Have your say in Neighbourhood Plan consultation

The Neighbourhood Plan goes out for public consultation from Wednesday 8th May to 28th June prior to being submitted to WHBC for final approval. This is your chance to have your say about the policies that will shape our parish for the next 20 years.

The Plan (in summary and full versions) is available on this link to the WPC website The Plan and all supporting documents can be downloaded from the  web site:  https://welwyn-pc.gov.uk/neighbourhood-plan-site/.  This includes the three Evidence Base documents: Parish Portrait, Open Spaces and Survey Report and further documentation originated by others (e.g. the WH Local Plan).  All are in .pdf format.

Comments and representations may be sent:
·     using the downloadable form (in MS Word format so it can be expanded by respondees) completed and returned as an e-mail attachment to our Deputy Clerk; or
·     using the downloadable form (in MS Word format) printed, completed and returned via the post or delivery by hand to the Parish; or
·     using the online form – details at https://welwyn-pc.gov.uk/regulation-14-consultation-response-form/or directly from: https://form.jotform.com/241214691803048
Even if you have no comments, we would still be pleased to receive a short e-mail message confirming that, so the Consultation Statement can show that result.  All responses will be anonymised if ever scrutinised or extracts will be made.

Any queries should be addressed to the Deputy Clerk (at the Parish Offices) who will endeavour to respond as soon as possible.

Our thanks go to Bill Morris who has led this plan. WPAG has been part of the working party developing the Plan. It has been drafted following the views submitted by the 1110 responses to the survey carried out throughout the Parish. The Plan includes a vision of the future and policies to help achieve that ranging from development and agriculture to business, environment and traffic. So do have a read and have your say.

A Post Office in Welwyn High Street?

In a recent response to WPAG’s pre-election questions one of the candidates suggested that getting a Post Office reopened would be a good project for WPAG.

What this candidate may not have known is that when the old Post Office in the centre of Welwyn closed down, WPAG did spend a considerable amount of time looking at alternative options to get it reopened, but were unsuccessful. The key reasons were:

a/ To make a local Post Office viable it needs to be run in conjunction with another profitable business. The previous owner, despite running it in conjunction with a gift shop, could not make a profit. She also had staffing and security problems.

b/ We approached a variety of individuals and businesses and were given good reasons why there was no appetite for running a Post Office.  These were:

  • Not cost effective unless run in conjunction with a profitable/viable business alongside.
  • Security and insurance very expensive.
  • Staff training and costs.
  • Major personal commitment.
  • Personal responsibility and liability for any shortfall to the Post Office.
  • Problems with Post Office Horizon system.  Etc.  etc.
  • Considerable financial outlay

c/ We approached the existing local Post Offices in Oaklands and Codicote to see whether they would be interested in taking over the one in Welwyn High Street to run in conjunction with their own.  They said it would not be possible. 

d/ We found there was a ‘locum’ postmaster service, but the nearest was too far away and anyway would have required investment in location, IT and equipment.

e/ A community ‘not-for-profit’ Post Office still requires it to be run in conjunction with an additional business to make it viable plus a large time and responsibility commitment. It also requires investment in premises, IT and equipment and a sizeable rota of committed and trained volunteers to take the responsibility of running it. Even in this scenario the Post Office insist that the ‘postmasters’ are liable for any shortfall.

Although we are all sad to see the Post Office close, the recent survey for the Neighbourhood Plan showed that only 5 responders out of the 1128 who responded actually spontaneously mentioned the need for a Post Office. So perhaps we have got used to going to Oaklands or Codicote.

However, should WPC feel the need is strong enough and decide to start a working party to look into this again, we would be happy to be part of it.

