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April 2020 Newsletter
Chairman's Report ( with Planning News and comment ) - this section is also shown below.
Other items in the newsletter:
- Financial Summary of the Society,
- Little Marlow Lakes Country Park,
- The Shape of Things to Come - Bucks Unitary Council,
- Bridge Protection,
- History Article - The Bombing of Marlow 1944,
- Marlow Society at 60.
Chairman's Report - with Planning News and comment
I am writing this in challenging and changing times. Instead of inviting you to our Annual General Meeting during which I had hoped to give you a talk on the history of Court Garden and Higginson Park, I am confined to barracks with the sole relief of being allowed by the Town Council to till my allotment. Our AGM has been postponed with no new date yet set. But this eNewsletter includes the details of our financial position, one of the key items on the AGM agenda, as prepared by our Treasurer Graham Fletcher. I trust that you are content with his report, but please do raise any questions that you may have with me.
Of course we have had to withdraw our programme of talks and walks. This is a great disappointment to my colleagues who have taken a lot of time and effort in its preparation. I thank them for all they have done and hope that we will be able soon to reinstitute the programme for the benefit of the whole community.
Our Newsletter is distributed 3 times a year. It reaches some Members by post but most copies are delivered to your door by our team of loyal distributors led by Elizabeth Fenley. This is another example of the way that volunteers keep the Society so lively. In the current circumstances it would be totally inappropriate to ask them to make deliveries. So the Newsletter will be distributed electronically to each Member for whom a working email address is recorded. We will try to identify long standing members who are not 'plugged in' and either obtain an email address, or get paper copies to them as is done for those on the postal list. We do operate a valued website, kindly managed for us by Kelvin Warne, on which this Newsletter will be posted. It will take time to get this temporary work-around sorted but we will do our best to contact all Members.
Whilst on the theme of volunteers I now appeal to the Member who is willing to become our next Newsletter editor. Our Hon Secretary, George Lawrence, has “double headed” as Secretary and Editor for the last eight years. He deserves a break. If you are reasonably competent in using any text editor that is additionally able to output a pdf document (and most applications do provide conversion to portable document format) and are prepared to pull together the supplied text and pictures into a coherent document three times a year please contact me or George. This role is vital to our Society, Newsletter being the main conduit for feedback from the Executive Committee to the Society's Members. Whether on paper or in electronic media, Members deserve to know in a timely manner what the Society is doing to look after our built environment and to learn from the articles on the history of our area.
As one of its final acts Wycombe District Council has issued a Supplementary Planning Document ('SPD') on Air Quality. This document aims to ensure that any new development is consistent with the local Air Quality Action Plan. You may have noticed the relatively small roadside signs showing that Chapel Street, Spittal Street, West Street and the High Street are designated part of the Marlow Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Drivers are asked to turn off vehicle engines when stationary. Judging by the response in Chapel Street during the last month, during which temporary one-way traffic lights have been in operation, the public have a minimal interest in local air quality. I fear that until enforcement is employed little will change - and who will be the enforcer?
Here in Marlow we have a number of groups actively involved in promoting conservation and environmental improvement. Our Town Council CEO, Cllr Jocelyn Towns heads an Environmental Advisory Group committee of the Town Council. However I am yet to discern how all the current initiatives are coordinated through the levels of our elected representatives.
On the voluntary side, several of the local 'green' groups - for example Transition Marlow (responsible for the Farmers' Market), Releaf, Wild Marlow and Rowers Against Rubbish along with MTC councillors - have come together with the aim of being able to have a common voice on environmental matters. More here on this as this comes to fruition.
The creation of the unitary Bucks Council resulted in the transfer of all of WDC’s assets into the Aylesbury centre. This includes Court Garden House and Higginson Park, both purchased for the town in the 1926 by Marlovians. In answer to a question that I raised at Council meeting, MTC has advised that our Council has expressed a desire to the Interim Bucks Authority to take devolved responsibility for these and other green spaces in our town. Discussions are at an early stage and the new Bucks Council is likely to perceive that it has higher priorities until it shakes down.
