Poster Booth Project Press Release

We are very pleased to announce that the refurbishment of the two remaining town centre poster booths is imminent, thanks to National Lottery Heritage funding which has now been secured. Below is a press release from the Society outlining the funding received, and our planned project. We will update you on future progress.

 

 

If you have any comments do contact us on wgcsociety@live.com

 

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspirelead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk.

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What’s happening with “The Wheat Quarter”?

Wheat Quarter Welwyn Garden City

The unloved factory as it appears from Bridge Road

With only a couple of weeks to go until the towns centenary year and celebrations things seemed to have ground to a halt in the development of the former Shredded Wheat site. Hopes were high that the new landowners would get on with redeveloping the site for 2020, in fact their vision statement set out in their document “Delivering the Wheat Quarter, January 2018” boldly stated:

“The vision for The Wheat Quarter is to deliver a unique destination for people to live, work and spend their leisure time. The redevelopment of the former Shredded Wheat Factory community elements is due to complete in 2020, which coincides with Welwyn Garden City’s centenary year in which the town will be celebrating its origins in the Garden City Movement.”

However, the dilapidated factory remains a paint peeling eyesore. There seems to be no news as to when this will change. Here are a few pictures taken very recently (Mid December 2019), click on them to enlarge:

Shreeded Wheat The Wheat Quarter WGC

Will visitors to the town for the centenary be greeted with this when they arrive at the train station or drive in over Hunters Bridge? Will we residents have to go on looking at this derelict behemoth?

Our Society hopes that the factory will receive the love and attention we were told it was going to get by the new owners when they took on the site. The landowners originally said the work will complete in 2020 but it hasn’t begun as far as we can see, what a sad state of affairs! We hope that our Borough Council is also pushing to get things underway asap. Planning consent was granted some time ago now,  since then the developers have sought to revise it, scaling back on some of what was originally proposed.  The town deserves better in its centenary year, when it will be getting a lot more attention, and many more visitors. This remains a memorable building, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Plant a Legacy Tree for the Centenary

The imminent centenary presents a legacy opportunity to re-green Welwyn Garden City.  Many trees have been lost and others are very old or have outgrown their locations. The benefits of trees as a visual amenity, for birdlife and sustainability are very topical at present.

The Welwyn Garden City Society has produced an information sheet for homeowners to ‘plant a legacy tree for the centenary’.  The best time to plant a tree is from December to February so there are opportunities for the centenary in 2019 and 2020. Our information sheet can be read here:

Plant a Legacy Tree for the Centenary a guide

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EMS Consultation Submission

The Society has now submitted its feedback to the WHBC public consultation on the new Design Guide proposals for the Estate Management Scheme areas of the town.

Our submission can be read by clicking here.The main website about the proposals is here: https://www.wgc-ems.org/design-guide/

Welwyn Garden City EMS

Graphic used by WHBC to promote the new Design Guide

You can check whether you live or out of the scheme area by putting in post code on this web page:

https://www.wgc-ems.org/interactive-map/

 

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Aerial footage in and around the town…

Just for interest this video of the town has emerged on the YouTube website, it appears to be drone footage in and around the town, shot in the dry spell last summer:

 

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Under 2 weeks to have your say…

http://bit.do/whbcnewsites

“The Local Plan is probably the most important document to be produced for the borough in a generation.”

– WHBC website

Our council now has an important public consultation running until June 18th. The government Planning Inspector, scrutinising their Local Plan at the end of last year, advised them the housing target was now too low and that they should make a new call for further housing sites across the Borough. The Local Plan was originally intended to be adopted by Winter 2014, it has now slipped by over 5 years and will not be adopted until June 2020, following the new call for sites and then further scrutiny. Part of the reason for the increase is that the government formulated housing target means the figure usually rises year on year, this means it has risen in the 5 years since the original adoption date of Winter 2014.