Response to a WHBC candidate’s advice on our WPAG post office campaign

Every year, WPAG canvasses all the candidates in the local election for their views on topics that matter to WPAG members. This year is no exception, and the responses of each candidate (and, in some cases, the non-responses) can be found here:
Welwyn West ward: wpag.org.uk/may-2024-local-elections-whbc-welwyn-west/
Welwyn East ward: wpag.org.uk/may-2024-local-elections-whbc-welwyn-east/

One of the candidates standing in Welwyn West, Alex Bardett, kindly volunteered WPAG to campaign to reinstate a post office in Welwyn Village. It is kind of him to suggest to the WPAG committee which projects to take on – perhaps he might like to become a WPAG member so that he can get more involved in our work. Anyone who’d like to find out more about what we do are welcome to sign up for our newsletters at: https://www.wpag.org.uk/free-newsletter/

Subscribers and members can find out about all our work via our website and our newsletters. This includes plenty of detail about why, after more than four years of research, we believe that Singlers Marsh should be registered as an official Village Green. It also includes descriptions of the extensive work that WPAG undertook to replace the post office when it shut down during the pandemic. Mr Bardett seems to be unaware of our work discussing alternative locations for a post office with many of the businesses on the High Street, including with Tesco’s head office and various other post offices. We gained an insight into what would make a post office attractive and worthwhile to a small business to host. We also formed a view that a Community Post Office is one of the least attractive options of all.

May 2024 Local Elections: WHBC Welwyn West

Each year when there are local elections for WHBC ward councillors, WPAG asks all the candidates what they think about various local issues that we know are of interest to our members. We publish their answers in full, with no preference to any candidate. WPAG is a charitable entity that does not get involved in political campaigning.

This year, elections are on Thursday 2nd May, and Welwyn West has four candidates standing. We asked three broad questions of all the candidates. These questions are given below, along with each candidate’s response. We then asked some specific questions which we know concern WPAG’s members, and those answers follow below.

As information, Welwyn West covers Welwyn Village, and part of Oaklands and Mardley Heath. It does not include Digswell.

Please be aware that one of the candidates has responded with statements about the Singlers Marsh Village Green application that WPAG strongly disagrees with. WPAG has extensively researched the merits of Village Greens for over four years, working with national bodies such as CPRE and the Open Spaces Society, as well as specialist legal counsel. We believe that becoming a Village Green would give Singlers Marsh strong protection against development. The candidate states that a possible “deregistration” (removing Village Green status) would allow development, and used the same example in a letter to WHBC last September (available on the parish council website). At the time, WPAG wrote explaining how that example was not relevant. There also seems to be some confusion of the process of a Local Plan Inspection with that of a Planning Inquiry.

To see the full text below, scroll left-right within your screen.

