Dec 28

Our local food bank

It appears that there are several food banks currently operating in our area, mainly run by churches as a social enterprise serving the community. They are a response to the hard times many local people find themselves in as properly paid employment shrinks and food prices rise. The recent and pending changes to welfare benefits have also surely played a part in the rise of food banks in the UK. One of the biggest operators of the banks is the Trussell Trust. They now operate over 200 nationally and you can see below how the numbers of people using them has mushroomed in recent years:

Trussell Trust food banks (Welwyn Hatfield)

 

There is a lot more about the new phenomena of food banks on their website here. Or you can download an interesting pamphlet here.

Below is a very short film about how a food bank works:

The Trussell Trust food bank for Welwyn Hatfield is located in Howardsgate, Welwyn Garden City. Its location is poignant, being in the building of the former Job Centre and right beside the Prezzo restaurant. It is located inside and operated in conjunction with the Fountain of Life Christian church. The bank is open from 11:00am-2:00pm on Monday and Friday and access to the food is via a voucher which can be obtained through social services or care workers locally. There is also a local phone number: 01707 377443. This local went along recently to see it for himself and received a friendly welcome.

A few years ago it would have seemed improbable that a food bank would be needed in relatively prosperous Welwyn Hatfield, how times change. This development highlights the increasing inequality, and growing gap between rich and poor, both globally and locally here in Welwyn Hatfield. With the major changes to benefits entitlement yet to come in 2013 it seems that business at the food bank will be increasingly brisk for some time yet.

More Info:

The Trussell Trust

The Fountain of Life Church

Welwyn-Hatfield Food bank  – Donations shopping list.

Finally, if you know of any other food bank schemes operating locally this site is happy to feature them.

The map below shows the food bank location:

KML-LogoFullscreen-LogoQR-code-logoGeoJSON-LogoGeoRSS-LogoWikitude-Logo
Welwyn Hatfield Food Bank
Welwyn Hatfield Food Bank 51.802128, -0.207724 The actual address is 15 Howardsgate, WGC.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=627

Dec 25

We wish you a merry christmas…

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=620

Dec 21

12 tips for Christmas from Trading Standards

This is worth a read:

Hertfordshire Trading Standards tips

This brief newsletter just out has some useful tips and advice to help us avoid scams, annoyances, and cowboy tradesmen. Click here or on the picture above to download the newsletter.

But don’t let it dampen your festive mood!

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=605

Dec 14

Save Hatfield Green Belt – first public meeting well attended!

Hatfield proposal

Hatfield 1 above is where the vast majority of new homes in the Welwyn Hatfield borough would go in this proposal. This is currently mostly green belt land.

The first meeting of the Save Hatfield Green belt campaign, and particularly the area surrounding Hatfield Garden Village, was a big success on Wednesday night. Over 200 people turned up filling the school hall at Green Lanes school to capacity, and then some. The campaigners have moved quickly to form a committee and gets things organised for the fight ahead.

Attendees filled the hall

 

The meeting was very inclusive, the context  was set by Paul Ward in his introduction and the bulk of the event was dedicated to questions from the floor and a discussion around the points raised. Two Hatfield councillors also spoke, Duncan Bell, (duncan.bell@welhat.gov.uk) Conservative , member for Hatfield Villages, and Kieron Thorpe, (kieran.thorpe@welhat.gov.uk) Labour member for Hatfield South and leader of the opposition. Both councillors took questions from the floor and did their best to answer them fully. It’s fair to say there was some discontent with the stance of  councillor Bell in response to one question, he was then pressed to show his commitment in representing the people in his ward, rather than the leadership of his party, or the council itself.

Councillor Bell went on to explain that opposing the proposal on the ground that it was green belt land alone would not be a successful strategy. He said that would fail at the appeal stage as the new planning policy is weighted to permit development instead of blocking it, because green belt land is no longer protected as it once was.