The call for sites has resulted in a large increase in the housing numbers for Welwyn Garden City. Locations now proposed include:

Town Centre North: 480. Woodside Centre, The Commons (former Burnside School) 45.  Norton building 150, Bio Park 200, Broadwater Road 145. Bridge Rd East 250, B&Q site 100. Panshanger Airfield (Green belt area) 165.  Digswell Hill , behind Uplands 165. Oldings Corner (beside boating lake) 150. Digswell New Road 180.  There are many more new sites proposed elsewhere.

All of this is in addition to the over 4,000 new dwellings already proposed in and around the town, such at those at Shredded Wheat.

If all  these proposed sites went ahead it would see around 2,700 dwellings built in the town, a rise of about 70% on the current figure. Many, or even most, would be flats as is the current trend. We are of course concerned about the impact this may have on our Garden City. As we prepare to celebrate the town in 2020 the fabric of the town will be challenged by this very significant extension. One founding principle of a Garden City is that it protects itself from urban sprawl and over-development.

We urge residents to engage with this new consultation and have a say, make your voice heard!

You can find it by clicking on this link:

http://bit.do/whbcnewsites

This consultation closes on June 18th at 5:00PM.

Alternatively, you can complete and return a response form by email to localplan@welhat.gov.uk or by post to: Planning Policy, Welwyn Hatfield Borough
Council, The Campus, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6AE.

One of the sites in the town centre known as “Town Centre North” has seen its allocation rise from 98 dwellings to up to 480 dwellings. The map below shows the expanded area of this increased allocation, click to enlarge it.

As previously this consultation is likely to encourage a bun fight between different parts of the Borough, all trying to fend off development on their own doorstep in the hope that it will be placed somewhere else. We encourage WGC residents to have their say on these proposals. For example, what is the impact of all this on:

This large increase in population will see the town become increasingly urbanised. Traffic, footfall, noise, rubbish, parking, will all affect the much cherished ambiance and feel of the town. Howard’s intended marriage of town and country will be severely eroded. The town becoming congested and far more akin to a City than a Garden City. This aspect does not seem to have been considered at all in our Council’s proposals.

  • The Green Belt,  reducing the space between towns and settlements.  The Garden City was instrumental in the setting up of Green Belts as we know them. Yet ours is about to be reduced to allow for the very thing the Green Belt designed to prevent. For example, if all this goes ahead the gap between housing developments in Hertford and WGC would be reduced to little over one mile.

 

  • Traffic –  Congestion around the town at peak times is increasing, it is worse now than it has ever been. Some recent attempts to better manage traffic flows don’t appear to be working, Broadwater road and Bridge road traffic lights are one example. With thousands of additional dwellings destined for that immediate vicinity congestion is set to get a lot worse. Not forgetting a rise in pollution levels that would accompany more vehicle movements. While there are plans for new homes there is very little detail about highway improvements, when they will happen, and how they will be paid for. All of this does not fit with our “Town designed for healthy living”.

 

  • What guarantee is there that any of the required services and infrastructure will actually materialise? What will happen if they don’t? For example, the replacement of the footbridge at the train station was seen as integral to the redevelopment of the Shredded Wheat site with 1,340 flats. Despite it being a key requirement plans for a replacement bridge have already fallen by the wayside. Instead the Shredded Wheat land-owner will just make a financial contribution to the refurbishment of the current bridge. It will not be widened to cope with the large increase in footfall that is sure to come. This is indicative of the way planning applications can quickly become watered down, the ‘nice to have’ add-on’s can quickly disappear, even before any bricks are laid.

These are just a few points to consider, there are of course many more. Please do submit yours to this consultation.

 

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Two short videos from Panshanger

We just wanted to point to these these two short videos that have recently emerged, they may be of interest:

The local Panshanger Park featured on BBC Countryfile over Easter, it was a good piece and the park looked wonderful. They did mention that it’s still not fully open to the public, this is something that the Society has been following up on for five years or so now. The full opening of the park is now many years overdue, you can find out a lot more about that on the Friends group website here: http://friendsofpanshangerpark.co.uk

Their website also has the below short clip that shows the problem for visitors trying to access the park from the Panshanger end, along the level Mimram Valley path, it is self-explanatory. We will continue to campaign for this route to be made accessible.

