THE COOKHAM SOCIETY
the safeguarding and advancement of the Cookhams,
the Royal County of Berkshire.
Registered Charity 257224
DRAFT OBSERVATIONS ON THE COOKHAM PLAN 2008
1.1 The Society has reviewed the Plan by reference to the Objects set out in its constitution, which are repeated out in Section 1 of the Appendix. As a sponsor of the Plan it acknowledges there are particular issues on which it has a different viewpoint from those who have contributed to the Plan, but the Society’s approach has always been to try to ensure that the overall ambience of the Cookhams, which is what makes the villages ‘special’ in the eyes both of residents and non-residents alike, is protected, preserved and improved.
1.2 Our villages should reflect the dynamics of society, but this does not mean they should become subservient to trends which, if uncontrolled, would rob them of their particular character and charm. On the other hand they have to be sufficiently adaptable so they can continue to support active and evolving communities.
1.3 Therefore, in these Observations our approach has been to try to ensure that, on the one hand, the needs of our village communities are properly addressed while, at the same time, preserving the natural and built environment.
1.4 Our review of the Plan has led us to two principal conclusions. Firstly, it seems to us that a plan which aims to cover a twenty-year period should have much more to say about the people of Cookham and be able to offer more aspiration for the various groups which make up the local community. Secondly, it appears to us that the Plan lacks balance. Half its major recommendations relate to traffic and transport which seem to carry a disproportionate weight in the authors’ deliberations.
1.5 The Plan’s authors have been noticeably reticent about where the document goes from here. How is it to be considered and by whom? What consultation will take place on it? How is it to be finalised? What standing will the finished Plan have? Moreover, what is to become of the proposals in the Plan when it has been finally agreed and how and when will they be implemented?
HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT
We are aware of the growing
pressure to find land for more housing within the Royal Borough,
particularly as the result of the Regional Spacial Strategy, which will
require the Royal Borough to increase its housing land supply by about
the Society’s view any additional land required for new housing should
be located at the principal towns of Windsor and Maidenhead.
the Cookhams new housing should only be constructed on previously
developed land. In Cookham
Village and Cookham Rise this means land within existing built-up areas.
2.3 The Plan noted the higher-than-average proportion of older people in our communities and when it was published much was made of the village’s ageing population, but we are surprised relatively little attention has actually been paid to addressing the needs which arise from this issue. We support the proposition there should be future provision for more sheltered housing.
We are conscious that older people,
notably those with families who have left home, frequently want to
‘trade down’ to smaller, more manageable accommodation.
2.5 It follows we have no objection to higher housing densities per se and we believe each case should be judged on its merits. We consider all residential planning applications should be supported by an illustrated Design and Access Statement, which should clearly demonstrate how proposed new buildings will integrate with their surroundings without significant loss of green space.
3. ENVIRONMENT AND LAND
The Royal Borough has been required to review the boundaries of the Green Belt. As the Society said in its original observations, ‘Put simply, the purpose of the Green Belt is to prevent the coalescence of settlements and to maintain the openness of the countryside.’ The Green Belt is a vital element in protecting the integrity of Cookham Village and Cookham Rise and in maintaining the characteristics of Cookham Dean. It is also crucial to ensuring the separation of the Cookhams from Maidenhead.
The Society has reviewed this issue in so
far as it relates to the Poundfield area. As the result of the case which went to the Court of Appeal
in 2001 there are three small portions of land designated as Green Belt,
which lie outside the main designated area.
The Society considers this position is anomalous.
the Society will make representations to the Royal Borough to seek the
restoration of the Green Belt in this area to the full extent shown on
the original version of the Adopted Local Plan of July 1999.
We consider the Plan has paid insufficient attention to the built environment of our villages. The character of buildings, their interrelationships, their settings and the general arrangement of roads and spaces are among the fundamental factors which create the special ambience and sense of place of the Cookhams and are recognised by the Conservation Areas. Any proposal in the Plan must have regard to its impact on the villages’ Conservation Areas.
Poundfield. The Poundfield and its environs have been a source of contention for many years and we do not propose to rehearse the arguments in this paper, other than to reiterate our fundamental objections to any form of development of this important heritage site. There are three ‘interests of acknowledged importance’ which need to be placed at the forefront in considering any proposal for this area: the association of Poundfield with Stanley Spencer, its location within a Conservation Area and the separation it provides between Cookham Village and Cookham Rise. We consider the proposals in the Plan will have a deleterious effect on each of these interests.
