residents at certain times of the day/evening on a paying basis


4.3       Conservation.

The existing Nature Reserves should be preserved and where appropriately extended, for example by using the old Sewage Treatment Plant. A more formal tie in with local schools could make more use of these facilities and currently using Braywick Nature Reserve for School and Scout outings seems unnecessary when we have all this locally.


4.4       Flooding

We are concerned by the Environment Agency’s continued attempts to contain flooding which are leading to greater threats to Cookham Village (in particular). Most of the Village was subject to flooding even in 1947 but now the future is uncertain because of the Maidenhead Bund.


The increased density of building in Cookham Rise and the Dean has led to flooding in recent years. The Storm drainage system constructed in 1999 may not have the capacity to carry away the runoff from the newly covered hillside along Lower Road and there have been doubts expressed about the possibility of storm water becoming mixed with foul drainage before running into the Fleet.


Unfettered development reducing the natural run offs will make matters worse. There is also local government concern over water usage and relatively little notice is taken of this by central government when constantly approving high density housing schemes.


4.5             Farming

We would wish to see continued use of agricultural land for livestock, arable and possibly horticulture but within reason have no objection to the continued use of disused agricultural building for light industrial/ office purposes as this use will provide employment in the area. This provides local employment and keeps the rural village vibrant.


5.     Infrastructure

5.1       Transport and Traffic

The past 20 years have seen a major rise in the volume and speed of traffic in the Cookhams.  Recent surveys show that these volumes are still increasing.  They have brought problems of safety, congestion and parking which need to be addressed in order to preserve and enhance the quality of life in the longer term.


We strongly support carrying out all the feasibility studies set out in the recent Cookham Plan Individual Survey Question 16 as a starting point to establish the cost and practicality of the various issues raised and we suggest that a time scale be set to complete these studies.


We believe that the findings should be fully published and meetings should then be called or further surveys taken to enable everyone in our community, especially those closely affected, to express their view.


It should then be possible to make real progress for the longer term across the whole spectrum of this important and emotive subject.  The Society will be glad to provide, so far as we are able with voluntary labour, all possible help in the process.

We also consider it essential that all laws relating to transport and traffic are better kept and enforced in the future than they have been in the past.


5.2             Roads  

The current features of the road system around and through the Cookhams show the inadequacy of transport planning in the South East. There is a growing volume of traffic passing through the village to make the river crossing because of the overloading of the alternative crossings. Until the river crossing issue is addressed to remove the cause of the congested roads, the situation will continue to deteriorate.


Congestion is also a feature of the roads in Cookham Rise. The Pound represents a bottleneck which cannot be avoided without provision of a bypass. The overall situation in the Cookhams is bound up with the volume of traffic and the shortage of parking capacity.


Alternative approaches are required. A new or improved river crossing and a bypass for the Village would relieve the present congestion, but in the meantime, active measures should be taken to discourage traffic whose origins or destinations are not within the Cookhams.  The state of public transport services too could have a significant effect on the volume of traffic traversing Cookham (see below).


5.3    Parking

We face the problem of achieving a difficult balance whereby we would like a vibrant village with visitors but do not want to turn it into coach park with too many day trippers. There is currently insufficient parking provision in most parts of Cookham Rise and the Village. The Dean generally is not so over used aside from school run rush hour. The Moor is at most weekends totally packed and cars are parked on every scrap of accessible land. Whether these visitors actually add to the local economy is hard to say but there needs to be some improvement to the current situation


The present parking problems are exacerbated by the lack of control of illegal parking. A more stringent attitude to parking, for example in Lower Road, would enable traffic to move more easily. The High Street, too, is in need of more controlled spaces and enforcement of contraventions.


The need for more parking begs the question of how much will be required and where it should be. There has been considerable discussion about the use of Marsh Meadow and this debate will undoubtedly be renewed. Meanwhile it would help if the National Trust car park on Cookham Moor could be enlarged by extending it up to the existing boundary with Marsh Meadow.


There are several privately owned car parks in and around the village which might be made available to the general public at appropriate times. The continued application of minimal Government standards to planning applications should be discouraged as the present lack of provision for parking is causing significant difficulties, we would therefore recommend that in future all new development should be able to contain all its parking within site boundaries.


5.4       Public Transport


The bus service between Maidenhead and Cookham is inadequate and there is no regular link for different parts of the village. What is needed is a minibus service operating on a regular basis though the day and evening between the Dean, the Rise and the Village. For such a service care needs to be taken to ensure timing and frequency match needs. Some of the traffic problems could be alleviated by use of a school bus service on the lines of the US Yellow Bus.



