Let it snow…

A flurry of snow overnight this weekend engulfed our town in white on Sunday. Many people were out enjoying the views, and having fun, although the town centre was very quiet for a pre-Christmas weekend. Probably due to heavy congestion on the roads as a result of the downfall. Below is a photo of Howardsgate on Sunday afternoon:

We took this snap of one creative local family standing proudly beside their snowman in Howardsgate. They were happy for us to share a photograph of their handy work here on the site.Howardsgate, Welwyn Garden City

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Plans for the Shredded Wheat site

 

A poster still on the wall inside the factory.

The new site owners recently held an exhibition of their  draft plans and vision for the site in the Howard Centre, in advance of a new planning application for the site in the near future. Society members attended the event to find out more. The Society was also given a detailed tour of the factory site by the developers ZM Land and Capital and Marengo Communications. Several committee members attended and found it very informative. The developers are clearly passionate and well informed about the factory site, they clearly want to create a new destination attraction for the town.

Shredded Wheat site

Site entrance on Hydeway

Inside the factory it was also very clear that it’s in a very poor state of repair. Apparently there has already been a huge amount of work done, including removing all the pigeon poo, in order to make it safe to enter. It appeared that the previous owner Tesco/Spenhill had done very little to maintain the interior while they owned it. The Society is following developments closely and will evaluate the new proposals when they are made public. The developers have a new website outlining their plans, it be found here:

http://thewheatquarter.co.uk

We are told there will be an onsite exhibition of their plans in the factory building early in the new year. Meanwhile the demolition of the unlisted parts of the site that have demolition consent is now underway. We understand that this will include half of the silos that were a later addition and are in a more dilapidated state of repair than the original silos.

The Society decide and refine its position on the new plans as more detail emerges. We are sure all residents we will want to see the current dilapidation halted, and the eyesore status that the site has taken on ended. The ambitious plans for the factory site are encouraging, but there are questions about the plans for the rest of the site, such as the density of housing and the flats only, no houses approach. The railway bridge is to be refurbished but not replaced, and how will parking and traffic flows be accommodated in the new design. Will the plans fit in the WHBC’s Masterplan for the site which was produced before Spenhill acquired the site? These matters and many others should be addressed in detail within the developers application. This is obviously a landmark development for the town and we want it to be appropriate for the own and a successful endeavour. The original Tesco/Spenhill development plans were not appropriate and failed as a result. Their modified plan, without a large store, did gain consent. That included 850 homes,  but with few affordable/social housing dwellings.  The Society will keep a close eye on matters as things progress in coming months. The new developers do seem to be in listening mode and are keen to engage with local residents and groups, that is welcomed.

Below are a few pictures we took during our recent tour of the site:

Newer Production Hall (Will be demolished)

 

Original Production Hall (Will be kept)

The pipework underneath silo 1.

 

Sign on silo wall entrance

 

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“Planned Town” a film about WGC from 1949

We just wanted to point visitors with an interest in our town’s history to this wonderful eleven minutes of nostalgia from the East Anglian Film Archive. It has been available for some time, but now has a properly synchronised soundtrack which is believed to be a narration by no less than Louis De Soissons, the town’s chief architect.

You can find this cinematic gem from a bygone era here: http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/2503

At a time of rationing,  bomb sites and austerity, not long after the war had ended, how attractive the town must have appeared to those watching the film in London, or other cities similarly blighted by  war and still recovering.

 

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Heritage Fair stall last Saturday

Thank you to all those who stopped by our stall at the Heritage Fair on Saturday to share their thoughts about the town and find out more about what we do.

Welwyn Garden City Heritage Fair photo

Mayor Lynne Sparks visiting our stall, alongside Steve, Elahe and Will from the Society.

We were delighted to hear from so many who shared our passion for our Garden City. We had a number of new members join on the day which was great. Congratulations to the Fair’s organisers and the other groups attending. The event demonstrated that many people are passionate and interested in the history of Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield.  The event space in the Howard Centre worked very well with a constant stream of people visiting the various stalls throughout the day.

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Birchall Garden Suburb and the Local Plan

We have issued a new letter and Press Release articulating our concerns about the proposed Birchall Garden Suburb. The letter has been sent to our local authorities, you can read more about it on our website by clicking HERE.

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Local Plan Examination Stage 2

This week the government appointed Inspector, Mel Middleton, held the second stage of his planned hearings to examine the WHBC Local Plan. The plan  will be the blueprint for development in our borough up until 2031. The hearings took place over 4 days and were streamed live and can still be viewed as recordings.

All the sessions can be watched again via the WHBC website here: http://welwyn.nucast.live/

The final session on Friday was different in that was essentially the Inspector offering guidance to WHBC regarding the soundness of the plan based on what he’d heard during the week. His summary seemed to be that he didn’t think the plan was sound as it stands, but could potentially be so with the right modifications. He could not specify what those changes should be, but gave the WHBC some steer on the areas that he felt should be revisited.

