Local Plan and “BGS”

The WHBC Local Plan  is currently being examined by the government appointed Inspector. The plan includes a joint proposal between WHBC and East Herts council to place 2,550 homes and other amenities beside, or perhaps on, the former Cole Green landfill waste site. Our paper “What Lies Beneath?” looked into the history of the 70 years of waste dumping on that site, it is available on this website. We have now done further research of the archive material, such that exists. Previously waste dumping was poorly regulated so not that much can be found, but what we have found is very concerning, we also have testimony from local people who remember operations at the site as far back as the 1950’s.

Domestic waste dumping at Cole Green tip in 1979

All of this is captured in a 15 page letter we have sent to WHBC and the other neighbouring authorities, we have also produced a press release on the matter which you can read below. The government Inspector has not yet looked in any detail at the proposals for this site, we hope that he will give our findings some weight and be as concerned about the Birchall Garden Suburb as we are.  The final paragraph of our letter follows, we urge residents to read it in it’s entirety to understand the many questions it poses to the Local Authorities.

Welwyn Garden City was founded as a town “designed for healthy living”. It was set up to attract people from cities who wanted to escape their contaminated and polluted living conditions. Now, here we are less than a century since the first brick was laid and WHBC is unable to find a better site for a large housing development than by a hill largely composed of 70 years of the last century’s rubbish, much of it waste from London. The very thing the original townsfolk came here to get away from is now seemingly a good location for new residents to live beside and enjoy. We think that this is an affront to the town, its heritage and its founder, Ebenezer Howard.”

Our full letter can be downloaded here: Letter to WHBC opposing the current plan for Birchall Garden Suburb

The Press Release we have issued on the matter can be read below:

Welwyn Garden City Society calls for Birchall Garden Suburb to be abandoned

Announcing that the Welwyn Garden City Society had written to the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, Will Davis, Society Chairman, said “We are surprised the Council has persisted with its proposal for Birchall Garden Suburb when, so far as we are aware, it has failed to look into the site properly. So we are today publishing our own research that we think proves the site should now be abandoned as a proposed site for 2,550 new homes.

Information supplied to the Council had made the claim that housing was to be built on “virgin land”. The Society disputes this and provides supporting evidence that supports its point of view. It references copies of planning submissions, approvals given, work specifications, relevant maps, aerial photographs and testimony from local residents that suggest that claims for the site are incorrect.

Accordingly, the assumptions proposing the site can support many thousands of homes are flawed, this alters the financial basis of the entire development and the length of time it would require to bring the site to a starting point for building. Its development on any timescale that fits with the Draft Local Plan is likely to be incorrect. The Society considers that all this should have been identified much earlier in the planning process and concludes the site should never have been included as one that is appropriate for housing.

The Society has not been able to find any evidence that the Council itself has been able to verify that the site would be safe housing. On the contrary, the Society has cited central government information that there may be increased health risks to communities living close to landfill sites. For these health reasons alone and, as central government has signed up to the “Precautionary Principle”, it believes that the development should be withdrawn from the Draft Local Plan, at least until a far more detailed and independent analysis of the proposed site has been carried out by WHBC.

Key reports submitted to the Council as to the safety of the site are deeply flawed, are inadequate and, by their own admission, are partly incomplete. They fail to identify both one authorised tip and another that was unauthorised. They fail to give any explanation how come a large area marked “Filled area 250m buffer 45.0ha” on a submitted map is reconcilable against a claim to be building on “virgin land”.

The areas that the Society believes have been excavated for sand include areas that fall within the East Herts District Council area, suggesting that the area in East Herts should now closely examined by them, before this proposal goes any further.

27th October 2017.

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