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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Monthly Tree Felling list

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The Society recently approached the council asking for the reinstatement of the monthly tree felling list for Welwyn Hatfield. The list was published in the past but ceased to be so a few years ago. The list is helpful to residents as you can view which trees are due to be felled, or have been felled, and the reason for doing so.

We are pleased to report that WHBC responded promptly to our request and they have now published the full tree felling list on their website. You can view it in full on this link:

http://www.welhat.gov.uk/treeremoval

We look forward to this list being updated monthly as it is a useful resource for residents with queries about tree being felling in their locality. Thanks to WHBC for putting this information back in the public domain.

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Our chairman writes…

The Society’s new chairman for the current year, Will Davis, has written an introductory article the our website which can be read by clicking HERE.

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Society AGM – a successful evening.

Thanks to everyone who attended our AGM on the 26th. It was encouraging to see such a good turnout, which in itself is a sign of civic pride in our town. The committee took on board the points raised on the night and will consider them carefully over the coming months. Special thanks go to our guest speaker, the chairman of the Welwyn Garden City Centenary Foundation, Mr Paul Roberts. Paul gave an engaging and enlightening talk, explaining the Foundations’s plans for celebrating the town’s 100th birthday in 2020. The Centenary Foundation has it’s own website which is also very informative on the subject, that can be found here: http://www.wgccentenary.org

The Society looks forward to the coming year and continuing its work on existing projects and new.

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Young activist launches a petition over Splashlands

The Society is supportive of a young man by the name of Bailey Nash-Gardner, age 12, from the Woodhall area. Pro-active Bailey decided to start his own petition asking the council to at long last get on and build a Splash park or similar as a replacement for the much loved Splashlands which was closed 18 years ago next month and was soon after demolished.

Bailey’s petition has so far amassed over 2,300 signatures between online and offline, he’s hoping to get a few thousand more before he hands it in to the Leader of the Council Mr Dean. Bailey is hoping to organise a get together at the former site in August to raise awareness of the matter, to help galvanise the council into spending the £2.3 million that has been set aside for some years for the project. It’s very encouraging to see such a young resident of our town taking such positive action to turn the green empty space where Splashlands once stood into something the town can once again be proud of. You can sign his petition online here: https://goo.gl/a5acwc

Bailey at the former Splashlands site recently.

The Society is happy to support his efforts to finally get a replacement amenity for Splashlands that represents what residents actually want, and one that is not prohibitively expensive to use. There is a bit more on this story in our current members newsletter.

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Thoughts on Tarmac’s recent public exhibitions for Birchall Garden Suburb

Local landowner Tarmac held two public exhibitions of its proposals for Birchall Garden Suburb which includes 2,500 new homes, schools, recreation and employment land. The site covers the former Cole Green/Holwell Hyde landfill site with much of the area also falling under neighbouring East Herts Borough.  The former landfill site accepted waste from London and beyond over 70 years, until 1990.

Birchall Garden Suburb site

Cole Green c.1980. Photo supplied under the terms of the public sector information license, under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

The Society, and other local groups, are very concerned about these plans and have objected to them. Our key concern is the apparent lack of investigation into the landfill operation and the amount and toxicity of the waste buried below much of Tarmac’s proposed site. We can find no evidence that WHBC has done any investigation itself as to what lies beneath the ground and how it may impact human health if  housing, schools and employment sites are developed across the site as proposed.

We compiled a list of questions that could be asked of Tarmac concerning the former landfill operations there. None of the promotional material we have seen for Birchall Garden Suburb comes close to answering these questions. You can download our list of questions for Tarmac by clicking HERE.

Feedback we received following the Tarmac exhibitions is curious. Apparently some residents were told by Tarmac’s representatives that the Environment Agency’s map and data showing the extent of waste dumping on the site is incorrect, and that Tarmac’s own data on the site is the accurate record (not that this has ever been placed in the public domain as far as we know). For completeness you can see the EA’s map below, and for comparison below that the latest maps by Tarmac of their proposed Birchall Garden Suburb.

Environment Agency map of historic landfill 1920-1990.

Environment Agency map of historic landfill 1920-1990.

© Environment Agency copyright and database rights 2017.

Below is the map presented by Tarmac showing their view of how much of the area was previously landfill. You may notice some contrasts between the map above and the one below:

 Extent of Former Landfill

Tarmac map showing extent of former landfill

Finally, below is Tarmac’s latest “Illustrative Masterplan” for the site. Moneyhole Lane Park is also shown but that already exists of course and is not part of their plan.

Tarmac Illustrative Masterplan

Tarmac Illustrative Masterplan as presented at their Exhibition

Radio 4’s flagship investigation programme, File on 4,  this week focussed on this very subject and was titled What Lies Beneath? The programme is both illuminating and worrying and largely describes what we are now seeing at Birchall Garden Suburb. The programme posits that many contaminated landfill sites around the country are now being brought forward for development, at a time when Local Authorities and the Environment Agency no longer have the capacity to properly investigate or challenge proposals from developers, as is their duty. This being due to ongoing funding cuts as a result of austerity measures, according to the experts contributing to the programme. The programme is extremely informative and relates strongly to our local situation, you can listen to it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08v09y2

 Our own “What Lies Beneath?” document is still available further down this page. It will be updated again in coming weeks as we have further worrying information to share with local residents regarding the scale and types of waste we’ve been told may be down there. We hope the Planning Inspector currently assessing this site as part of the Local Plan will also consider the concerns we have raised about this proposal for some time now.

Please download our list of questions for Tarmac By clicking HERE.
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Updates to our website

May 15th 2017. We have now updated the Newsletter Archive page of the website and you will now find Newsletters from 2014-2016 available to read/download. More recent newsletters are only available to subscribed members and are posted out in high quality print format when they are they are published. The archive can be found here.

We have also published on the website our informative brief paper called “PLANNING AND WELWYN GARDEN CITY – A lay person’s guide.”

 You can find this on the page menu on the right or by clicking here. It is also published in PDF format in the Newsletter Archive section.

The current status with the Local Plan for members information is that it has been agreed at a full council meeting that it should now be passed to the government appointed Independent Planning Inspector for appraisal/approval. The Society and many other local groups and individuals has raised many concerns regarding the soundness of the proposed plan.

In our case we particularly highlighted the potentially high level of ground contamination on and near the proposed Birchall Garden Suburb site known an WGC5. Despite submitting our concerns into the final consultation, and submitting our  paper “What Lies Beneath” to WHBC leadership, and to the consultation, the proposed plan has been approved by the majority of Councillors and will now be passed to the Independent Inspector. To date we have not had any response from the council about our paper, and the questions it asks about the landfill waste facility that operated across the site for 70 years until 1990.

You can see a set of photographs taken at the site over the years here: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/wgc_society/?page_id=1965   If you know of any others, or have information/memories about the operations there please do get in touch. The Inspector will hold local hearings during the examination of the Local Plan, the Society very much hopes to attend the hearings and present our findings and objections to the Independent Planning Inspector.

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