AL21 is the biggest housing development to happen in Windsor since West Windsor was built back in the sixties and seventies.
Residents have until the 22nd June 2022 to comment on the newest application. I would urge you to take a look at the plans, don’t over face yourself but focus on what is important to you and comment accordingly.
I do have some queries and concerns that will need to be addressed.
The average resident has very little interest in politics until something impacts them directly. Many residents will have an opinion on AL21 as it impacts most of us.
It would probably help to understand the journey of an application on this scale…
Rightmove tells us that the average price of a house in Windsor is £580k and my educated guess is that most of these properties will be above average. So placing a value of £300 million on the sales value is probably on the low side but paints a picture of how seriously those involved will be taking it.
The first step of a 450 homes project is to secure the land.
Green belt land cannot be built on so you have to go through a process of changing the land classification. This is done through the Borough Local Plan (BLP). It is the legal vehicle which allows the council to change the classification of the land in its borough.
The builders Wates needed to form agreements with all the current land owners who make up the area based on paying them a premium at the right time. From what I have gathered about other plots, Syngenta in Bracknell, the land value can increase 10x!
The BLP was adopted in February 2022, with many disgruntled residents sharing their views with Councillors at the meeting, and it is currently being challenged in court and rather bizarrely, while that process occurs, it stands as a legal document allowing planning applications to be heard.
The next step is that the applicant submits their application. Because this is two separate sites, with differing access points, it has been submitted as two separate applications:
22/00934/OUT – 135 homes next to the Squires old site (NORTH)
22/01354/OUT – 320 homes around the ALDI store (SOUTH)
You can find out more of the details on the RBWM Planning portal. Click left and put the application number in the search box.
Many of the documents are technical and so you might struggle to digest them but in commenting, you simply have to share your thoughts. It is for officers to worry about the relevant policies that your comment might refer to.
Planning law is based on weighing things for and against with each element of the application being weighed. If the weight goes in favour then the application is allowed.
The practical reality being that it is the officers’ job to make sure what is being proposed by the builders meet the current legislation and if that is the case, the officer cannot object. That’s fair in itself but it does get confusing.
Bray Parish Council commissioned an air quality report which basically shows that the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the area is 3x World Health Organisation recommended levels.
So I asked a logical question to a RBWM Planning Officer, “One aspect I get confused about is with regards to air quality. If we are breaching WHO recommended levels already, how can we reasonably give permission to build more homes knowing that will exacerbate the problem?”
An officer replied, “On the air quality point you have raised, the applications have both been submitted alongside an air quality assessment which will be reviewed by colleagues in environmental protection as part of the planning application process. In line with policy EP2, the applications would need to demonstrate that they do not significantly affect residents within or adjacent to an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) or to residents being introduced by the development itself. Development proposals which may result in significant increases in air pollution must contain appropriate mitigation measures, such as green infrastructure, sustainable travel, electric vehicle charging parking points, limited vehicle parking, awareness raising, and enabling smarter travel choices.”
Officers have to work within the law & policies in play. We can’t blame them if we don’t like a decision, they have to be balanced and precise in their thinking.
I first met a representative of Wates as a new Councillor and they had already negotiated with local landowners and made the decision to buy the Garden Centre when it got into financial difficulties to avoid issues with the land it sat on. Subsequently selling half to ALDI.
As we move forward, having the best interests of residents at heart, I have been talking, along with other Councillors, to representatives of Wates and our officers to identify mitigations to provide for the best possible outcomes, should it be given approval.
Primary for me, which fits in with the Air Quality talk above and one of the Site Specific Requirements for AL21 in the BLP, which is:
- Ensure that the development is well served by public bus routes/demand responsive transport/other innovative public transport solutions, with appropriate provision for new bus stop infrastructure, such that the bus is an attractive alternative to the private car for local journeys, including to local railway stations.
To that end I have asked White’s buses to come forward with likely costings for a very regular bus service from Windsor & Eton Station to Maidenhead Station with just 10 stops there and back. In the perfect world, a bus every 15 minutes would be very welcomed by residents. There is an area of “adopted highway” near the old Squires site that might work as a stop and also provide a logical crossing for the A308. I have submitted the idea to Wates and our Planning & Infrastructure officers for consideration.
Secondly, the Willow’s Estate Boundary Wall is important to many residents and carries the relevant legal weight to ensure Wates full attention. I’d suggested the allotments might work nicely next to this wall but that is probably very optimistic and I am hoping, a follow up suggestion for a pathway along the wall, is better aligned to Wates’ sense of fair play.
My third focus is on ensuring we don’t end up, in 30 years time, with the small auction plots around the estate that someone buys in the hope of building a phone box type bedsit or whatever is affordable & permissible in 2050. These plots have caused a great deal of stress for local residents and I have been working with residents and the Windsor Ascot Maidenhead Community Land Trust to find ways of solving these issues in my ward. The CLT are talking to Wates and I’m hoping for some positive outcomes around the Community Centre and the 5% self/custom build space for community led projects.
Plus a list of other ideas around improving the neighbourhood for the benefit of residents in the years to come.
My approach is to deal with reality. The Conservatives put out the call for land, they voted through the BLP, including this site. The application will have to address all planning considerations.
My job, as the local Councillor, knowing what I know, is to try and achieve the best possible outcomes for my residents.
If you have any comments on the above or anything you believe I should consider, please email me Cllr.Davey@rbwm.gov.uk and I’ll come back with my thoughts.