THE first meeting of a planning meeting crumbled into chaos after tempers flared over delayed start, last-minute substitutions and an applicant withdrawing a major scheme at late notice.

Councillors and a full room of residents were eager to speak on and hear the controversial plans to build 80 homes on open space land on Ray Mill Road East at a Maidenhead development management panel on Wednesday, August 18.

This was the first meeting of the Maidenhead planning meeting since the single panel was split into two.

The plans involved a mix of detached, semi-detached, and terrace houses, as well as 32 flats comprising 16 two-beds and 16 one-bedrooms.

Royal Borough Observer: Layout of the withdrawn plansLayout of the withdrawn plans

However, the applicant, T Bingham, decided at the last minute to withdraw the scheme, leaving many disappointed – with one speaker saying she came early from a holiday just to speak on this item.

The meeting had already descended into chaos as it was meant to start at 7pm – but many were waiting outside the Maidenhead town hall for nearly half an hour due to technical and constitutional difficulties.

The constitutional issue related to two non-Maidenhead councillors substituting for absent panel members. Only Maidenhead councillors can be on the panel with the leader of the council, councillor Andrew Johnson (Con: Hurley & Walthams), and cabinet councillor Donna Stimson (Con: St Mary’s) called in at the last minute.

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This angered opposition councillors John Baldwin (Lib Dem: Belmont) and Geoff Hill (The Borough First: Oldfield), saying the substitutions needed to be informed by midday and believed they and councillor Gerry Clark (Con: Bisham & Cookham), who is a panel member and arrived late, didn’t fully read the 112-paged planning documents, fearing they can’t give a fair and impartial decision.

Cllr Hill believed Cllrs Johnson, Stimson, and Clark were “poorly briefed” and “incapable” of deciding. He called for them to leave the meeting, saying it’s “morally wrong”.

He said: “My view is you should leave because if you go ahead and vote on this, we are open to legal challenge and actually discredits this panel and this borough. So, it’s time you left.”

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The chairman, Cllr Phil Haseler (Con: Cox Green), said the monitoring officer has approved the panel to continue as is.

Meanwhile, Cllr Clark said he was “expected” to be at the meeting and reviewed the documents.

Cllr Baldwin laughed and asked why he was so late. Cllr Clark responded: “I believed my presence was not required this evening and I think your facial expressions, sir, are absolutely remarkable.”

The chairman managed to get the meeting on track where the clerk gave the bad news the Ray Mill Road East application was withdrawn by the applicant.