Broadwater Road (Shredded Wheat) Redevelopment

This page is covers news and comment about the three planning proposals for Broadwater Road west, also known as Shredded Wheat or The Wheat Quarter. Please check back here for further updates from the Society. If you join the Society as a member you will also receive email updates.

Bio-Park/ Broadwater ‘Gardens’ (Replacing Roche Building) – where around 900 people are proposed to be crammed in.

Broadwater BioPark Planning MEETING POSTPONED UNTIL 9 SEPTEMBER 2021 BY COUNCIL

Dear Concerned Resident,

As a local Civic society, the Welwyn Garden City Society are very concerned about what is planned in the Broadwater Road area and, in particular, the THREE Planning applications that have been proposed 1. BioPark ironically called Broadwater ‘Gardens’  2. South Site  3. North Site (Wheat Quarter)

Many people share our concern please register your comments to the THREE applications. The Bio Park (replacing former Roche Building) will be the first of these to be heard at the planning meeting DMC (Development Management Committee) NOW POSTPONED UNTIL 9 SEPTEMBER 2021.

Comments are still being accepted to the planning applications, please continue to object – every objection counts. 

1. Bio-Park, the most urgent as the council will now vote on this on September 9th: https://planning.welhat.gov.uk/Planning/Display/6/2020/3420/MAJ

2. Former Shredded Wheat Factory South:  https://planning.welhat.gov.uk/Planning/Display/6/2021/0671/MAJ

3. Former Shredded Wheat Factory North site (Wheat Quarter) if not done yet!  https://planning.welhat.gov.uk/Planning/Display/6/2021/0181/MAJ

Suggested text is at the end of this link: http://welwynhatfield.co.uk/wgc_society/?p=2648

 

It is important that the Council be made aware of the strong opposition that exists to all of the Broadwater Road proposals, as represented by the Planning applications. Click on the ‘Documents’ heading on the Council website page to scroll down and read the hundreds of objections from other residents. You can also check that your is there too!

You can also:
– Lobby your DMC Planning Councillors and all Local Councillors (email lists on recent post)
– Lobby your MP Grant Shapps via email on: grant@grantshapps.com
– Join our mailing list or even better, join the Society via our website or email: wgcsociety@live.com
– Speak to friends and neighbours
– Come along to the Planning Meeting scheduled for 9th September 2021 from 6:30pm to welcome the Councillors – email us on wgcsociety@live.com for details.
– Follow up on social media

Short form suggested objection to Biopark application (more to follow):

6/2020/3420/MAJ – The BioPark:

“Here 289 units are proposed to house 852 people in a very restricted site, with building height to 9 storeys. This contradicts WHBC’s own vision for Broadwater Road west which was to integrate the spirit of the Garden City with the very best of 21st century design. There is nothing of the Garden City spirit here. The development is clearly seen from the west side Conservation Area, as well as from Hatfield House. It will compromise the Broadwater Road street scene, overpowering the art deco and Mirage developments to the south. It is inappropriate for a Garden City due to its large scale, high density of homes and minimal greenery. It has no kinship with our unique town. This development offers only 216 parking spaces for 289 homes. There is no example where a development without adequate car parking has worked. Other sites within the borough, such as villages with high public transport accessibility, appear to have been ignored despite their suitability for development.”

_______________________________

Information prior to 2019 below:

December 2018: The redevelopment of the Shredded Wheat site moved a step closer on the 7th December when the developers plans were approved, the key details were stated in this press release from WHBC:

“Members of the council’s Development Management committee resolved to approve fresh plans for the former Shredded Wheat site last night (Thursday 6 December).The committee voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposals, which will transform the disused factory site into 1,454 new homes, community facilities, leisure, retail and office space. An £8m infrastructure fund from the developer will upgrade transport links and contribute £5.8m towards a new primary school in Peartree. This also includes a £750k contribution to support the upgrade of the rail bridge link to Welwyn Garden City train station. Members expressed a degree of concern on the level of parking, although many ultimately felt that the ratio of 0.7 per unit is sufficient for a development well connected to public transport links. Car club sharing schemes will also help support flexible car usage arrangements. Expensive listed building and land decontamination work is needed to develop the site, with rigorous viability tests concluding that it can only deliver affordable homes with grant funding from outside agencies. This grant funding will support the delivery of 414 affordable homes (31% of the total development) with a mix of affordable rent, social rent and tenures supporting home ownership”.