Councillor Thorpe explained the recent history of the local plans for new housing, and how the new acts such as the NPPF and Localism Act have changed national planning policy.   He also made the point that discussions about where to locate the new housing had been going on for some time and that there had already been two votes on the subject within the council.  Questions were then asked about which way local councillors voted.

There was also  lot of concern raised over the proposed traveller site within the new proposal and several people quoted facts and statistics about that.

One key message from the meeting was that it would need to be proved that enough local infrastructure exists, or would be built, to cope with 2,000 new homes and services needed to support them, from schools to hospitals and doctors.

Another key message was that if WHBC don’t have a plan agreed and in place during next year private developers will then be allowed to come along and build whatever they want. The new national planning policy framework allows this under its guise of promoting development rather than preventing it (even though reasons for prevention might be clear to local residents). Therefore, there is a lot of pressure to get a plan agreed soon to avoid a free for all situation.

During the meeting it was raised by several people, with much applause, that once again Hatfield is being dumped on. There were exclamatory comments from the floor that the town centre is a disgrace ,  the incinerator has been forced on residents, and that we haven’t even got a hospital after the new ‘super hospital’ was shelved. One member of the audience made the point that while families would go out on leisure and shopping trips to WGC at the weekends, those people wouldn’t think of going to Hatfield for the same thing. The applause that followed that statement underlined how far Hatfield residents feel like poor relations in the Welwyn Hatfield partnership.

Campaigners also agreed that it would be beneficial to work with any campaign groups for the other major site identified, that being Panshanger. Working together, it was felt, could achieve more than allowing the local authority to ‘divide and rule’ if the groups were set in opposition.

A point often raised was how it came to be decided that the bulk of the housing would be tacked on to Hatfield (2,000 homes) and Panshanger in WGC (700). Why were other areas, particularly around the leafy villages in the south of the borough spared from the bulk of the development? This question could not be fully answered, although many people muttered a view as to why.

Overall, this meeting felt like a well organised and well attended start to a good campaign. I’m sure the groups own website: http://www.savehatfieldgreenbelt.co.uk, will soon have its own update following the event.

Finally, we were also told that the deadline for the consultation had now been extended to the end of January.

This just in from WHBC:

14/12/12 Extra consultation event and extended closing date of planning consultation

You now have more time to respond to the consultation on planning for the future of Welwyn Hatfield as it has been extended to Thursday 31 January 2013. An extra consultation event has also been added in Hatfield for people to come along speak to the planning team about issues that concern them.

The additional consultation event will be on Tuesday 15 January, from 2-8.30pm, at Green Lanes Primary School, Green Lane, Hatfield, AL10 9JY.

The additional consultation event will be on Tuesday 15 January, from 2-8.30pm, at Green Lanes Primary School, Green Lane, Hatfield, AL10 9JY.

Important!

It would also seem beneficial for Panshanger residents to have an equivilent public meeting, if there is enough feeling on the matter in that area?

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=590

Dec 10

Housing proposals info

Following on from the previous post this site has been made aware of a new website set up to campaign against the development of green belt land locally. Predominantly the proposal to build 2000 on mostly green belt land on the north side of Hatfield.

The group also has a public meeting organised for Wednesday 12th December, 2012 at 7.00 pm at Green Lanes School, Green Lanes, Hatfield. All are invited to attend

The campaign group website is here: http://www.savehatfieldgreenbelt.co.uk/

A recent WHBC event held at Panshanger  to promote the core strategy proposals allowed people to stick post it notes on a display board to express their concerns. Below are a few pictures of that board showing the kinds of comments made. The sentiment is not surprising, click on the images to enlarge them.

Panshanger comments 1

 

Panshanger comments 2

 

Developments on this subject will appear here in due course.

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=582

Dec 01

Core Strategy – Don’t miss your chance to have a say!

Diagram showing proposed areas for development

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all have a chance to have a say on the future of our borough. To help define how it may develop over the next 15 years, following on from the adoption of the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council’s Core Strategy. This strategy is due to come into force in 2014 and now is our chance to pass comment on it.

