Poster Booths Update

The poster booths that stand in Howardsgate have a complicated legal history. Currently, the land on which they stand has reverted to the Crown Estate.  This explains why they have been neglected for so long and complicates any proposal about their future. The Society believes that their loss to the town as an act of vandalism.

Poster Booth in Howardsgate

Neglected Poster Booth in Howardsgate

However, these structures were designed by Louis de Soissons and represent something that is different about the town centre and the Society believes they should be retained to explain the town’s history and origins. The Society is supported in this regard by the Chamber of Commerce and the Town Centre Partnership The Society concluded a long time ago that there was no point in looking at these structures from a commercial viewpoint as, in its opinion, there was no appreciable commercial return that could be had from these structures other than scrap metal.  These structures have no sale value other than a nominal one as their removal cost, and restoration of the pavement, would exceed their scrap value. The Society determined that the best way forward was to mount a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to acquire these booths and refurbish them so that they carried the story of the town and explained its place in the whole garden city movement. It is proposing that faces of the booths be replaced in such a way that the form and bulk of the poster booths remains the same.   The refurbished four faces of each will be replaced with separate “interpretation” boards highlighting aspects of the town and its brief history and its significant impact. The bid is complex as the standards required by the Heritage Lottery Fund are demanding as regards the refurbishing of heritage structures of this sort. Further, it is proposed that the bid supports a walking programme around the Town Centre for all school children in the area as part of the curriculum that gives them a practical view of their town’s local history. The outcome is one where structures designed by Louis de Soissons, the town’s designer, are not just retained but used to shout about the place – something the Society thinks is lacking in the town centre. The design of our town centre is unique and the refurbished booths and their interpretation information will give visitors to the town centre good insight into why the town appears how it does today, that is, unlike any other. We are proposing to refurbish the two remaining poster booths, there were others around the town, however they removed entirely some years ago.


JD Wetherspoons 22 Parkway application

JD Wetherspoons have until February 22nd 2017 to appeal their planning application which was refused by WHBC  in August 2016. It is currently unknown if JD Wetherspoons intend to put in an appeal.


Revised version of our ‘What Lies Beneath’ paper on Cole Green dump

The Society has updated its document published in the Autumn about the former landfill site covering much of the site now being promoted for “Birchall Garden Suburb’. The original document (available on this site) was submitted into the WHBC Local Plan consultation which closed in October. It was sent separately to relevant people within WHBC but no acknowledgement or comment was ever received. This development is being jointly promoted to East Herts and is also part of their draft Local Plan consultation. To that end we have updated our original document and submitted it to their consultation, now also closed. The key difference being the document now includes photos dating back to the 70′s and 80′s showing the vast scale of the landfill dump and the waste that was being buried in the ground there. It  had of course already been operating as a landfill dump for some 50 years before these pictures were taken, taking in waste from across London. We will endeavour to show all these pictures separately on this site in due course, they are available under an open licence and can be published freely. They paint an informative picture. The updated full document is available by clicking on the thumbnail image below. It may be of interest and concern to residents.

In the paper we also question whether this development proposal is appropriate for the area considering its history as a landfill site with many categories waste being dumped there over many decades. We ask why this site is favoured over other parts of the borough that would have no such concerning history?

Birchall Garden Suburb, WGC5


Councillors reject J D Wetherspoon’s application to turn 22 Parkway into a Pub

You may have heard that the application by J D Wetherspoon to turn 22 Parkway into a pub was again unanimously rejected by councillors on the Development Management Committee (previously known as the Planning Committee) at a meeting held on Thursday evening.

This second application was notable for the fact that it did not specify the number of people who might frequent the proposed pub at any one time and for the proposed erection of a fifteen foot so-called acoustic wall to shield the occupants of Asquith House from the noise of the drinkers in the rear garden.  All this in a Conservation Area and on a site specially zoned to ensure that only low key activities (such as doctors, dentists and lawyers) should be based, so as to protect the residential area from noise.

This was also the first time many will have seen the interior of the new Council Chamber.  There were a number of gremlins in the sound system for those that had to sit in the Reception area as the main chamber is too small to hold large numbers.  Despite this minor inconvenience, the outcome was satisfactory.

Once again, we would like to thank all those who contributed to this decision directly or indirectly, who lobbied their elected councillors, again registered their objections on the Council’s planning system or came to the meeting itself. It all contributed towards the Planning Officers comprehensively recommending refusal of the application, and the Councillors’ unanimous decision to refuse. We are very appreciative of the effort and support the Society received.  Nor should we ever underestimate the persuasive effect of a packed audience in helping our councillors make sensible decisions.

After the last refusal, J D Wetherspoon waited nearly six months before making a second application.  This time, we rather think the company may seek to appeal, as some of the documentation it has submitted in support of this second application is in a better condition than the first.  Despite this, the content of the application still fails, in our opinion, to make planning sense.

The Society always needs new members and we especially need people who like to get stuck in and make things happen.  We need people who can write good text, who can communicate with the press, lobby councillors and who can help with the management of our web site.  The latter is increasingly important as the need to have a greater presence in the digital world is now vital.

It is easy to join by contacting the Membership Secretary, Gerry Crux, on 01707 323352.  Alternatively, you can contact the Society through its web site: We can also arrange for someone to call around, if you need to speak to someone directly.