Q1. Ignoring national politics/policies, what are the local issues relating to amenities, environment, infrastructure and planning that you think most concern Welwyn East/West residents, whether within their communities or the locality ?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)As current Chair of Welwyn Parish Council I’m aware of a number of areas that concern the residents of the Parish and the wider Welwyn West area.
Residents in Welwyn are concerned about Singlers Marsh asking whether it will be a village green or whether it will be built on (It won’t be, but that’s a common misconception). Residents are also interested in if and when the 20 mph scheme will happen in Welwyn Village
In Oaklands the Marsh isn’t really an issue for the residents, concerns are about traffic / flooding on the B197 at the shops, speeding traffic on it and Cannonsfield Road and the cycleway / new road crossing proposed at the school.
Up in the Ayots the largest issue is the solar farm proposal for the supply of power to a WGC data centre
Sarah Butcher (Green)Singlers Marsh becoming a village green is still a very important issue for many people, not least as it will prevent overdevelopment nearby and protect our precious chalk river. I have consistently supported the application from the beginning of the campaign, when the Conservative-led Council initially opposed the application. For reasons never fully disclosed the Council still oppose the application and are intent on committing tens of thousands of pounds of local taxpayers’ money to a legal battle against the will of residents. Village green status will not jeopardise any activity that takes place on there already, including the Welwyn Festival, but will protect it from development nearby. Green support for this issue has encouraged some councillors from other parties to change their mind on this application. The 240 house development that is planned adjacent to the Marsh would change the nature of that area forever and the resulting traffic and strain on local services would be huge. Welwyn housing has grown by over 30% since I’ve lived here which is considerably more than many other small villages in the Borough. It is time for the housing quotas to be spread more fairly.
Lots of people mention the litter and I have run the village litter pick (Welwyn Rubbish Action Group) for the last 14 years or so. There always seems to be plenty to pick up in Welwyn, but also the rural lanes and main road towards Oaklands can get quite bad. Maybe we need to expand operations outwards. 
Fix My Street app makes it easy to report all broken lighting, manhole covers, fly-tipping and potholes.
Although I am not on the Parish Council I have liaised with them on the drafting of the Neighbourhood Plan. Specifically our green spaces and nature reserves which surround our ward.
Other issues are; reducing traffic noise, parking, overgrown and narrow pathways, safer walking routes to local schools and Welwyn Garden City and better road surfaces.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)It’s difficult , or nigh on impossible to ignore national issues when it comes to environment and planning in particular, as legislation and national policy is at the heart of decisions made locally and shape or frame local decision making. However, the issues that I think most concern local people are those of local transport infrastructure (or the lack/reduction of it); protection of Welwyn as a village and settlement in its own right; development and the character of new developments and protecting the environment in and around Welwyn.
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received (we tried three times to get a response)
Q2. Could you let us know what your stance is on these issues, and if/how you’ve been engaging with them over the past year ?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)With regards to Singlers Marsh I support WPAG’s application for it to be a village green. As Chair of WPC I have met with the leader of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (who own the Marsh) and walked Singlers Marsh with him to try to understand why WHBC are opposing the village green proposal. At Parish Council level we responded to the Hertfordshire Highways consultation, proposing that they moved their 3 suggested positions for raised crossings to 1. Opposite the doctors surgery, 2. Across Prospect place at the White Hart for pedestrians going up and down the hill to safely cross and 3. Across School Lane at Hobbs Hill for children to safely cross
In Oaklands I supported the consultation for the crossing and cycleway at the school, unfortunately Hertfordshire Highways didn’t get the funding this year to carry them out
The Ayot solar farm issue is a waiting game at the moment, it was expected that planning application would be put in sometime ago but it hasn’t materialised as yet. There is some speculation that the developers are waiting to see if there is a change in Leadership at WHBC at the local elections before it is put in.
Sarah Butcher (Green)I am in contact regularly with the Singlers Marsh Action Group and attend online meetings with updates on the campaign and legal challenge. 
Litter picking takes place once a month in Welwyn village but there still seems to be a lot of litter. I liaise with the Council about bins and fly-tipping especially around the recycling area at the Civic Centre.
I have reported several quite dangerous man-hole covers which have since been mended, a school sign on School Lane reinstated, numerous fly-tips cleared up and helped with getting the lighting fixed on London Road.