In the council’s own words, here’s what the strategy will cover:

The Core Strategy will set out the council’s vision, objectives and strategy for how Welwyn Hatfield will develop between now and 2029.
The Core Strategy will address key strategic matters such as:

  • New Housing:the location of new homes up to 2029
  • Green Belt: where land will be required for growth New jobs: where new jobs should go and the types of job we want to attract Town Centres: supporting Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City
  • Affordable housing
  • Key infrastructure
  • Design
  • The environment and climate change
  • Green Space

The Emerging Core Strategy sets out our preferred strategy for the borough addressing all of the matters above.

The draft proposal of the strategy is out now, and we residents have an opportunity to comment on it until January 31st 2013.

A key influence on this strategy is the Localism Act. This act is supposed to hand planning decisions back to local people. In theory we residents have more powers than ever before to contribute to the decision making process and have a genuine influence on the outcomes. This Core Strategy proposal will be a good test of whether the Localism Act does what it says on the tin, but only if we stand up and exercise the new rights it affords us. A brief summary of the act is shown below

The Localism Act sets out a series of measures with the potential to achieve a substantial and lasting shift in power away from central government and towards local people. They include: new freedoms and flexibilities for local government; new rights and powers for communities and individuals; reform to make the planning system more democratic and more effective, and reform to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally.

This is an extract from a very straightforward guide to the act which can be read in full here.

The process for implementing the Core Strategy looks like this:

 

Public Involvement:

WHBC has a duty to consult residents and ask for feedback on what will go into the final adopted version. To that end an online consultation is now open, and printed materials are available from the council for those that are not online. With all the talk about devolving power away from central government and back to local authorities via legislation such as the Localism Bill this consultation should represent a genuine opportunity for our collective voice to be heard, and acted upon. Whether it actually does or not remains to be seen of course. Those following events with  the New Barnfield Incinerator won’t have much faith in the devolution of decision making away from central government. The wishes of over 6,000 local objectors have been ignored by a handful of County Councillors who don’t even live in the area affected. Shame on them.

However, the Core Strategy is a different animal and a different process. The council must produce a Statement of Community  Involvement that explains the ways and means the local and business communities are able to influence and have a say in what goes into the Core Strategy. Some pertinent extracts from this statement document are pasted below:

 

The issue of developing greenfield sites for new housing developments will probably be the most controversial part of the strategy development process. We know that there is a need for more housing, but what kind of housing and where? Most importantly, how many new homes will be enough?

Previously, the numbers of new homes to be built was set from above. The old system of Regional Spatial Strategies meant that numbers were set centrally for the East of England and we had virtually no say in the matter. As I recall, our Borough only had one representative on the East of England Regional Assembly panel so was unlikely to have much influence. At least now there is an opportunity for all of us to comment on the housing proposals; both their quantity and location. The numbers of new houses to be built in the borough has been set, but where they will go and how many go to each identified location can be commented on by all of us. Whether our comments or objections will make any difference is an open question. If it comes down to votes on the council planning committee then we cannot assume that local democracy and the will of the people will triumph. Many valid concerns about the robustness of our local democracy have been aired in the local press in recent years.

The other major change is the new NPPF or National Policy Planning Framework. This new bill tore up much of the old planning regulation which was seen by government as being anti-economic growth. This post recession framework is aimed at pushing through more planning and development proposals in the hope that it will add a few percentage points to our national growth figures (GDP/GNI). It also makes development projects more attractive to large private developers as they have fewer hoops to jump though, and so can save money. The NPPF document can be seen here.

The biggest area of concern about the  proposed plan relates to housing. Much of our borough lies within the London Metropolitan Green Belt. The champions of green belts since their inception is the Town & Country Planning Asscociation. They are now very concerned that this government sees green belts as a block to economic growth, and as such they could be built over, to some extent. You can read more about the issue here.