The council committee meeting on December 6th was webcast and can be watched again, look for item 7 on the right of the following webpage:

https://welhat.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/376861

Owners ZM have updated their website about it here:  https://thewheatquarter.co.uk/council-approves-transformative-plans-for-wheat-quarter/

The blueprint for the redevelopment of this iconic site has always been the Supplementary Planning Document from our Council (available here: http://www.welhat.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=1079&p=0)   This was barely mentioned at all at the decision meeting. Although this document is now out of date in some areas (and should have been updated to reflect the NPPF etc) the requirements and guidance that WHBC set out in it have not changed. We have perused that again now,  below are some of the key points that don’t seem to have been met in this now consented plan.
First though a couple of pictures from ZM’s plan. The first shows the Broadwater Road frontage (up to nine storeys) and across the rear of the site and the Howard Centre:
This architects impression from ZM shows the site, when built, from above. You can see the new collection of tower blocks behind the railway line:
 
Below are some extracts from the Council’s Supplementary Planning Document, with some key phrases in bold and our comment in italics:
“Balanced approach to car parking” – Note: There is an average 0.7 parking spaces per flat across the development.
“The replacement/enhancement of the pedestrian footbridge across the railway to the town centre is a key priority and will assist in the integration of this site”
Note: The footbridge will not now be replaced or enhanced, the current bridge will be refurbished only, even this happening is not a condition of the development going ahead.
“Sustainable resource management: Grid form Promote a site wide CHP Hierarchy of routes Provide an on site recycling centre”   – there is no site wide CHP.
“Primarily non-residential uses should line the rail tracks; The arrangement of residential and community uses should support the establishment of a mixed and sustainable community: and, The reflection of garden city principles at a higher density of urban living through a formal layout, interspersed with high quality open land and landscaping.”  – there are few non-residential uses, the density of housing does not really concur with garden city principles.
“The factory silos are the tallest structures on the site and should remain as a landmark feature with no competing development in the local context. The buildings around the factory are an appropriate height and should inform the height of any new development around the silos. Building heights should be reduced towards the southern end of the site to respond to existing surrounding properties. Development along the railway lines should be managed to provide a level of screening whilst maintaining views to the silos as well as permeability through the site. Due to increased activity along Broadwater Road, there is an opportunity to increase building heights and step back development on this part of the site to create a tree-lined avenue that will form the main route through the area”.  – Most of the above does not appear to be have been met within the consented scheme.
“The site as a whole should provide for a mix of dwelling size and types although houses should be primarily located in the southern half of the site, where building heights will be lower. 5.27 All residential units should have access to individual or communal private outdoor space. This space should be attractive, functional and appropriate in size for the estimated number of inhabitants of the unit”.  – The development is now all flats, not houses, and without gardens.
“Given the context of the listed buildings, it is generally considered that buildings on the site should not be more than 5 storeys in height. Furthermore, where new build development on the site is proposing development of 5 storeys (or more) the resulting scheme will be assessed with regards to both the contribution that such height could bring and any adverse impacts”.  – Many of the blocks are eight or nine storeys high.
“Capacity of the Highway Junction: It should be noted that the Broadwater Road/ Bridge Road junction to the north of the site is currently operating at capacity and will need to be upgraded to accommodate the growth in traffic arising from the development of this site. The junction at Bridge Road East/ Broadwater Road is also one of the key access points for bus services to and from Welwyn Garden City town centre, and, as such, will need to include bus priority measures as part of the upgrading, in order to accommodate future traffic growth”.
– Note: There are increasing jams throughout the day now at this junction, their plans show one new roundabout where the traffic lights are now.
Despite the now consented plan apparently not meeting much of the brief as set out in the SPD it has been approved anyway. This was a golden, probably once in a lifetime, opportunity to aesthetically and practically link the two halves of the town, doing much to dilute notional barrier between the two halves. This opportunity has been lost in our view, it should have been more ambitious and should have met more of the requirements set out in the SPD. A new and wider footbridge would have made a big difference to the development but this won’t be happening.
It appears there is only provision for 50 flats for rent at a social rent, and then only for over 55’s in a form of sheltered housing. That equates to only 3.75% of the total build. The Council’s housing register currently has around 3,000 people on it, for comparison.
The Society is pleased the site redevelopment will finally get going, however we feel the consented plan should have addressed some of the shortcomings we and others have identified. This development will see a large urbanisation of this part of the town, that will no doubt bring its own challenges as well as advantages. It doesn’t appear to be very ‘Garden City’ inspired or designed to us, however it is what WHBC has been willing to accept, for good or ill. Hopefully the positives will outweigh the negatives, time will tell of course.
You can read the full report to Cabinet at the following link, from section 11.2 you can also read a summary of the developers proposed financial (S1.06) contributions to various local initiatives near the bottom of this document:
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