That session lasted an hour and a half, and can be watched below:

The Inspector has not yet looked specifically at any of the proposed sites being put forward, including Birchall Garden Suburb and Panshanger, that is set to happen in December or in the early part of next year. Our letter concerning the possible contamination on the BGS site, and concerns others may express about sites proposed should all be considered at these future hearings. There remains a long way to go before these important future plans for our town are finalised, many areas of contention remain unaddressed.

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Trees and Woodland Draft Strategy Consultation

WHBC currently have a public consultation underway seeking residents feedback on their new Trees and Woodland Draft Strategy. This document when finalised will replace the previous Tree Strategy. The consultation runs until the 15th November and can be accessed by following this link:

http://consult.welhat.gov.uk/portal/planning_policy/landscape_and

_ecology_consultations/trees_consultation_2017

The full PDF document can be downloaded here: http://consult.welhat.gov.uk/file/4719373

The Society will be responding to the consultation and we also urge residents to do so. Feel free to share your comments on it with us by emailing wgcsociety@live.com. We will place our comments on it here on the website before the consultation closes. Trees and Woodland are obviously a major aspect of our Garden City and therefore the strategy for managing them is hugely important to the town and all its residents. This new strategy document also contains several charts. Below is the chart showing what varieties of tree were felled between 2010 and 2012, just to pique the readers interest!

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Meet us at the forthcoming Heritage Fair on October 28th.

The Society will be having a stall at the Heritage Fair in the Howard Centre on October 28th. We will be on hand to talk about local issues and of course sign up anybody who wants to join us. Please see a poster for event below, please do stop by and say hello to us:

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22 Parkway update re Wetherspoon

The property owned by Wetherspoon at 22 Parkway is back in the local news as a sign has appeared at the property proposing a new Cherry Tree pub, “subject to planning permission”. The sign itself required advertising consent from WHBC but Wetherspoon do not appear to have applied for such consent, WHBC is apparently investigating the matter.

Currently there is no new planning application for the site. As far as the Society is aware nothing has changed since the last two planning applications for the site were rejected by WHBC. We await the details of any new application that may be submitted by Wetherspoon for the site. There still appears to be some misleading chatter about the Society’s position on this subject, so we would like to clarify here. The WGC Society does not object to a Wetherspoon pub in WGC, there are apparently 895 Wetherspoon pubs in the UK and many in Hertfordshire. Wetherspoon itself is based not far away in Watford. The issue is their chosen location, and the impact a pub there might have on those living nearby, particularly, the residential flats nearby, and the town centre generally. The site sits outside the retail area, and we believe, within the EMS area. Whereas Wetherspoon pubs nearby, for example, Letchworth, Hatfield, Hertford and Hitchin, are located within the retail zone of the town, among the shopfronts and other businesses.

There is an interesting statement in Wetherspoon’s most recent annual report, on page 5 where they state: “We have sold, or terminated the leases of, 76 pubs, in the last 2 years, at a loss of approximately £45m, including previously reported impairments. Some mistakes are inevitable in site selection, but we hope to learn from these experiences, in order to try to avoid similar mistakes in the future.”

Clearly they are aware of the importance of site selection for their outlets. In light of this we hope they will look again at 22 Parkway, and look again at other sites that may be far more likely to meet local planning policy requirements. In summary, the Society is not anti-Wetherspoon. It is a matter of town planning and following the planning rules that have served the town well for many decades. Who knows…perhaps there may be scope for a Wetherspoon in the forthcoming Shredded Wheat site, just a thought.

 

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Development Consultation Forum – Former Shredded Wheat Site

The Society has received the below message from WHBC, it details a public event in the near future (Monday Next) where the site owners will present their vision for the site, to coincide with a new planning application. This will be an early opportunity for residents to view their plans and presumably ask questions about it. This is a major development for our town and we would encourage residents to attend for an update on the future of the site. We are pleased to note that the appropriate re-development of the site appears to be moving closer to fruition. The message from our council is below.

“A Development Consultation Forum (DCF) event that will take place on Monday 2 October at 7pm in the Council Chamber at Campus East.

The DCF has been requested by the new owner of the former Shredded Wheat Factory site on Broadwater Road in Welwyn Garden City in order that they can present their ideas for the site with a view to submitting a new planning application later in the year. Full details of what a DCF is and how it works can be found on the Council website at http://www.welhat.gov.uk/article/3910/Development-Consultation-Forum

This will be a public meeting with the aim to enable councillors and the public to obtain more information and understanding of what is proposed.

A short introductory report will be available on the Council’s website in advance of the meeting.”

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