I have liaised with the Parish Council who is helping put together the Parish Neighbourhood Plan. This is a new power which enables the Parish to influence more strongly the future type and location of development within the Parish. My main input has been on the Green spaces section.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)As a Lib Dem I believe in a green, fair, and caring society and as such I am very much in favour of working to improve transport (as much a s borough councillor ever can), ensuring development remains appropriate for its surroundings and is not detrimental to its place, and working to keep Welwyn a unique and special place. As a candidate who has just stepped in I have not engaged greatly over the past year but plan to do so and of course would immerse myself should I be elected.
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received (we tried three times to get a response)
Q3. How would you work to address or support these local issues if you are elected, being realistic and practical about what can be achieved ?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)To some extent I am already involved in the first two issues at a Parish Council level, and am up to speed with the solar farm at the Ayots, having attended the Ayot St Peter Parish meeting last week. If elected for Welwyn West I will be able to apply more pressure so that the residents’ concerns are addressed.
Sarah Butcher (Green)If I get elected to Council I will lobby for the Singlers Marsh application to be passed immediately. It is in the Council’s power to grant village green status right now and not one councillor has explained why it has not been granted. It is a colossal waste of money to fight this in the courts, taxpayers money that could be much more profitably spent elsewhere. If the council still refuse I believe it would be a good next step to have a public meeting about this matter.
Expansion of Welwyn Rubbish Action Group to Oaklands and rural roads around Welwyn East and West.
Roads and crossings are not the responsibility of the Borough Council but I would like to lobby for safer routes to school from Welwyn village. Due to the road layout walking towards Welwyn Garden City from Welwyn is particularly hazardous. I support 20mph in Welwyn and lower speed limits elsewhere around the ward.
I would like to explore the possibility of getting more solar panels on schools, businesses, and public buildings. I have already made contact with a group in Hertford who have helped schools in Hertford install solar and am initiating a conversation with the local primary school. Also trying to find out if a community energy project might be possible.
I want to thank the Planning and Amenity Group for helping us get our message out to local residents.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)As a councillor I would seek to work with residents, groups, the council, and all parties to ensure that the town and its people have a strong voice. With the Lib Dems currently leading the Joint Administration, a great deal can be achieved, and I would seek to ensure that it would be.
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received (we tried three times to get a response)
More Specific Questions
Local Plan
The Local Plan is expected to be re-opened after this election.  What type and amount of further development do you support around Welwyn, both in general and at specific sites?  Do you have a position on sites Wel1/Wel2/Wel6/Wel15, Wel16 and Dig1?  How would you act (if elected) to support those positions?  What else can be done to preserve the character of Welwyn Village – eg what is your position on WHBC’s change to the Welwyn Conservation Zone?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)I believe that Wel1, Wel2 and Wel15 will be brought back to the table when there is a new call for sites later in the year. On the WPAG website you summarised how the previous Conservative led council made the decision not to put these into the local plan.
We expect that land owners will re-submit many of the sites that were unsuccessful in the previous selection process.  Some of those sites (including Dig 1 and Wel 1/2/15) had actually been deemed suitable by WHBC’s planning officers, and it was only a councillor-level decision to keep them out of the plan.  With a different administration now in place following last May’s elections, a repeat of the councillor-level decision looks unlikely.”
I would not support a Labour / Liberal led council putting these sites forward. Voting to return Conservative councillors across the Borough in this and the next local election to lead the council will be the best way to prevent development on these sites.
With regards to preserving the character of Welwyn village the Parish council is in the final stages of issuing its neighbourhood plan, this will be read in conjunction with the local plan and allow the Parish and Borough Ward councillors have a say in how planning is interpreted locally.
Sarah Butcher (Green)Welwyn has grown by 30% since I have lived here (from 1999) and that is much more than some of the neighbouring villages in Welwyn Hatfield which have better access to bus and rail. Traffic around Welwyn and Oaklands is already becoming very congested, especially during rush hour. I would be glad to see other areas taking a bit more of the housing burden in future and so I will be trying to lobby for this to happen. Also Welwyn Hatfield do have a number of empty houses. These could be bought back more quickly by the council and used for affordable rental which is desperately needed. There has been a recent consultation on empty homes by the Council and I will be interested to see the results.