Earlier this year we were told that planning laws would be relaxed to allow more people to build home extensions without needing permission, in a bid to generate economic growth. We have since been told by the PM:

“This country is in the economic equivalent of war today – and we need the same spirit. We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race.”

More on this here. This means that any arguments against developing green belt land are likely get short shrift if they are progressed up through the echelons of the current coalition.

Both Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield were designated New Towns soon after WW2. Since then they have both grown considerably. The Core Strategy plan for 3,000 new homes, located mainly in two big clusters, shows 2,000 of them on the northern edge of Hatfield and 700 on the eastern edge of WGC. The Hatfield development sits within green belt land, and the WGC development straddles it.

An extract from the Core Strategy document is shown below:

The Emerging Core Strategy proposes a housing requirement of 7,200 new homes, 6,800 of which are to be provided for within Welwyn Hatfield, over the period 2011 to 2029. It is estimated that around 3000 of these new homes could be delivered from capacity on sites within existing defined urban areas (urban capacity) together with other sites outside urban areas that already benefit from planning permission. Due to the limited known availability of suitable sites within existing urban areas, in order to plan for the housing target, an exceptional review of Green Belt boundaries will need to take place and land will need to be released from areas outside existing urban areas.

It is widely accepted that demand for more housing exists. As the population of our area rises and the makeup of family unit changes it is inevitable that more housing will be needed. The question is what kind of housing will be built, and will it be affordable to those most in need of a home? Likewise, bad planning decisions in the past show that it’s very easy to build new developments that within a few years nobody will actually want to live in. Places that by their very design lessen people’s quality of life. High density, low cost homes may not be appropriate, but then 5 bed executive style homes will not lower the waiting list for social housing. It’s a tough call to make.

The chart below from 2010 shows how far demand for social housing outstrips supply:

 

WHBC Housing needs - supply and demand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chart above is taken from a Local Investment Plan document from WHBC which can be read in full here.

It seems evident that more housing is needed, but very big questions remain about what kind of housing it should be, and most importantly, where it should be. A justification for the current total number of 7,200 would be nice to see, considering that the numbers talked about over the last few years have drifted between five and fifteen thousand.

Much more will be written on this website about the Core Strategy and its implications. Word from senior council officers is that the most important thing local people can do is add their comments to the consultation which is now running. Doing this, we are advised, is far more effective than a petition, which on its own carries far less weight  than individual objections lodged through the official consultation process. There is a local campaign group that has emerged in objection to the Panshanger housing proposal, they are here, and here. More power to their elbow, however, the primary action to be taken is to comment on the consultation. That is the best way to ensure local community involvement in these very big decisions about the future of our area. If you know of groups relating to the Hatfield proposals please let this site know.

It is clear from what was said at the recent roadshows by the council about this consultation that any objections or calls for changes of approach must be tightly focussed and grounded in fact and evidence. Arguments about where the housing should go are valid, but more on grounds of whether it can be proved that there will be enough existing or new infrastructure to support them, or whether they will negatively impact existing nearby areas. For example, merely claiming that new houses should not be built because they might spoil the view or would reduce current house values will not be viewed as a strong argument against the planned development.

The links to the consultation are here:

  1. The main consultation entry page  – you will need to register and log in first.
  2. List of all the different documents to be commented on.
  3. Statement of Community Involvement document.
  4. List of where you can view paper documents about the strategy.
All the key documents in this consultation should be available on the WHBC website, but as they are not too easy to find you can download them below:

 

  1.  Emerging Core Strategy
  2. Statement of Community Involvement
  3. Land for Housing Outside Urban Areas
  4. Housing Background Paper Part 2
  5. Housing Background Paper Part 1

Sustainability report and appendices:

  1. Sustainability report
  2. Appendix A1
  3. Appendix A2
  4. Appendix A3
  5. Appendix A4

More will follow on this subject.

