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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Gosling Sports Hall closure announced

We have been very concerned to discover that this much valued local amenity has been earmarked for closure by its owners Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), who took on the sports hall about two years ago. Since that time they have also taken over the operations of all the other leisure amenities formerly operated by Finesse Leisure.

An article in the WH Times stated “Just before Christmas, GLL announced that the sports hall at Gosling Sports Park would be closing on March 31 because it was “prioritising allocating resources into other facilities at the sports park”. You can read the full article here.

BBC Three Counties Radio breakfast show highlighted the closure and interviewed several opponents of it on the 10th January. You can listen to the compelling and informative article below:

There appears to have been little or no advance notice of this decision, and as yet there has been no statement responding to the groundswell of objections from anybody senior at GLL.

A group named Save Gosling, has quickly formed to oppose the closure and a campaign is gathering pace.  There have already been several meetings and the pressure is mounting.  The Society is an active member, the campaign group have recently produced this informative update: Campaign Update 1.

The Society will support the campaign to save the hall from closure and will do what it can to help. An online petition has been set up by the  users of the Sports Hall, which you can sign here:

https://www.change.org/p/gll-better-gsp-save-gosling-sport-hall-from-shutting-down

Nick Faldo has already endorsed and retweeted the petition. They have also put together a template letter to be sent to MP’s (It’s not only Grant Shapps as people from neighbouring areas also use the facilities). Click here for the template Letter to MPs

Below is a photo gallery with a small selection showing the current state of the sports hall.

If you use Facebook there is also a new Facebook page about it here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SaveGosling/posts/?ref=page_internal

We will continue to work with the group to achieve its goal of keeping the sports open as a long-standing community asset for all the town’s residents, watch this space.

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New updates added 23rd December

We have just added two new updates to our website, a new page about our the Shredded Wheat redevelopment here, and an update on the Local Plan for the Borough here.

You can also read our recent update about the Poster Booths in the town centre and plans to refurbish them by clicking here.

Our membership is very good value this time of year, if joining as a new member now you can get 15 months for the price of 12. See our membership page on the above menu for details of how to join online.

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Nov 18th 2018: 22 Parkway plan rejected unanimously

JD Wetherspoon’s third planning application for 22 Parkway was decided by the Development Management Committee (DMC) on Thursday evening. The Society attended and made a representation objecting to the application by JD Wetherspoon. We are pleased to announce that the council voted unanimously to reject the application, meaning that no planning consent will be granted for the hotel/pub proposed by the pub chain. We were pleased to see that the public gallery of the council chamber was full, this was further evidence of the strength of feeling on the matter. All of the representation statements given in objection to the application were met with a round of applause from the audience, notably there was no applause for the statement from JD Wetherspoon.

The property as it now stands


The Society has made its position quite clear since this latest application was made. This location is not suitable for a pub or hotel and a pub/bar. The report prepared by the council’s officers to inform the decision to be made by the elected Councillors cited four separate reasons why this application should be refused. The representative from JD Wetherspoon made one curious comment, which was to claim that because the current District Plan dates back to 2005 it was therefore out of date! You would imagine they would understand that planning rules don’t become obsolete and no longer applicable when they are past a certain age. We of course re-iterated that this application fell foul of zoning rules, not only the current District Plan, but also the replacement Local Plan that will soon succeed it.

Our thanks go out to all our members and other residents who took a stand in objecting to this application. It shows that as a Society, and as a local community, we can act together and achieve an outcome that is in the town’s best interest.

You can watch the full meeting itself on the Council’s streaming service on the link below, things get going from ten minutes into the recorded meeting:

https://welhat.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/372822

You can also read our full objection statement read by our chairman by clicking HERE.

What will happen now remains to be seen. Wetherspoon may decide to lodge an appeal against the decision but the multiple reasons for rejection appear to give them very little wiggle room. We will as ever continue to monitor the situation.

Finally, new members are always welcome to the Society, as we always say “Together, we are stronger”. If this episode has inspired you to join us you are able to do so quickly and easily through our website HERE.

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Contamination fears for Birchall Garden Suburb site

The Society has long been critical of the plan to build up to 2,550 homes on the proposed Birchall Garden Suburb site. Well over 1,000 of those homes are destined for the edge of the former Holwell Hyde/Cole Green landfill tip. The waste site operated from 1920 to 1990 according to the Environment Agency, who also state that every category of waste (as defined by the EA) is recorded as being present.

Our previous paper on the subject “What Lies Beneath” is available on this website and here, in October last year we again outlined our concerns about the development in a letter to WHBC which is available here.

Recent developments however have prompted us to issue a comprehensive Press Release on the matter. The Society is very concerned about what appears to be a very flawed process whereby an extremely important document, highly critical of the previous land contamination surveys initiated by the land owner, were kept out of the public domain until we made a specific Freedom of Information request. This also meant that the Planning Inspector currently examining the feasibility of this site was unaware of this comprehensive critique at his hearing on the 30th January.