Obviously the character of Welwyn is why many people come to visit and love living here. I’m sure the Welwyn Conservation Zone as it is now will preserve it for the future. Change sometimes will be needed, for instance planning applications for the installation of solar on roofs which at present is often refused in conservation areas. In order for WHBC to meet its climate targets, rules will have to be relaxed and permissions granted.  I have been liaising with the PC on the development of the local plan.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)I cannot profess to have extensive current knowledge of the adopted local plan. However, should I be elected, I would liaise and work with my colleagues on the relevant Cabinet Planning Panel and Planning Portfolios to ensure that Welwyn is adequately and properly represented at all times. Regarding the Welwyn conservation area change, I believe that this was supported by the sitting Councillors and that very few responses were received to the consultation and few objections, so it seems that this was supported by residents.
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received
Singlers Marsh
WPAG believes that Singlers Marsh will be directly affected for the worse by nearby developments such as Wel1. 
Do you think this should be guarded against? 
Alex Bardett (Conservative)The statement above doesn’t say in what way WPAG believes the marsh will be directly affected, presumably the assumption is that development equals more traffic therefore more air pollution (NO2) and potential groundwater pollution from surface water traffic run-off
Sarah Butcher (Green)Yes and I believe I am the only candidate who has actively supported this view from the beginning.  I have highlighted this issue in every newsletter I have produced since November 2022 and speak about this to residents on the doorstep.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)Similarly to my answer above, without expert knowledge in the legalities of the situation or in planning policy it is not possible for me to give simple answer to this. Rather than just tell you what you’d want to hear, I cannot give you a considered opinion as I would need to research this in depth to take a position on it.
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received
If so, which approach do you favour for robust long term protection against development, ie beyond the current Local Plan? 
Alex Bardett (Conservative)A leading question – protection measures do not exclude development
Air quality, N02, in Welwyn Hatfield is pretty good and in general improving year on year, due to vehicle improvement and implementation of WHBC’s Air Quality Action Plan, and in Welwyn (Codicote Road and Clockhouse Gardens) it’s at around 20μg/m3 which is half of the 40μg/m3 first level trigger point. It’s therefore very unlikely that additional airborne traffic pollution due to a development would be statistically significant or of harm to Singlers Marsh Welwyn Hatfield 2023 Air Quality Annual Status Report
Surface water run-off pollution could be an issue though if it wasn’t guarded against. Currently surface water from Fulling Mill Lane / Kimpton Road hill does discharge directly into Singlers Marsh, this will contain pollutants from vehicles and an element of nitrates from the fields. A significant increase in traffic from a development would certainly increase the pollution level if left unmitigated. If the Wel1 (etc) development was “imposed” on the village I would work hard to insist that a condition of planning was that a Sustainable drainage system (SuDS) be implemented and monitored for a period of 5 years post development to ensure that any pollution from a new development was less than current levels Sustainable drainage systems . This has the additional benefit of increasing biodiversity to the area.
Sarah Butcher (Green)Only Village Green status can fully protect the marsh.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)See answer given above
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received
How can you help deliver this protection (if elected)?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)See answer given above
Sarah Butcher (Green)Lobbying council for Village Green status. Trying to find out why they will not grant it as they have the power to do it immediately and liaising with the Parish Council to have a stronger support of WPAG.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)See answer given above
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received
If your answer to the previous question is to register Singlers Marsh as a Village Green, what would you do (if elected) to secure the registration?  Would you:
·  Work to get WHBC to drop its opposition to the application at the public inquiry?
·  Seek to make WHBC voluntarily register the land as a Village Green?
·  Support the community in ensuring that WHBC fully understands what a Village Green does, and does not, entail?
Do you support registration of the entirety of Singlers Marsh as a Village Green, or just a part of it? 
If the latter, can you set out why?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)· Work to get WHBC to drop its opposition to the application at the public inquiry?

