The Current Plans

The latest plans (see this map) put forward by the Council in July 2020 have been put on hold pending further discussion with the Friends of Battlemead.  This followed the strong opposition from a large number of local groups and individuals.

If they had gone ahead they would have involved a 26 or 30-space car park (the planning application for this is still pending), a fenced path across the East Field causeway linking to the Thames Path and a further fence opening up a large piece of the East Field and further limiting the protected wildlife area.  The West Field would also have open to off lead dogs.

These paths would have been in addition to the path around the northern perimeter of the site (which creates the missing link in the Millennium Way, an objective for the Ramblers for many years) and a circular walk around the West Field.

The East Field paths and fences and the off lead decision for the West Field went against the plan proposed by the Council only two months earlier and resulted from strong representations via the Friends group.

The local wildlife groups, including the RSPB and BBOWT (the local wildlife trust), and many local people all expressed their clear opposition.  There were many reasons to reject the plan: the following sets out the main ones.

  1. The Climate Crisis       The Council declared an Environment and Climate  Emergency in June 2019.  This should mean that it reviews all of its activities to ensure that, at least, none go against the Strategy that they subsequently laid out.  Battlemead would be an easy win for them: no prior public access and the opportunity for significant biodiversity gain without taking anything away from anybody.  How often will they have the chance to do that with 110 acres? Instead they decided people access and dogs had priority and will lose the chance to deliver on the Emergency strategy

  2. Damage by dogs       There is firm evidence about the damage that roaming dogs due to habitats, drawn from the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and others.  They reduce foraging and breeding by wild animals (especially ground nesters) by around 35%.

  3. Footpaths: no need established    There is no need locally for extra footpaths and areas for the public to exercise dogs.  There are 70 km of footpaths in Cookham and Maidenhead town alone, with plentiful green space literally across the road at Widbrook Common leading to the Green Way.  The Council's own Open Space Report in 2019 noted that there was a surplus of such space in Maidenhead until 2033.

  4. Wildlife ghettos   By opening up one field (West Field) to humans and dogs off lead and slicing the other big field (East Field) in two they are forcing the focus on wildlife into areas that are likely to be too small - and too close to human/canine interference - to deliver the biodiversity (certainly bird and large mammal) gain they claim

  5. Damage to protected species     Their actions have already stopped Barn Owls (protected birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act) from breeding at Battlemead.  This may not be a crime (the disruptive work was possibly outside the breeding season) but it was as good as criminal negligence as makes no difference.  Their proposed action will risk further disruption to at least six protected bird species, as well as several mammals (badger, deer, fox).

  6. Over-sized car park    The Council's latest action is related to their determination to create a large car park, yet we have never seen any justification for the 26 car spaces it proposes.  Since this is what underlies the ecological appraisal that they are using there needs to be a clear case set out.  ie the starting point was not "how do we maximise the biodiversity on the land?"; it was "how do we get our car park, allow human/canine intrusion and not lose too much biodiversity?"  The Council will, of course, challenge this but look at the facts!

  7. Ignoring advice   The Council formed the Friends of Battlemead to discuss the future of the land.  Just about every recommendation of the member organisations concerned with wildlife protection (including the RSPB and BBOWT - the local wildlife trust -  as well as WildCookham and Wild Maidenhead) has been ignored.  The latest plans go even further in the opposite direction than the previous plans circulated just two months ago.

  8. Two generations to go    The Big One!  If we believe the data, we are perhaps two generations away from an environmental catastrophe of barely imaginable proportions.  Maidenhead won't solve that problem on its own but it has committed to do its bit.  We agree to access but we must look after the biodiversity first. This is one of the first relevant decisions it has made since declaring the Emergency and it has failed the test.  If not here, where?  If not now, when?

via Wild Maidenhead

©2019 by WildCookham