Alma Road Car Park

and the threat to Sir Sydney Camm's home 1999

 Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council are a Unitary Authority and that quite simply means that they can do as they please

It will come as no surprise that there is furore over Windsor and Maidenhead Borough's plan to channel over 500 more cars down Arthur Road in Windsor. It is suspected that pressure from town centre traders, especially those paying exorbitant rents in the redeveloped Central Station, have resulted in the panic measures to demolish a number of residential homes around the Alma Road /Arthur Road junction area to provide access to a planned 500 space, 4 storey car park.

These days Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council are a Unitary Authority and that quite simply means that they can do as they please, regardless of the opinions of the residents in the affected area, regardless of the effects on the local roads, regardless of other concerns such as pollution, regardless of the dangers to boys at the nearby school, and regardless of the extended jams that will build up at peak times.

Locals will know that already the bottleneck that is the Goswells roundabout often allows traffic to tailback as far as the Relief Road, and sometimes as far as the M4. This new invitation to enter Windsor and park in this area will add a minimum of 500 cars along this route which, by the way, can represent almost three miles of queued, slow moving, traffic at peak times. Given that the planners consider that a car parking space can be used at least 4 times a day, the car park would give rise to as many as 2000 additional car movements in the area.

In order to make space for the access roads to the Car Park, the residence of the late Sir Sydney Camm, the famous designer of the Hawker Hurricane, is to be demolished in addition to surrounding properties. Those residents that remain face the prospect of a massive multi-storey car park at the ends of their gardens.

Well done WMBC. Your new powers to do as you wish, regardless of common sense and safety and quality of life will no doubt win you friends in the commercial world, but does little for the contentment of the residents, or, I suspect, for the road users that will have to plod at a snail's pace up and down Arthur Road each morning and evening.

Whatever happened to Park and Ride? The 1997 W S Atkins Report clearly recommended this option given the unique difficulties that Windsor experiences. These include the combined pressures of large volumes of visitors and restricted road distribution around the centre of the town, and so a well run Park and Ride scheme was naturally the preferred solution of the experts whom the Borough had consulted, and for which had paid substantial sums.

At one point the report states: "...the current situation of almost unrestricted access to the town is unsustainable. The future situation should restrict access by car, with an alternative method of access provided by the Park and Ride schemes."

Oh, no. That was not for Windsor and Maidenhead BC. At the time of the report they already knew that they were planning a car park close to the centre of Windsor, and had purchased properties in the adjacent area to facilitate the plan.

It is the secrecy of the whole thing that irritates the residents. For several years the Borough have been silently planning this development. Yet only in the last few weeks have the plans become public. And even then it was merely a small and insignificant application to demolish 9 houses. No mention of the importance and significance of one of them. No, that might make their ride a little less comfy.

Well, we have no plans to give the Borough a comfy ride.

We do not want a Car Park overlooking residential properties. We do not want massively increased traffic down a residential road, nor do we want all the other disadvantages that the Borough's plan will bring about.

But then, when you are a Unitary Authority, and have carte blanche to give yourself permission to do whatever you fancy, even going against specialist advice, (The W S Atkins Report), we can expect nothing better.

I wonder what they have up their sleeve next?

With the very latest powers with which they have been bestowed, the Borough can now do deals with developers to whom they can sell land at a discount, having granted the requisite planning permission. This new relaxation of The Local Government Act 1972, now allows Unitary Authorities (including WMBC) to sell land at below the market value. They also have the powers to grant themselves their own planning permission. Taken together the door is wide open for WMBC to do deals with their favourite developers and no doubt make a handsome profit into the bargain. Had this relaxation been in place just a few years ago, Vansittart Recreation Ground, a favourite play area for thousands of children over the years and an important local Open Space, would have been sold off and built upon.

The Alma Road Car Park plan, which is being vigorously opposed by local residents, is yet another ill-considered and impractical scheme foisted upon Windsor by the officers of the Borough Council.

But then, they have the power, the absolute power, and we all know what that leads to!

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