·  Seek to make WHBC voluntarily register the land as a Village Green?

· Support the community in ensuring that WHBC fully understands what a Village Green does, and does not, entail?

Do you support registration of the entirety of Singlers Marsh as a Village Green, or just a part of it?  If the latter, can you set out why?
Yes I support registration for the entirety of Singlers Marsh.
It needs to be recognised however that WHBC would still be the owners of the marsh. If they are minded to include Wel1 in the local plan then they are likely to apply to the planning inspectorate to have a small section 190m2 of the village green de-registered to allow 1. for widening or a new bridge at the start of Fulling Mill Lane and 2. To provide a safer dedicated pedestrian access and crossing point for users of the marsh. There are precedents for de-registering as per Hailsham VG35 in the link below.
Hailsham VG35 Application Decision
I believe that the Inspector would likely find in favour of de-registering the small section as it would be in the; “interests of the neighbourhood” and “public interest”– to redesign the bridge junction in order to deal with current and future traffic flows and reduce the environmental problems caused by slow or static traffic… and provide pedestrian and vehicle segregation for users of Singlers Marsh …
 I’m sure that it isn’t what WPAG’s members want to hear but I don’t believe that Village Green status will stop widening works to Fulling Mill Lane if Wel1 is added to the local plan by a Labour / Liberal led council.
Sarah Butcher (Green)· Work to get WHBC to drop its opposition to the application at the public inquiry?