Please read our new Press Release for further details. We believe this raises several serious concerns, including the fact that potentially dangerous levels of ground gas have been allowed to vent to the air unchecked, in the area behind Thistle Grove.

DOWNLOAD OUR PRESS RELEASE HERE

May 13th 2018.

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Shredded Wheat planning application

The main planning application for the redevelopment of the Shredded Wheat site can be found HERE.

The Society has now submitted it’s own responses into the consultation, they can be downloaded by clicking on the following link: WGC Society SW Response 620180171MAJ

Of the many documents  submitted for this application those below are informative and give a good overview of the proposed plans:

6-2018-0171-MAJ_planning_Delivering the Wheat Quarter [Final]

6-2018-0171-MAJ_planning_ES Vol 1 Main Text – Former Shredded Wheat Factory, WGC(1)

6-2018-0171-MAJ_planning_20180111 Welwyn Garden City TA_RF_V2 (text only)(1)

6-2018-0171-MAJ_planning_P0-010_P2 – Site Phasing Plan

6-2018-0171-MAJ_planning_2018 02 06_Shredded Wheat Affordable Housing Statement [FINAL]

The WHBC states the consultation period for this runs until the 29th March.  Submissions can still be after that date however. We would urge residents to have a look at the key documents at least, and submit their own comments about the Plutus Estates proposals. The scale and density of this proposal is unlike anything else we have in the Garden City. The development would remain largely in private hands with the estate being managed by a separate entity unconnected to the Borough or County Councils.

Aeriel view from planning documents

The developers document  “Delivering the Wheat Quarter” contains the following summary:

“Creation of a mixed-use quarter comprising the erection of up to 1,340 residential dwellings including 414 (31%) affordable dwellings(Use Class C3); 114 extra care homes (Use Class C2); the erection of a civic building comprising 494 sq.m of health (Use Class D1), 494 sq.m of community use (Use Class D1), 1,232 sq.m of office (Use Class B1) and 646 sq.m of retail (Class A1/A2/A3/A4/A5); alterations, additions and change of use of Grade II Listed Building and retained Silos to provide 5,096 sq.m of flexible business floorspace (Use Class B1), 265 sq.m Combined Heat and Power (Sui Generis), 2,494 sq.m International Art Centre (Use Class D1),1,226 sq.m Gymnasium (Use Class D2), 1,576 sq.m of restaurant/coffee shop/bar (Use Class A1/A3/A4/A5), Creche/Day Nursery of 644 sq.m as well as a Network Rail TOC Building of 364 sq.m; plus associated car parking, access, landscaping, public art and other supporting infrastructure.”

View from the ground level taken from the developer’s application

The Society committee is attempting to review this large collection of documents, we plan to submit comments into the application consultation when we have managed to do so. We are concerned that there is a lot to do in a short space of time.

 

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Sherrardswood Park Walks for 2018

The Sherrardswood Park Wood Wardens Society have been in touch with us to raise awareness of their forthcoming programme of walks for 2018, please see the details below. They say “We ask for a donation of £3.00 per adult (under 15’s free). Walks start from the Pentley Park entrance, near Templewood School, unless advised otherwise. Dogs should be on leads at all times please. Remember to wear suitable. For enquiries and pre-booking telephone 01707 892172.” They also have a contact form on their website here.

You can find our more about the Society on their website here: http://sherrardsparkwoodwardens.org.uk/

The schedule of walks is below, the WGC Society is happy to support this longstanding local Society.

SUNDAY 25th MARCH 2018, 2.00pm. ”BEFORE SHERRARDSPARK WOOD – THE ROCKS BENEATH THE TREES”

An Introduction to the Geology of Sherrardspark Wood. With Nikki Edwards, Wood Warden.

SATURDAY 21st APRIL 2018, 8.00am. ”SPRING BIRD WALK”

With Geoff Ralph, Wood Warden. Bring binoculars, keep dogs on lead and under full control at all times.

SATURDAY 28th APRIL 2018, 2.00pm. – ”COWSLIPS AND BLUEBELLS” With Neale Holmes-Smith, Environmentalist and Wood Warden.

SUNDAY 6th MAY 2018. ”WOODLAND PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BEGINNERS & IMPROVERS” With David Foster, Photographer. Limited numbers. Please pre-book for start details.

SUNDAY 3rd JUNE 2018. – ”YOU CAN’T SEE THE WOOD FOR THE TREES” An art walk, some drawing experience necessary, with Chris Phillips, Artist and Teacher.

Limited numbers. Please pre-book for start details.

SUNDAY 24th JUNE 2018 11.00am. – ”FORAGING IN THE WOOD FOR FOOD AND MEDICINE”

With Mary Barton, Medical Herbalist and Health Coach.

SATURDAY 7th JULY 2018. – ”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.

SATURDAY 21st July 2018, 2.00pm. – ”SUMMER BUG WALK”

With Dan Asaw. Bring a hand lens and clear plastic pot if possible.

SATURDAY 11th AUGUST 2018, 2.00pm. – ”DO YOU KNOW YOUR WOODLAND TREES?”