I commend this initiative firmly believing that our Town Council has shown that is more than capable of managing our open spaces and urban assets just as the Marlow Urban Town Council once did. Remembering the selling off of assets such as New Court, the property was given to the Town by Nesta Liston, sold to Red Kite who then sold it on to developers. I want to make damn sure that Court Garden does not go the same way!!
In January the Chairman of our History Group, Keith Ray, surveyed our famous bridge and compiled a report flagging up a number of visible problems. His report was sent to the structure engineers at Transport for Bucks and we received a constructive response which gives confidence that both funding and effort will be deployed as part of a structured ten-year maintenance plan. The remedial work required includes the stopping of water ingress into the south portal and replacement of bearings below the road surface of the bridge at the junction with the fixed road of the approaches.
We still await a report, due last November, detailing the analysis of bridge misuse by out-of-limits vehicles gathered by the monitors on the bollards and the CCTV cameras.
If you had wondered why the paving of Spittal Street still wobbles and has patches of tarmac, the following may help. This information was given to me by Cllr Wood, Leader of the WDC Cabinet.
The works undertaken have been managed and let by Sorbon Estates Limited. The current works at Spittal Street have not been completed and have thus not been accepted by Transport for Bucks (TfB). As part of the S278 Highway Works Agreement Sorbon Estates have legal responsibility for any required remedial works until the scheme is adopted.
However, because of a legal dispute, they are conducting no further remedial works - including repair of any safety related defects. TfB have been made aware of a number of ongoing safety issues and because the footways in this area are public highway the ultimate responsibility for safety of the public falls to the Highway Authority (BCC to become BC), who have repaired or made safe these defects.
MTC have contributed £49,389.13 in April 2018 towards the scheme. WDC have allocated £178,480 towards the scheme. A further £46,000 has been allowed for ‘unascertained costs’, which Sorbon Estates are claiming.
Once the works are completed to an adoptable standard, BC can then put the works onto a year’s maintenance period. At the end of the maintenance period a further snagging meeting will take place and the remedial works identified will be repaired. Once these have been completed to BC’s satisfaction the works can be adopted to be maintained at public expense.
It is worth noting that there is currently an on-going legal dispute between Sorbon Estates, the BCC/WDC and the contractor. Sorbon Estates are not proposing to undertake any further remedial works until this legal dispute is resolved. Sorbon are also proposing to claim further costs relating to the project. This issue is currently with the Council's legal team to resolve.
Last week a Highways working team parked its lorry in the street at 0900h to make repairs, leaving the engine running - in the AQMA. You can’t make it up
Seymour Court Road
As you go out of Marlow towards Lane End you will see beyond the last house on the left a site of 0.29 hectares in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This area was identified in the approved Local Plan as suitable for the building of 9 dwellings. An application has been lodged for the building of four blocks of flats comprising nine private flats and eleven affordable flats. Their design reminds me of the housing in East Berlin in the 1980s. The Society will oppose this application on the grounds of over development, inadequate parking, segregated fencing and inappropriate design.
Conversion of ex-Waitrose building
I was extremely disappointed but not surprised by the granting of planning permission to convert the former Waitrose store into a children’s nursery and housing. Siting a nursery alongside a WDC designated Air Quality Management Area where pollution levels exceed national standards clearly puts young children at risk. The WDC solution was 'all groundfloor windows on façades facing Chapel Street must be made un-openable and, for those rooms containing such windows, forced ventilation drawing from the rear (car park facing) façade of the developed must be installed'. Reason – To mitigate the effect of poor air quality on the health of future occupants. Note the word mitigate. The risk remains. Clearly the air above the first floor does not present a hazard.
I asked Cllr Wood, Leader of the WDC Cabinet, if the Council would accept responsibility for any long term health effects of pollution on the young children. She declined to reply.
Lights on the Bridge
In July 2019 MTC gained planning permission from WDC to install replacement decorative lighting on our bridge. The illumination of the outline of the bridge, which had been in place for many years, had failed and modern LED based lighting was proposed. Unfortunately, the conservation authority of the RBWM has a say in the matter. Move on to February this year and our Town Council is still in discussions with the Royal Borough.