The railway is an essential service for the village. All age groups use it and every effort should be made to ensure that the service is not truncated any further. The possibility of extending rail links beyond Marlow and with Beaconsfield are probably impractical.  However, due to the advent of Cross Rail, more cars will come into the area to link up with Maidenhead. It would be better for connecting commuters to leave their cars at other stations before the line reaches Cookham. The Maidenhead and Marlow Passengers Association has been consulted on a project to link Bourne End and High Wycombe with a light tram service, but this would again seem impractical.


5.5       Schools

Whilst we feel that the existing state primary schools in each of the three Cookhams are an important asset to the local communities, do we really need three state primary schools in Cookham? At present a significant proportion of the pupils at Cookham Dean primary school do not live in Cookham Dean and the catchment area for Holy Trinity in Cookham Village includes Maidenhead as far as Boulters Lock. Therefore, a single school might be a better use of resources both of people and land but with the increase in housing currently under way in the Cookhams, this situation may change.


The present excessive school capacity in the Cookhams is a) encouraging car journeys that are unnecessary, and b) bringing traffic onto rural roads which in some cases are unsuitable for anything other than access. For this reason we would hope to see a school bus scheme implemented.


In the meantime schools should be responsible for easing the present traffic problems round our schools caused by school employees and parents dropping off children. Within a reasonable distance walking or cycling should be encouraged, otherwise there should be mini-buses with specific pick-up points.


5.6       Medical

With increasing demands on the medical services and higher expectations by the public, there will be a greater need for space to provide medical facilities for the village. We question whether the existing site is sufficient to support a growth in volume of patients and their transport.

A very busy local Medical Centre and the increasing local population will further stretch this service. The last few years have seen many new developments completed and more are coming through. All the local infrastructure is under pressure and the relentless attempts by developers to keep adding to the housing stock will keep this pressure up.


5.7       Library

The library should continue to be available to the community.


5.8       Community meeting places

At present there are very few community meeting places with capacity for more than twenty or thirty people. Only the Pinder Hall, Holy Trinity Church and the Cookham Dean Village Hall can accommodate more than 100. If the community continues to grow, a further facility might be needed. Possible venues could include one of the schools.


DNA 16/04/07


6.         Appendix

Examples of some suggested approaches

There were many suggestions made about possible solutions to some of the challenges faced in developing a Plan for Cookham which might not be appropriately included in this paper. The following ideas will give a flavour of the types of suggestions from the Committee members.


Development sites

Is it possible to identify any particular sites for reasonable and sensible development?  For example, the GKL building and the old Sewage Works site by Marsh Meadow. The issue is always to balance the need of the local population with the financial rewards any developer would be seeking. This is always thus far to the detriment of the locals and to the benefit of the developer aided and abetted not by the local planning authority but inevitably by appealing to a higher body.


Sheltered Housing

If a suitable property or land could be acquired, as with Elizabeth House, and a charity formed, housing for the elderly might follow the pattern where this issue has been tackled in South Africa in a most innovative way. Generally the best schemes have been sponsored and managed by church or charitable groups, which gives ongoing certainty and reassurance on the quality of the scheme. A sufficient number of one and two bedroom (in some even three bedroom) cottages are built on a single piece of land to make the central services an economic proposition. The occupants buy life rights of occupation at market prices for comparable housing and upon death their estates are paid out a percentage of the original purchase price (usually 75 to 80%), and the charity then on-sells a life right to the next occupant. Rising property prices have of course helped to fund the growth of the schemes.


Roads and Traffic

An impossible task to solve all the problems without creating more. A relatively easy solution to the Cookham bridge problem would be to add a pedestrian walkway as fitted to the Bourne End railway bridge and thereby making it two way again. This would then no doubt improve traffic flow and make the “Cookham” shortcut to the A/M40 more appealing again and then increase through traffic. Cookham is unfortunately not a cul-de-sac and trying to improve conditions for locals will also make it more of a rat run.



The National Trust car park on Cookham Moor could be enlarged to provide a few additional spaces by extending it up to the existing boundary with Marsh Meadow. As this car park is also used as a general car park for the Village, perhaps the Parish Council might be persuaded to contribute towards the maintenance cost as this would hopefully ensure that it is also properly maintained.



The schools should be essentially for the benefit of local children. The current catchment areas are uneven and create a great deal of additional traffic. Given that most of the schools are currently over subscribed and with the large increase in housing currently underway, this will create even more problems. The token contributions made by developers rarely filter through to the services most affected by increased housing and schools are usually at the bottom of the pile.


Medical Centre

There is undoubtedly a need to expand the Medical centre and its parking facilities. It is in an ideal location and to move the whole facility elsewhere will be very expensive. The GKL site may be the key to solving the problem.



If the Cookham Society 's aim is the preservation of Cookham as a village, should we not be developing the conservation of its rural nature? Two examples - the red kite nests where the Gas Holder used to be and supporting the people who have gone to quite a lot of trouble to encourage the voles back to Marsh Meadow.

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