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=542

Nov 11

Autumnal pictures from our area

This site is always happy to display pictures of our area. With autumn now giving way to winter here ae a few pictures that came our way very recently…

Chesnuts abound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A squirrel feasts on a chestnut

Squirrel leftovers

Fallen leaves in a local wood

A lone tree at Panshanger Park, with aircraft descending to the left.

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=521

Sep 15

Roundabout advertising plan withdrawn

Letters have gone out this week to all those who objected to the plan to put advertising on 46 roundabouts across Welwyn Hatfield. Something of a success story for all those who stood up and opposed the idea, well done to all of you!

There were just under 200 objections in total, 177 of them were for Welwyn Garden City roundabouts.  This is a good number considering that this consultation took place in the month that many people were away on holiday and away from work. They are all now on the WHBC planning website. Councillor Malcolm Cowan also requested that every application be called in for scrutiny by the relevent council committee, this can also be seen on the planning website. It’s encouraging to see that at least one councillor is keeping a watch on this stuff.

The letter notifying the withdrawal can be read below.  The reason for it is not explained, but it does say that the applicant has withdrawn the applications. This is peculiar as the applicant was WHBC itself. It would have been more accountable and transparent to have known why it withdrew its own application to itself.

The fact is this is good news for our towns’ appearance, but of course this could come back to the table at any time in the future. Considering this matter had no coverage in the Welwyn & Hatfield Times, and was not mentioned on the Council’s own main news website, the number of objections is quite impressive. It shows the power of people driven ‘new media’ if nothing else.

 

Withdrawal letter from Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council  Planning

Withdrawal letter from WHBC (all roundabout objections had the same response letter)

 

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=512

Sep 07

When local people are national news

It’s been interesting watching both the local print based media and the national broadsheets this week. The big news was of course the government’s cabinet re-shuffle, and our local MP, Grant Shapps, was in there amongst it. He now moves on from being housing and local government minister, to become the Conservative party chairman and a ‘minister without portfolio’. This role seems to involve popping up all over the media explaining and justifying the coalition’s latest ideas for kick-starting economic growth.

How the Portas Pilot scheme now moves from great media story, to a bricks and mortar reality is no longer Mr Shapps problem. Neither is the continuing deficit of new house building. A problem not unrelated to the ever rising number of homeless people in recent years.

Looking at how things have been reported this week in connection to our MP, who is, it has to be said, is an amiable and hard working chap, there is quite a contrasting picture emerging.

Here are a few of the links that can be found via a quick search on Google, they make interesting reading. Particularly the piece from the Welwyn & Hatfield Times which is notably different in tone and not very enquiring journalism. Anyhow, you be the judge…

Article from The Review.

Article from the Welwyn & Hatfield Times.

Article about the Portas Pilots in the Guardian.

Article about Mr Shapps’ family internet business’ in the Guardian.

Article about a possible breach of Google’s rules in the Telegraph.

This site wishes our MP the best of luck in his new role, and hopes of course that he will continue to find the time to deal with local issues as they arise across Welwyn Hatfield. Whatever else is said in the articles above, he has been accessible and communicative as our local MP since taking office.

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=508

Sep 02

QE2 demolition underway

Our hospital recently began its demise as the bulldozers moved in. Not only does it mark the beginning of the end for the full range of healthcare services ‘under one roof’ within our borough, it also marks the beginning of the end for local landmark buildings.

Below are a couple of pictures that show the progress of the demolition. You can also see the size and position of the replacement hospital that will be built.  Information about services at the new QE2 can be found here.

 

QE2 Welwyn Garden City Ascots Day Centre geriatric unit before demolition

QE2 Ascots Day Centre & geriatric unit before demolition

 

QE2 Hospital demolition Welwyn Garden City

The site of Ascots Day Centre and geriatric unit on September 1st

 

 

QE2 Existing and new buildings

New hospital shown in red (now demolished buildings are bottom left)

 

Permanent link to this article: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/?p=501

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