Comments on Application 23/00177 - Maidenhead Court Boathouse, Court Road
Installation of VRF heating / cooling plant and associated works, landscaping, bin storage and a new boundary treatment
This application is completely inadequate for the level of change and alterations intended for this Grade II listed building and its setting in the Riverside Conservation Area.
The limited scope of the application relating to heating / cooling plant, screening and ancillary works is justified by the applicant on the grounds that there is no required change of use within Planning Category E which includes both office and crèche / day nursery use. In the absence of any further applications to address the wider issues associated with listed buildings, conservation areas and the day to day operation of a day nursery it has to be refused as incomplete and inadequate.
The external changes to the Grade II listed boathouse may be limited, but the visual aspect of the riverside setting will be adversely impacted by surrounding high fences required for safeguarding issues relating to young children. The northern boundary runs alongside a lengthy, narrow public footpath from Court Road to the towpath. This will require high screening for the safeguarding of the children which, conversely, will make the footpath less safe.
The eastern boundary is currently made up of wrought iron railings of just over a metre in height. The Heritage Statement says there will be clear views of the listed building from the river - but presumably with an array of multi coloured play equipment on the grass. However, safeguarding requirements will deem the existing railings to be unsatisfactory and a fully screened fence will be required. The unique setting of the boathouse with the grass apron to the eastern elevations will no longer be enjoyed by towpath walkers or waterborne boaters. The riverside location and potential drowning risk is a further safeguarding issue in terms of child safety and will require a strong childproof perimeter to the whole site.
The internal changes to the building are extensive with a total of 8 playrooms and ancillary offices being created. Normally, such changes to a listed building require detailed scrutiny and agreement with the heritage / conservation team at RBWM. These proposed internal redevelopments are taken for granted within this application, without any formal discussion, application or approval.
With 120+ infants on site and 20+ staff, the access / egress, parking and drop off arrangements will require detailed scrutiny. A Travel Plan or Statement should be provided to show how these issues will be dealt with. The number of vehicular movements will increase significantly, especially at the southern end of Court Road where there is a difficult road junction with Lower Cookham Road - with restricted visibility on exit. Again, it must be pointed out that because of the inadequacy of this application and the lack of referral to intended change of use the traffic impact on the surrounding residential area is not evaluated or addressed.
The application is focussed on the additional sound generated by the proposed VRF heating and cooling system, and remedial screening to mitigate that sound. However, there is no reference to the more significant noise impact that will be generated by 120 pre-school children being introduced to the quiet residential riverside setting.
We have always supported the commercial development of riverside businesses to generate thriving activity which attracts visitors and residents alike to this landmark area of Maidenhead. Whilst we would like to see Maidenhead Court Boathouse back in active use, we are not convinced that the proposed use as a nursery school is appropriate for such a unique building and location. Consequently, we object to this very specific application because the intentionally limited scope does not allow for or reflect the full and proper consideration of the proposals as a whole.