· Seek to make WHBC voluntarily register the land as a Village Green?

· Support the community in ensuring that WHBC fully understands what a Village Green does, and does not, entail?
Yes. If it is not granted within the next few months I believe a public meeting might be a good idea to inform residents of the update and plan for the upcoming legal challenge.

Do you support registration of the entirety of Singlers Marsh as a Village Green, or just a part of it? 
All of it.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)See answer given above
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received
Local Infrastructure
Welwyn’s population has grown substantially in recent decades, along with that of nearby villages such as Codicote and Knebworth.  Welwyn’s services and infrastructure have not expanded in that time, leading to increasing strains on school places, the road network, GP appointments, parking, and so on.  Although not all of these are within WHBC’s power to directly address, how will you work to improve these challenges if you are elected?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)Well I don’t have a universal panacea to sort all ills, but I’d be happy to listen, talk through problems and try to find / forge solutions to the issues brought before me
Sarah Butcher (Green)This is a real issue everywhere, not just in Welwyn. It is a problem that Codicote and Welwyn share Bridge Cottage Surgery and both villages (especially now Codicote) are growing in size and population. Maybe a growing Codicote will have to build a new doctor’s surgery for their needs? 
My understanding is that the primary schools are able to service Welwyn West at present but would not be able to offer more places if we have an influx of family homes; a consideration that needs higher priority.
Too many cars are a nationwide problem, Planning committees need to give more emphasis on parking places on developments which is not always the case around Welwyn.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)Highways issues are very much within the remit of the county council, and therefore as a borough Councillor my influence to directly affect these issues would be limited. However, I would seek to lobby, cajole, push, badger and influence the County Councillors and the County directly to work on behalf of Welwyn residents. 
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received
The pressure on the local road infrastructure is well known to local residents.  What can you do in office to encourage Herts Highways to address the very real challenge posed by increasing road traffic all around Welwyn?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)As above and working with County Councillor Tony Kingsbury to address Highways issues in the area. I’m keen to support measures that improve the local roads and make the roads better for all users, such as the proposals for the B197 in Oaklands
Sarah Butcher (Green)We live next to a major motorway, we cannot change our proximity.  There must be a way to dissuade drivers from using the high street as a cut through.  I think (and hope) the 20mph limit might reduce some of the traffic through the village. At least if it does come through it will be at slower speeds. However,  that is not going to stop all the traffic coming from Codicote and beyond, especially in rush hour. I do think encouraging more bus use by really low fares is good. Improving walking and cycling routes to WGC/Hatfield will also help.
Someone once suggested to me that it would be a good idea if Welwyn High Street was pedestrianised from the main car park to the corner opposite the church. That will stop the through traffic and make the High Street more attractive to walkers and shoppers.
Someone else suggested we run a shuttle bus to Welwyn North Station from Welwyn/Oaklands. It’s a good idea, but again it needs volunteers and a bus!
Encouraging car sharing is another idea.
All of these problems need open discussion and direction which I would do my best to encourage and facilitate.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)See answer given above
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received
Shopping and Local Businesses
We continue to see shops closing down on Welwyn High Street.  Why do you think they are shutting, and what will you do about this (if elected)?  We believe that the lack of a local post office continues to hamper local businesses.  What can you do to encourage a new post office to open in Welwyn?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)High Street businesses are under constant pressure from increasing rents, insurance and utility bills which when coupled with reduced footfall due to online sales often forces closure. Welwyn though with its free parking and relatively affluent population does offer opportunities and we usually see new businesses coming along filling places recently vacated. It would be great to get a post office back into the village, an idea could be for a community post office, I see this very much as a project that WPAG could get its teeth stuck into and take on Post Office Community Case Study I’d fully support this as I’m sure would the Parish Council – I’d be happy to discuss this further with your members
Sarah Butcher (Green)This is also something that is happening all over the UK. This is partly due to shopping online where goods are often cheaper. This reduces footfall, and eventually financially it is not possible to stay open. The energy crisis has not helped. I think in places where towns/villages have managed to keep a vibrant and interesting mix of shops this is down to resident pressure and lower business rates to encourage smaller shops in. Perhaps that is something that can be introduced by the Council. It would be good to ascertain what shops (apart from a PO) people would like to see and perhaps a local questionnaire might be an idea? Perhaps we could investigate a mobile PO? Or a community-run Post Office? Or a small part-time Post Office in one of our restaurants/cafes as we seem to have plenty of those! With some ingenuity I’m sure this one could be temporarily solved. It also would need volunteers to make it work but I am confident that schemes like this will keep our sense of community.
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)Sadly, I think we are all aware that the high street issue is one that is familiar in villages and towns across the country. However, there are success stories, and I would be very keen to champion a campaign for a Post Office in Welwyn, we know how these outlets can be and are a focal point of a town and community and are sorely missed if not in place. If this means working with the MP (whoever that may be in 6/12 moths) then great, it’s not a political issue, it’s a town issue.
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received
Other topics
What other topics are of concern to Welwyn residents, and how will you engage with them if you are elected?
Alex Bardett (Conservative)There are a couple of areas in Welwyn and its surrounds where green spaces are under threat, If elected I would support local residents to protect these areas.
Sarah Butcher (Green)I am keen to see some more solar in and around the village. I would like to liaise with the local schools (Oaklands and St Mary’s) to see if it is something they have considered and would be interested in pursuing. Also some of the local businesses maybe able to put some solar in. I am also interested in a community energy project, a way to reduce bills for the whole community. I am working with WHPC Climate Emergency Committee to look at our premises to make them more energy efficient.
People have spoken to me a lot about safer routes for children walking to school especially those walking to Monks Walk under the underpass. There are relatively few crossings around the by-pass and link roads in Welwyn and Oaklands. I want to engage with HCC to see if we can’t improve our walking and cycling access towards WGC.
Potholes. Ongoing.
Where we live matters to us. Green spaces, strong vibrant communities, with good local facilities and diverse affordable housing. I think residents and all levels of Council (Parish, Town, Borough) have to be involved in projects that will make their communities work better. In Welwyn and Oaklands we do not have a central space where people can meet and share ideas and perhaps that might be a good idea – a community shop/centre. Where people can come and ask for help, meet like-minded people and throw around ideas and suggestions and where I could hold a regular surgery.  I want people to know me and know that I care about our community.  Strong communities like this can be really successful and make a real difference to the locality. There are many associations and groups in Welwyn and Oaklands, all doing wonderful things in the community. Perhaps we need to join it all up a bit more and strengthen the ties between them all?
Rhiannon Richardson (Lib Dem)Being a councillor is wide ranging and the topics of concern for residents range from housing maintenance, council services (such as grass-cutting, refuse collection etc), planning, parking, to identifying and helping those with very serious issues such as people becoming homeless or suffering domestic abuse. As a councillor, I would be available, engaging, empathetic and efficient – I believe these are the keys to being effective in the role.
Andrew Osborne (Labour)No answer received

May 2024 Local Elections: WHBC Welwyn East

Each year when there are local elections for WHBC ward councillors, WPAG asks all the candidates what they think about various local issues that we know are of interest to our members. We publish their answers in full, with no preference to any candidate. WPAG is a charitable entity that does not get involved in political campaigning.

This year, elections are on Thursday 2nd May, and Welwyn East has five candidates standing. We asked three broad questions of all the candidates. These questions are given below, along with each candidate’s response.

As information, Welwyn East covers part of Oaklands and Mardley Heath, and all of Digswell. It does not include Welwyn Village.

