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:

Another clip can be viewed here: 

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.


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:

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:

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.


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.


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:

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.


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.


May 13th 2018.


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.



Shredded Wheat Demolition

In recent weeks we’ve watched  areas of the former Shredded Wheat factory site be razed and cleared. This week they’ve begun nibbling away at the silos, surely one of the most iconic and certainly one of the oldest structures in the town. Judging from the comments on social media many residents are unhappy about it, a lot of memories are tied to that site. To mark the event, here are a few pictures and notes about the site and its history.

SW Silos demolition 180118 1280 closeup

Shredded Wheat Factory Silos being demolished on the 18th January 2018.

The new owners, Plutus Estates, are demolishing only the sections of the site that were given demolition consent, as part of the outline planning consent that was previously granted to Spenhill (Tesco) by WHBC in 2015. Plutus Estates will soon submit an entirely new planning application for their own proposals, this is expected to be significantly different to the Spenhill plan that was approved. The silos were/are grade 2 listed according to Heritage England, you can find their listing entry here:

The 2015 planning consent stated the following:

“Part demolition, repair, restoration, extension and conversion of the former Shredded Wheat factory complex to include demolition of all buildings and structures except the original 1920’s silos, production hall, grain store and boiler house. Refurbishment and change of use of the retained listed buildings to provide2 Class C3 residential units, a Class C1 boutique/budget hotel, Class B1(a) offices, a Class A4 pub/bar, a Class D1 crèche and a Class D2 gym/dance/exercise studio.”

It is unknown whether the boutique, gym, etc will be part of the new planning application, but the above does allow for the demolition of the newer silos and some of the newer buildings on the site. The original silos will remain however. The below picture shows which these are, based on what we’ve been told by the new developer.


Shredded Wheat silos

How these silos will be separated in coming weeks will be interesting to see, presumably it is an engineering challenge that can be overcome.

The original set of silos were built not long after the main building was completed in 1926. The second set, now being demolished, were completed in the late 1930’s.
Cereal production ceased in January 2008, after 73 years. The factory is of course synonymous with town, for a while one of the nations favourite breakfast cereals was branded ‘Welgar” Shredded Wheat.

The second set of silos under construction in the 1930’s.

The 20th Century Society put forward the building as one of their top 100 buildings of the last 100 years. It is described thus:

“My choice is Louis de Soissons’ 1926 complex for Nabisco, the Shredded Wheat factory.  The ranked silos and spreading sheds alongside the railway track in Welwyn Garden City have always fascinated me, glimpsed almost kinetically from the train windows.  American companies, drawn by innovation, were quicker off the mark to move into Ebenezer Howard’s radical ‘cities’ (another example being Spirella at Letchworth, built 1912-20). Here, long before I’d learned that le Corbusier had published the grain stores of the American Midwest prairies as the epitome of modern form following function, was an anglicised version, a cathedral in a leafy Beaux-Arts planned town.”  – Gillian Darley. Original article available here.


The factory can even be seen on the box!

Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) was founded in the USA in about 1898. It expanded into the UK in the 1920’s. Nabisco was sold to Kraft foods in early 90’s, soon after Cereal Partners was formed as a joint venture between Nestlé and General Mills.  They ran the factory which by that time also produced Shreddies and Bran Flakes. Who can forget the malty wholesome smell of baking that often drifted across the town centre! Cereal Partners moved cereal production to Staverton in Wiltshire in 2008, where it remains today. However their head office, marketing, sales and finance are still in the town, opposite the factory site in fact. Spenhill, the development arm of Tesco, then bought the vacant site from Cereal Partners for something in excess of £20 million, or so it is rumoured.

Interesting Shredded Wheat trivia: The factory ovens were 100ft long and each biscuit weighs 22.5 grams, could you eat three?



Early promotional poster

The Society looks forward to scrutinising the planning application soon to be submitted by the new owners. This site has the potential to once again be a landmark development for our town, a visual, economic and social asset…rather than the unkempt decaying eyesore we’ve had to endure for the last decade.



Let it snow…

A flurry of snow overnight this weekend engulfed our town in white on Sunday. Many people were out enjoying the views, and having fun, although the town centre was very quiet for a pre-Christmas weekend. Probably due to heavy congestion on the roads as a result of the downfall. Below is a photo of Howardsgate on Sunday afternoon:

We took this snap of one creative local family standing proudly beside their snowman in Howardsgate. They were happy for us to share a photograph of their handy work here on the site.Howardsgate, Welwyn Garden City


Plans for the Shredded Wheat site


A poster still on the wall inside the factory.

The new site owners recently held an exhibition of their  draft plans and vision for the site in the Howard Centre, in advance of a new planning application for the site in the near future. Society members attended the event to find out more. The Society was also given a detailed tour of the factory site by the developers ZM Land and Capital and Marengo Communications. Several committee members attended and found it very informative. The developers are clearly passionate and well informed about the factory site, they clearly want to create a new destination attraction for the town.

Shredded Wheat site

Site entrance on Hydeway

Inside the factory it was also very clear that it’s in a very poor state of repair. Apparently there has already been a huge amount of work done, including removing all the pigeon poo, in order to make it safe to enter. It appeared that the previous owner Tesco/Spenhill had done very little to maintain the interior while they owned it. The Society is following developments closely and will evaluate the new proposals when they are made public. The developers have a new website outlining their plans, it be found here:

We are told there will be an onsite exhibition of their plans in the factory building early in the new year. Meanwhile the demolition of the unlisted parts of the site that have demolition consent is now underway. We understand that this will include half of the silos that were a later addition and are in a more dilapidated state of repair than the original silos.

The Society decide and refine its position on the new plans as more detail emerges. We are sure all residents we will want to see the current dilapidation halted, and the eyesore status that the site has taken on ended. The ambitious plans for the factory site are encouraging, but there are questions about the plans for the rest of the site, such as the density of housing and the flats only, no houses approach. The railway bridge is to be refurbished but not replaced, and how will parking and traffic flows be accommodated in the new design. Will the plans fit in the WHBC’s Masterplan for the site which was produced before Spenhill acquired the site? These matters and many others should be addressed in detail within the developers application. This is obviously a landmark development for the town and we want it to be appropriate for the own and a successful endeavour. The original Tesco/Spenhill development plans were not appropriate and failed as a result. Their modified plan, without a large store, did gain consent. That included 850 homes,  but with few affordable/social housing dwellings.  The Society will keep a close eye on matters as things progress in coming months. The new developers do seem to be in listening mode and are keen to engage with local residents and groups, that is welcomed.

Below are a few pictures we took during our recent tour of the site:

Newer Production Hall (Will be demolished)


Original Production Hall (Will be kept)

The pipework underneath silo 1.


Sign on silo wall entrance



“Planned Town” a film about WGC from 1949

We just wanted to point visitors with an interest in our town’s history to this wonderful eleven minutes of nostalgia from the East Anglian Film Archive. It has been available for some time, but now has a properly synchronised soundtrack which is believed to be a narration by no less than Louis De Soissons, the town’s chief architect.

You can find this cinematic gem from a bygone era here:

At a time of rationing,  bomb sites and austerity, not long after the war had ended, how attractive the town must have appeared to those watching the film in London, or other cities similarly blighted by  war and still recovering.