Windsor and Maidenhead's local plan has been slammed by legal representatives, who have described it as, among many things, both 'not lawful' and 'the very antithesis of open government and of democratic accountability'.

The criticisms, submitted to the council's website last week by representors, are in relation to an ongoing examining that the plan has to go through.

Among the list of criticisms is a claim that the council breached its duty to cooperate multiple times and that the plan was produced before any evidence was sought to identify a viable local plan strategy.

The new criticisms can be seen in four separate representors' documents on the council's website, two of which are filed by Woolf Bond planning consultants that state: "The Local Plan process is not one whereby a local planning authority can produce a draft plan absent a robust evidence base, consult upon that plan and then subsequently produce an evidence base to support the draft plan.

"The whole basis of the plan led system is that the evidence base is to be produced first to enable decision taking to identify the most appropriate strategy on the basis of the best available evidence.

"In Windsor and Maidenhead, however, this does not appear to be understood.

"Members took decisions on soundness based upon assertion alone and without evidence. Subsequently, officers have bene [sic] left to scrabble around trying to find a ex post facto rationale to support the decisions already taken. That is not appropriate. It is not lawful."

Further submissions made on behalf of a group of 13 local organisations stated: "It is clear that the plan as submitted is fundamentally defective. The defects include multiple breaches of the duty to cooperate. Cooperation should have occurred before the plan was submitted for examination. Failure to comply with this duty cannot now be rectified."

A spokesperson for the group of 13 local organisations, also known as RRAG(RBWM Residents Action Group) said:"As a group of 13 local organisations, we took further advice from leading QC John Hobson of Landmark Chambers on the Inspector’s question.

"His advice, submitted in writing to the Inspector, states that it remains his view that the Council has failed in its Duty to Cooperate with neighbouring authorities and other statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency and that the Local Plan they have submitted for Examination is therefore unsound.

"The Plan also relies on Sustainability Appraisals which were defective as they failed to consider suitable alternatives to the Green Belt sites put forward in the Plan.

We hope that this examination will be halted as soon as possible and the Council asked to start work on preparing a brand new Local Plan.

"We need new homes and specially affordable homes; we also need to safeguard employment; and we need roads and schools and all the other infrastructure needed to meet the demands of a larger population.

"A new plan should deliver all this but it must be based on robust evidence and take into account the views and aspirations of local communities. Is this really too much to ask for?"

Additionally, Woolf Bond has accused the council of causing prejudice to people they represent who are affected by the local plan by not disclosing important materials, before recommending that the examination process be terminated.

Their documents stated: "The approach adopted by the Council is one that has caused and continues to cause very real prejudice to Ms Thomas and Ms McElhinney who are unable to engage with the material relied upon to remove the employment site allocation from their land since that material has not and will not be disclosed.

"This is the very antithesis of the basis of proper planning, it is the very antithesis of open government and it is the very antithesis of democratic accountability.

"By its actions the council leaves you with no option but to terminate the Examination process now."

A spokesman from the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead responded to the criticism and said: “The council does not accept the legal submissions made by the parties and will be responding to the Inspector in due course.”