Access to Panshanger Park

Over the years we have been applying pressure on Tarmac to open up Panshanger Park as they are duty bound under the terms of a planning permission granted to them by Hertfordshire County Council to extract gravel from the park. Slowly the park is being opened up but ever so slowly.

This photograph shows members of the Society Committee as well as other local groups at a gate which is usually locked and which leads into one of the most beautiful walks in the park. This goes from Welwyn Garden City into the park along the Rover Mimram all the way to Thieves lane in Hartford. We are pressing for this to be opened not later than the end of the year.


Panshanger Park

MP Grant with Society members and other local residents

Panshanger Country Park is a wonderful public amenity for Welwyn Garden City residents, offering picturesque walks through the Mimram Valley, the park is English Heritage Grade II* listed.

Two years ago our MP Grant Shapps visited the park and at that time he commented “I’m delighted that it has finally been brought back into use for all. I hope Lafarge continue to act on their promise to open up the rest of the park for locals to enjoy”. Our MP has been very supportive of the Society’s position.

Two years on and the key access route from WGC remains closed to the public. This week Grant Shapps, MP accompanied the WGC Society on a visit to see the still closed area. The Society, the local MP, and the Friends of Panshanger Park all want to see this section of the park opened up as soon as possible so that residents can enjoy this beautiful new amenity, which is supposed to be an open access Country Park.

This time around Grant Shapps made it clear that Tarmac should be listening to local people rather than single interest groups from around the country.

Residents of the town are disadvantaged by not having the route along the Mimram valley open. The central path across beside the Mimram, remains closed. This denies WGC visitors an easy access route into the park, a route that offers one of the finest walks in the park, with the best views.

A year ago Tarmac stated in a press release that “Other trails will be opened up during the summer”. This didn’t happen, we have sought to establish from Tarmac a date by when it will happen, but nothing is forthcoming. We have indicated that Tarmac is hiding behind the environmental lobby to delay or stop access whereas the Society is adamant that there is room for both wildlife and people.

Panshanger Park

Panshanger Park Mimram valley view



Group 1

Our group during the visit


Panshanger Park

Tarmac management explaining their position to MP Grant Shapps


Planning & Welwyn Garden City

We have prepared a guide to outline the planning laws relating to Welwyn Garden City, explaining how they came about and why they continue to be necessary.

This guide explains how ‘planning’ is more complex in Welwyn Garden City and why these laws are still important to the town.

To see the guide, please click  here.


The poster booths in Howardsgate

Residents will be well aware of the poster booths in Howardsgate, which are suffering from real neglect.  This is the result of complex ownership and the fact that the economics of posters have long since changed and taken a turn for the worse.


The Society has now set up a project team to apply to the National Lottery for funds to refurbish them.  This is likely to be a long project consisting first of the application itself and, if the bid is successful, the engineering work that would then follow.


Any engineering work undertaken will have to accord with the standards imposed by the National Lottery as regards heritage assets.  After considering various possibilities for the future, the Society has decided to ensure the future life of these booths is properly safeguarded and that they do have some community use.  It thinks that they should remain a key part of the streetscape of the town.


These poster booths were erected to celebrate the Festival of Britain and were designed by Louis de Soissons, the town’s designer and architect throughout his life.




The Society makes a submission to the Commons Select Committee on the Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The Society has just made a submission on the Commons Select Committee which is examining the operation of the new planning laws.

The submission focusses on Section 52 of the NPPF which is intended to foster the building of garden cities as a means of delivering large numbers of new homes to people. As the Society is the only body that represents residents in a garden city that is wholly managed by local authorities, it feels it does have a contribution to make to the debate.  It makes the point that, for future garden cities to thrive, other supporting changes will also have to be made since, as things currently stand, garden cities are not recognised in law and local authority organisations are not organised to deliver or manage them properly.

A summary of the submission can be found by clicking here.

The full submission can be found by clicking here .

If you wish to see the Select Committee’s web site and the other submissions made, please click  here


Stop Press – Newsletters

We would like to let all Visitors to our website know that 8 years of Newsletters can now be read in our “Newsletter Archives” near the bottom of the contents menu on the right hand side. Or simply click here to be taken to that page.

Our Members have been enjoying the Society Newsletters over the years and know that they are a good source of information. And now, all visitors to the website can read them too.

Members will receive their printed copy of the Newsletter several months before it is posted to the website. By becoming a member, you will not only support the Society to keep the environment and ethos of Welwyn Garden City alive, you will be able to read the Newsletter sooner and be helping with the cost of publication!

Happy reading.


Trees and Woodland Strategy consultation – our submission

The Trees and Woodland Strategy consultation has now closed on the WHBC website. As of now none of the comments made by members of the public are visible. Comments were visible during and after consultations on previous documents put out for review using this software system. Why this is no longer the case now we are unclear.

The Society has made its own submission to the consultation, this can be read by clicking on the link below:

Submission to the WHBC on Woodlands and Trees Strategy Final Version 291212

Our submission posits that the approach outlined does not take into account the previous comments made  regarding the  Open Spaces,  and earlier Tree Strategy documents from 2009 and 2007, respectively. Therefore, we have had to repeat many of those comments as little has changed since that time.

It would seem to us that this draft strategy document seeks to make profound changes to the way trees are managed in the town.  The Society believes that it will have profound and serious adverse consequences for the place and its future.  This is not spelt out in the document and for that reason it makes the entire draft misleading.

Society members and residents are encouraged to read our full submission above.