With Neale Holmes-Smith, Environmentalist and Wood Warden.

SATURDAY 20th OCTOBER 2018. – ”Fungal Foray” With Chris James, Landscape & Ecology Officer, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.’ Limited Numbers. Please pre-book.


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Shredded Wheat Demolition

In recent weeks we’ve watched  areas of the former Shredded Wheat factory site be razed and cleared. This week they’ve begun nibbling away at the silos, surely one of the most iconic and certainly one of the oldest structures in the town. Judging from the comments on social media many residents are unhappy about it, a lot of memories are tied to that site. To mark the event, here are a few pictures and notes about the site and its history.

SW Silos demolition 180118 1280 closeup

Shredded Wheat Factory Silos being demolished on the 18th January 2018.

The new owners, Plutus Estates, are demolishing only the sections of the site that were given demolition consent, as part of the outline planning consent that was previously granted to Spenhill (Tesco) by WHBC in 2015. Plutus Estates will soon submit an entirely new planning application for their own proposals, this is expected to be significantly different to the Spenhill plan that was approved. The silos were/are grade 2 listed according to Heritage England, you can find their listing entry here: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1101084

The 2015 planning consent stated the following:

“Part demolition, repair, restoration, extension and conversion of the former Shredded Wheat factory complex to include demolition of all buildings and structures except the original 1920’s silos, production hall, grain store and boiler house. Refurbishment and change of use of the retained listed buildings to provide2 Class C3 residential units, a Class C1 boutique/budget hotel, Class B1(a) offices, a Class A4 pub/bar, a Class D1 crèche and a Class D2 gym/dance/exercise studio.”

It is unknown whether the boutique, gym, etc will be part of the new planning application, but the above does allow for the demolition of the newer silos and some of the newer buildings on the site. The original silos will remain however. The below picture shows which these are, based on what we’ve been told by the new developer.

 

Shredded Wheat silos

How these silos will be separated in coming weeks will be interesting to see, presumably it is an engineering challenge that can be overcome.

The original set of silos were built not long after the main building was completed in 1926. The second set, now being demolished, were completed in the late 1930’s.
Cereal production ceased in January 2008, after 73 years. The factory is of course synonymous with town, for a while one of the nations favourite breakfast cereals was branded ‘Welgar” Shredded Wheat.

The second set of silos under construction in the 1930’s.

The 20th Century Society put forward the building as one of their top 100 buildings of the last 100 years. It is described thus:

“My choice is Louis de Soissons’ 1926 complex for Nabisco, the Shredded Wheat factory.  The ranked silos and spreading sheds alongside the railway track in Welwyn Garden City have always fascinated me, glimpsed almost kinetically from the train windows.  American companies, drawn by innovation, were quicker off the mark to move into Ebenezer Howard’s radical ‘cities’ (another example being Spirella at Letchworth, built 1912-20). Here, long before I’d learned that le Corbusier had published the grain stores of the American Midwest prairies as the epitome of modern form following function, was an anglicised version, a cathedral in a leafy Beaux-Arts planned town.”  – Gillian Darley. Original article available here.

 

The factory can even be seen on the box!

Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) was founded in the USA in about 1898. It expanded into the UK in the 1920’s. Nabisco was sold to Kraft foods in early 90’s, soon after Cereal Partners was formed as a joint venture between Nestlé and General Mills.  They ran the factory which by that time also produced Shreddies and Bran Flakes. Who can forget the malty wholesome smell of baking that often drifted across the town centre! Cereal Partners moved cereal production to Staverton in Wiltshire in 2008, where it remains today. However their head office, marketing, sales and finance are still in the town, opposite the factory site in fact. Spenhill, the development arm of Tesco, then bought the vacant site from Cereal Partners for something in excess of £20 million, or so it is rumoured.

Interesting Shredded Wheat trivia: The factory ovens were 100ft long and each biscuit weighs 22.5 grams, could you eat three?

 

 

Early promotional poster

The Society looks forward to scrutinising the planning application soon to be submitted by the new owners. This site has the potential to once again be a landmark development for our town, a visual, economic and social asset…rather than the unkempt decaying eyesore we’ve had to endure for the last decade.

 

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Happy New Year

Only two years until the centenary of our town!

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Recent school visit

The Society is happy to visit schools and local groups to talk about what we aim to achieve as a local civic group, and of course discuss the town, past, present and future as part of the discourse. Two of our committee volunteers, Steve and Elahe recently visited about 50 Sixth Formers at Sir Frederic Osborne school and were pleased to talk to them for about an hour.  Young people tend to be the best activists, we emphasised the Society’s passion, zeal and activities in engaging with the local community, the Borough Council, and others. Their reaction was encouraging. They agreed that, if they stopped and thought about it, they appreciated the town’s benefits, including its high environmental quality, and would not like that to be compromised.

The Society would like to thank Lorraine Koupis for inviting us to visit to the school. As a Society we are always happy to speak to local schools and groups, if you know a local group who may be interested in a speaker visit please email us wgcsociety@live.com.

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