The Moor Car Park and Marsh Meadow. We believe that removing parked cars would substantially improve the appearance of the Moor. It seems to us there are two fundamental points which need to be taken into account in considering an alternative to the present car park: whether it would be properly used and whether it is a realisable proposition. In 2001 our members told us, in response to the Society’s own survey, that they wanted improved parking arrangements in the Village. However, if the environmental cost of these improvements is seen as too high, then perhaps we have to accept the status quo, especially if any alternative would be unsatisfactory from the points of view of security and safety.
is therefore our suggestion that if an acceptable alternative cannot be
secured within a reasonable period the present car park should be
enlarged up to the boundary with Marsh Meadow and should be
Materials are available which would ensure better drainage and
more attractive surfacing which, with proper screening, could
significantly improve utility and appearance without adding to
We recognise change is inevitable in the
pattern of agriculture, as in any other area of economic activity.
In the Cookhams this has resulted in
a degree of fragmentation as fields which have been taken out of
mainstream farming have been given over to the keeping of horses.
concerned about the proliferation of horse-related buildings, which have
the effect of bringing development into what would otherwise be
considered open countryside.
support the preparation of a Village Design Statement.
4. TRAFFIC AND TRANSPORT
Roads. In the Society’s opinion the Plan lacks balance when addressing this issue. It appears to take the view that the ability to move quickly through our villages is of primary importance and there is an unacceptable degree of congestion, which is an unsatisfactory inhibitor.
The Society does not consider our roads are unacceptably congested or are, for the most part, operating in excess of their capacity, as is stated in the Plan, which offers no evidence to support this assertion. There are, undoubtedly, some sections of some roads, which are congested for some of the time, but the Society believes the best way to deal with these isolated problems is to address their particular circumstances.
We consider that a proper, holistic approach would seek to ensure that road traffic whose origins and destinations are not within the Cookhams is actively discouraged from entering the villages and is encouraged to use more appropriate routes in the road hierarchy.
We believe re-opening Cookham Bridge to two-way traffic would have the detrimental effect of encouraging more traffic to use the Village.
One-way traffic around The Pound.
As stated in 4.3 above, we consider the
best way to reduce traffic in Cookham and address alleged congestion is
to constrain traffic closer to its sources.
A one-way traffic system would be likely to speed up traffic and,
therefore, encourage it, with resulting increases in volumes elsewhere
on local roads.
When local people were asked for their
views in the Cookham Plan Questionnaire some 31% were in favour of a
feasibility study for a gyratory system around the Pound, but more than
44% disagreed; by contrast 46% expressed positive views about a route
from Maidenhead Road to Sutton Road, compared with about 25% against.
These views seem to have been ignored.
We take the view the Plan was wrong to give the gyratory proposal
priority over other alternatives, especially since no Traffic Impact or
Environmental Impact analyses seem to have been carried out.
upon the information currently available to us, we object to this
proposal. We would
support a full-scale Traffic Assessment for the Cookhams, to include
public transport, with the view to giving local people a more informed
choice of alternative means of traffic amelioration.
School traffic. Much of the ‘congestion’ referred to in the Plan seems to relate to our three state primary schools. By its nature this is of short duration and, of course, mainly occurs during school terms, but because of its relatively uncontrolled nature it does cause temporary, localised obstruction. We have no objection in principle to the creation of new car parks at Holy Trinity and Cookham Rise schools, provided there are adequate safeguards to ensure they have no damaging environmental effects, but we believe they would only offer a partial solution. In our view a much more pro-active and integrated approach needs to be taken by the Local Education Authority, school governors and parents to ensure more children walk to school safely, cars are shared, school buses are provided, etc. The congestion is caused by the users of the schools and it is they who should be asked to alleviate it in the first instance.
Safety. Although important, safety is but one component in the highway environment and is one that is very much within the control of individual road users. We do not think it should be elevated above others within the broader consideration of travel and transport issues.
The construction of speed tables in the Pound significantly reduced vehicle speeds and the main safety concern here now relates to the narrowness of the footway. The size of vehicles and overhanging fitments, such as wing mirrors, seems to be the principal threat. We support a general reduction in vehicle size to 7˝ tonnes, but we feel this will be insufficient to remove large trucks and buses from this road.
