Did Wisdom really votes against the Windsor Racecourse Hotel proposal at Wednesday’s Windsor Urban planning meeting (11/10/2017) or, is there more to it than that. Perhaps opportunities missed?
A revised proposal to build a 140 bed hotel on Windsor Racecourse land was considered by the Windsor Urban Development Management Panel on Wednesday 11 October 2017, at the Guildhall in Windsor.
The wording of the decision/recommendation proposed by officers
The proposed decision to consider was, “It is recommended the Panel authorises the Head of Planning:
- To complete negotiations in relation to flood risk and transport matters, and to secure the submission of appropriate amending and additional documentation to ensure a policy compliant scheme of development.
- To consult the Environment Agency on the amended scheme. To obtain its withdrawal or confirmation of its objection to the proposed development.
- To notify the Secretary of State that the Borough is minded to grant permission for the proposed development, as required under the Town and Country Planning (Consultation)(England) Direction 2009.
- Subject to the above, and following receipt of confirmation that the Secretary of State does not wish to call the consideration of the application in to an Inquiry,
the following principles
My concerns about the process
I have never voted against the recommendation of officers before but, today I did. I did not vote against them because I disagreed with their planning opinion but rather for the following principles.
- Given the importance of this development for Windsor and the community and, its affect of many aspects of the town’s vitality, including tourism, traffic, pollution, trades and employment, I consider that the decision should be fully considered in public with all necessary explanations openly supplied – instead, it was proposed to delegate the decision to be made behind closed doors.
- There were many issues, good work done by officers, which were referred to in the summary report presented but, which were not set out in detail e.g. the setting on the Thames, the effect on the vitality on the town centre, the assessment of the A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment etc.. It would be better for these detailed reports and assessments to be discussed openly
- There were too many issues where final agreement had yet to be reached including; 1.2 Design; 1.9 significant Transport issues; 6.13 the detail of the Flood Risk Management Evacuation Plan; Flood water drainage and also it’s affect on neighbouring areas; 6.28 Further parking required; 6.30 Enhancement for biodiversity and ecology etc…
- And finally, the report stated that “The development should only be accepted if Very Special Circumstances (VSC) can be demonstrated that outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and any other harm associated with the development“. Furthermore, the report went on to state that “the VSC case put forward by the applicant shows“..”that the economic benefits of the scheme outweigh the harm to the Green Belt.” However, I could see no evidence nor back up for this pivotal comment, which is a decision making cusp.
I value and respect the RBWM’s officers. I don’t disagree with the work done but, I can’t help feeling we are missing a few opportunities here that would help Windsor Racecourse adequately demonstrate to all that “the economic benefits of the scheme outweigh the harm to the Green Belt“.
So, members voted 6:1 to delegate the final decision to officers. Yes, you can guess who voted against the issue on principle.
I want Windsor Racecourse to be an asset and not an island
I want Windsor Racecourse to be an asset and not an island. That is, an organisation that is central to and celebrated by the community and not on the periphery taking out but not putting back in.
Nowhere was the criteria for the VSC stated so, here’s what we could have had, what we should have, which would tangibly demonstrate practical, eduring “economic benefits” to the Borough, and the brand value of Windsor Racecourse;
- Jobs focused on local people and not agency or non-borough citizens
- A school of excellence (hospitality and events) training local youth in the growing leisure industry
- A chance to improve traffic flow, and future proof the A308, by say moving the entrance to opposite Vale Road to reduce traffic blockages and manage traffic flow – this would also reduce headlight disturbance for residents of Maidenhead Road
- A chance to reduce traffic and pollution (noise, light and, emissions) by extending the park and ride being offered to hotel guests and staff to Windsor residents – after all, such a scheme and location is noted in Infrastructure Delivery Plan: APPENDIX A – Schedule A – Transport infrastructure (P61) where it says, item 22, £1.5m has been identified as being needed in the next 1 – 5 years for a Windsor Racecourse Park and Ride (400 space park and ride at Windsor Racecourse), Identified by Local Highways Authority, part of Growth Deal 3 Funding Bids – this could have saved us £1.5m or, bought us a more viable scheme.
- Racecourse facilities being made available to the local community free of at discounted rates e.g. access to the River Thames, leisure activities, gym, conferencing etc…
Unless Arena Racing Company (owners of Windsor Racecourse Co Ltd [Windsor racecourse]) and RBWM get together, both will have missed a glorious opportunity to create a visionary legacy of mutual benefit to residents, the racecourse and, our royal borough.
As I said, I want Windsor Racecourse to be an asset and not an island and, also for the Council to engage in a bigger, brighter, more holistic vision for our residents – yes, our residents.
Together, let’s put a smile on everyone’s faces
My challenge to ARC & RBWM
Here’s my challenge to Arena Racing Company and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
Dare to do it better;
- Pick up on my suggested “Opportunities missed?”
- RBWM, make sure all discussions are in an open arena – for the sake of the public
Together, let’s put a smile on everyone’s faces
Tell me what you think people
WWRA Councillor, Wisdom Da Costa, Clewer North, Windsor
Photos © Windsor Racecourse Co. Ltd
This post is part of Cllr Wisdom Da Costa’s regular series of Blogs to inform and empower local residents; as he promised in his election leaflet
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the West Windsor Residents Association (WWRA).