 

On a lighter note, for those that may not be able to get out and enjoy this year’s flush of Bluebells locally here is a short clip of the Bluebells in Henry Wood Panshanger, not far from the site of the (former) airfield. The bluebells still abound in our area so there is still time to get out see them for yourself around the town.

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Splashlands “It was twenty years ago today…”

Well not quite 20 years but very nearly. Almost twenty years ago the Splashlands swimming pool was closed forever and demolished soon after. You can read the text of the WHT article announcing the closure by clicking here. We were told in the article  “We will work to resolve this issue and will keep you informed of our plans for this facility”.  Almost 20 years later, after several false starts and well over £100,000 being spent on consultants who drew up plans that then didn’t happen, we have a new plan…and at last a planning application which indicates this plan should actually happen. Their has been several million pounds set aside for Splashlands replacement in the council’s budget for very many years. They decided to spend half a million of it on the High Ropes, which can be seen to be devoid of customers most days of the week. Presumably that amenity costs more money to run than it makes. The council’s plan about ten years ago was that the High Ropes would turn enough of a profit to pay for the running of the much overdue water park. That was pie in the sky it appears, and the situation could now reverse. The new splash park might pull more people into that side of Stanborough Park, and some of them might contribute to the coffers of the underemployed High Ropes…it’s a topsy turvey world!

The original pool opened way back in 1933, the Splashlands redevelopment with water flumes opened in 1987 and shut for good 12 years later. The reasons for closure appeared for many to be as much about the high running costs, as it was about subsidence and safety concerns.

However, the new plans are encouraging, although it appears the existing children’s park area will be taken away before the new facility is built. It’s not clear why the two can’t co-exist and give park users more to play on overall. The pictures of the fitness area don’t seem very ambitious however, we would hope whatever is built is at least good as similar installations elsewhere. This website gives a good idea of what is available from just one manufacturer: https://www.caloo.co.uk/product-category/outdoor-gym-equipment-bundles/

Here is a extract from the new planning application that shows the layout and the design brief, click to enlarge:

Stanborough Splashlands

Extract from current planning application

Residents can read all the documents and comment on the new proposals via the WHBC planning portal here:

http://planning.welhat.gov.uk/Planning/Display/6/2019/0857/MAJ

We have until the 9th May to submit comments on the application. The Society hopes that a high quality and free to use splash park is finally up and running in time for the centenary next year. Almost all our neighbouring towns have had one for many years already, the one in Letchworth being extremely popular in the summer months.

One can’t help feeling that this new proposal should been before us 15 years ago. The development of a new splash park was further delayed by the serious accident and ensuing court case that saw the High Ropes mothballed just before they were opened to the public, you can read a summary of that unfortunate episode here.

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Sherrardspark wood walks for the coming year

This year’s programme of guided walks operated by the Sherrardspark wood wardens begins next Sunday, 24th March. The details are as follows

  1. SUNDAY 24th MARCH  20192.00pm.  ”THE ROCKS BENEATH THE TREES”  An Introduction to the Geology of Sherrardspark Wood. With Nikki Edwards, Wood Warden 
  2. SATURDAY 4th MAY 2019, 2.00pm– COWSLIPS AND BLUEBELLS” With Neale Holmes-Smith, Environmentalist and Wood Warden. 
  3. SUNDAY 12th MAY 20199.00am.  ”SPRING BIRD WALK” With Murray Brown, Wood Warden. Bring binoculars.  
  4. SUNDAY 9th JUNE 2019 11.00am. – ”FORAGING IN THE WOOD FOR FOOD AND MEDICINE” With Mary Barton, Medical Herbalist and Health Coach. 
  5. SUNDAY 23rd JUNE 2019, 2.00pm– ”SUMMER BUG WALK With Dan Asaw. Bring a hand lens and clear plastic pot if possible. 
  6. SATURDAY 6th JULY 2019. – ”FLOWERS & BUTTERFLIES OF THE MEADOW” Bring a picnic and learn to recognise some common meadow flowers & butterflies. With Neale Holmes-Smith, Environmentalist & Wood Warden. Limited numbers. Please pre-book for start details. 
  7. SATURDAY 10th AUGUST 2019, 2.00pm. – ”DO YOU KNOW YOUR WOODLAND TREES?”  With Neale Holmes-Smith, Environmentalist and Wood Warden. 
  8. SUNDAY 13th OCTOBER 2019– ”Fungal Foray With Chris James, Landscape & Ecology Officer, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.’ Limited numbers. Please pre-book for start details. 