We do not support measures to remove on street parking. There is ample evidence that doing so would lead to increased traffic and increased vehicle speeds, to the detriment of road safety.
On-street parking is important to the economics of shopping in the Cookhams. Therefore, moves to curtail illegal long-stay parking and free up space for short-stay users are welcomed.
Public transport. We are surprised at the relative lack of attention the Plan gives to this topic, compared with the amount of space devoted to highway issues, and the lack of data supplied. Anecdotal evidence suggests the local bus services are poor, buses are frequently late, routeing is unhelpful and fares are high. However, it is generally accepted that good bus (and rail) services have an important role to play in meeting a community’s transport needs and reducing car journeys. Any Transport Assessment, as per our Observation in para. 4.7, should include the role to be played by public transport.
Crossrail. Although highlighted in the press statement, it seems at present there is too little information available to enable any proper evaluation to be made of Crossrail’s effects but, since the Plan is intended to be reviewed regularly, it will doubtless be reconsidered later.
BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY
There is a high level of agreement that the Parade plays a vital
part in the economy of the Cookhams, but at the same time many people
think it is unattractive and run-down. If any improvement is to be achieved a series of conflicting
interests needs to be resolved and this will be difficult.
suggest the services of an expert in regeneration should be employed
with the view to advising how best to resolve the interaction of cost,
land ownerships and obligations, and value and to suggest a practical
Tourism. It was not clear to us whether the creators of the Plan
believe Tourism should be encouraged, contained or discouraged.
We believe its growth is inevitable and, therefore, the primary
need is to ensure it is managed effectively and doesn’t cause damage.
for Tourism needs to be improved; for example, through better public
toilets and improved signage, but this needs to be carried out in a co-ordinated,
discreet and sensitive manner.
We find the idea of a venue where people who work from home can
meet each other and exchange ideas and support is an attractive
proposal, but it would only work if it were commercially viable, perhaps
as part of something else. This
would be a forward-looking idea for Cookham.
6. PEOPLE AND PLACES
Healthcare. It seems to us the present location of the Medical Centre is unlikely to be improved upon and, if expansion is necessary, this should take place on the current site or adjacent to it. We believe much could be done to alleviate the parking problems experienced by the Centre’s visitors if more imaginative arrangements were put into place. It seems to us that an incursion into the Green Belt to enable the Centre to expand could well amount to ‘exceptional circumstances’ as envisaged by national Green Belt policy.
Crime and disorder. Although the People and Places Group noted that Theft from Vehicles is the outstanding issue in the pattern of local crime, there does appear to be a significant amount of vandalism to vehicles and other types of ‘low level’ crime. Moreover, Cookham is not immune to drug-related and other types of ‘social’ crime people often associate with larger urban areas.
impacts on the whole community. We
are of the view there needs to be a much more positive ‘strategy’
for dealing with crime in the Cookhams.
Sport and recreation.
The unavailability of school playing fields ‘…for reasons of
health and safety…’ reported by the People and Places Group is
depressing and from where we stand shows an unsatisfactory
disinclination on the part of ‘authority’ to make a public asset
available for public use.
It does not appear to us it is
necessary to provide substantial buildings for indoor sports in Cookham
when provision is available close-by in Maidenhead, but it seems more
could be done to improve the village’s outdoor facilities and to
provide some form of multi-purpose building which is flexible enough to
cater for a wide range of indoor activities, particularly those
involving young people.
of the view the Plan has not enough to say about the needs of young
people or the provision of youth activities and facilities.
7. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Flooding The acknowledgement by the Environment Agency that elements of the Maidenhead Windsor and Eton Flood Alleviation Scheme (MWEFAS) actually increased the potential for flooding in Cookham is an important step forward, but the measures the EA is currently proposing will do no more than to restore the status quo ante MWEFAS to the areas affected. This is an unsustainable inconsistency and the Agency should be pressed to afford these areas the same protection as the rest of the Village.
Raising the B4447 across the Moor Raising the B4447 would have the benefit of allowing free access to Cookham Village during floods, except possibly in extreme cases, but constructing a new road to the required height would have a very considerable visual impact which we suspect many people have not appreciated. A very comprehensive environmental assessment would need to be prepared before we could look favourably on this proposal.
Click here for the reply questionnaire to the plan
Click here to see Appendix 1 - Cookham Society Observations April 2007 on the Cookham Plan
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