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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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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