Dec 14

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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.


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?



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