PLEASE WATCH THEIR WEBSITE FOR EXTRA WALKS THAT MAY BE ADDED TO THIS PROGRAM DURING THE YEAR 

Donations £3.00 per adult (under 15’s free). Walks start from the Pentley Park entrance, near Templewood School, unless advised otherwise. Dogs on leads at all times please. Remember to wear suitable footwear. 

For enquiries and pre-booking contact: woodwardens@gmail.com 

Visit the wood wardens own website below:

http://www.sherrardsparkwoodwardens.org.uk/index.php/guided-walks

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Remaining Stanborough Poplars felled

All the poplar trees in the Stanborough Lakes north car park were felled in January, as you can see from the below it’s a significant loss of tree cover. The two photos were taken from the same spot.

poplar trees stanborough lakes

North car park before and after

Many of us remember the outcry in 2008 when the council announced, with no consultation, that all the poplars in both car parks would be felled, on grounds of safety. It was claimed they presented an immediate risk to those using the car parks. A residents campaign, supported by the Society, quickly emerged and many questions were asked as to why this blanket felling suddenly had to happen, there had been no safety incidents caused by the trees. There was a very confrontational meeting at the Lakes in August 2008 (the timing of announcement during the busiest time for holidays was noted) and a resident put some of it on YouTube, which can still be seen today here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQliH_-qf14

Another clip can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPPqKVg5KGE 

After some months, and some backtracking in light of the local protest, the council agreed to alter its plans. Only the trees in the south car park (fishing lake) would be felled for now. The car park would then quickly be replanted with “A mixed scheme with a selection of native wide crowned trees ( for example oak, cherry, hornbeam and birch )”, according to the council spokesperson. It was said that the felling and replanting of the north car park would follow after that. Below is a photo of the felling from November 2008:

So, ten years on how is the mixed scheme with a selection of native wide crowned trees ( for example oak, cherry, hornbeam and birch) getting on? Not very well in our opinion, see the below pictures:

Stanborough poplars

The dearth of trees in the south car park 10 years on (Jan 2019)

 

A few hundred trees have been replaced with a few dozen (Jan 2019)

 

It strikes us that the species of tree that has clearly thrived since the replanting  ten years ago is the poplar, quite an irony. This shows the original choice of the lombardy poplar tree way back when was a good one.  The wide open space that now exists in most of the former tree rows is presumably because the new trees failed for whatever reason. Be that lack of watering or wrong species chosen for that ground condition, we don’t know. Whichever, we are sure it would have been an expensive exercise which can in no way be claimed to have been successful. The car park is certainly less attractive and less verdant than it used to be.

Now, ten years on, the north car park trees have been felled, they will also be replaced once the stumps are removed. We sincerely hope that lessons have been learned and whatever is replanted ends up far a more successful story than that of the south car park, as depicted by the photos. We also hope the south car park will be given the appropriate tlc it requires to get its own stock of trees replenished and thriving.

We are keenly aware that all of this is happening in the run up to the centenary year of our “Garden City” 2020 – should we not be conserving our trees to show the town off in its best light as a garden city rather than embarking on a programme to fell hundreds of trees just prior to the centenary celebrations when many high profile events are scheduled to take place.

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