Q1. Ignoring national politics/policies, what are the local issues relating to amenities, environment, infrastructure and planning that you think most concern Welwyn East/West residents, whether within their communities or the locality ?
Julie Cragg
I have been very concerned about planning issues in Digswell, where Digs 1 got refused to our relief.  There have also been planning issues in Woolmer Green that are being investigated. Also dealing with individual residents’ issues, usually with a good outcome. Which is very satisfying and what I enjoy most.
Darrin Dexter
The speed limit between The Chequers Inn and Oaklands shops and the overall maintenance of the foot paths to make it safer and easier for residents to visit their local amenities.
Mardley Woods is a great environment for families to enjoy, protecting and maintaining the woods and supporting the volunteers who do a great job is key. Working with the council on how to stop fly tipping on Heath Road.
Genevieve Almeyda
(Lib Dem)
Welwyn village is unique and should remain so as a separate place from Welwyn Garden City, although it should never be considered secondary, and I think that keeping the importance of Welwyn in the forefront of the council’s considerations is something that concerns local people. The upkeep of the town including the environment such as grass cutting, verges, street maintenance and housing maintenance are all key things that people care about and whilst not specific to Welwyn, are areas that are of key concern to the residents here. Character and setting are also key considerations for the village.
Georg Von Bülow
No answer received (we tried three times to get a response)
Tom Holdsworth
No answer received (we received an acknowledgement, but no answers)
Q2. Could you let us know what your stance is on these issues, and if/how you’ve been engaging with them over the past year ?
Julie Cragg
Julie wanted to make a general statement, which we have given as her answer to Q1 above.
Darrin Dexter
As a resident in Welwyn East for 20 years I have noticed a number of issues on the road between  The Chequers Inn and Oaklands shops and have spoken to residents and local businesses about their concerns. I have also spoken to residents on their concerns about fly tipping in Mardley Woods and what can be done.
Genevieve Almeyda
(Lib Dem)
The issues mentioned above fit very much into the Liberal Democrat ethos and more importantly my own. I am in favour of a better environment both in terms of the local environment where we live, and the wider climate issue; better housing for people and better housing design, infrastructure to support development and the can-do council that my colleagues have been working towards. All these things, I believe fir in with the concerns of Welwyn residents. I am a recently appointed candidate, so to be frank, engagement has been limited so far.
Georg Von Bülow
No answer received (we tried three times to get a response)
Tom Holdsworth
No answer received (we received an acknowledgement, but no answers)
Q3. How would you work to address or support these local issues if you are elected, being realistic and practical about what can be achieved ?
Julie Cragg
Julie wanted to make a general statement, which we have given as her answer to Q1 above.
Darrin Dexter
I would encourage and support the expansion of Welwyn Rubbish Action Group to Oaklands and the rural roads around Welwyn East and West. Lobby for safer and lower speed limits on key roads making the school trip a safer journey. I would also look at ways to encourage businesses and residents to explore how to improve our solar and heat pump take up in an economical way reducing our carbon footprint.
Genevieve Almeyda
(Lib Dem)
We are very clear as a Liberal Democrat group that we want to work collaboratively with residents and my colleagues do that effectively elsewhere. So if elected I intend to follow their lead and engage with the council, resident associations and other councillors of all parties to work to make Welwyn the best it can be. Woth our party as part of a Joint Administration we are in a position to influence thing more than we have ever been.
Georg Von Bülow
No answer received (we tried three times to get a response)
Tom Holdsworth
No answer received (we received an acknowledgement, but no answers)

Latest updates in WPAG December Newsletter

2023 has been a slightly frustrating year for WPAG, working hard but waiting for things to happen on various fronts.  We touch on the major areas of activity below, and end with our plan of action for 2024, and a call for some assistance with our projects.

The Local Plan

The Local Plan determines where new housing development should happen across the Borough.  This was eventually approved by the Inspector in September, and then adopted by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) in October.  Potential sites in Digswell (“Dig 1” – behind New Road) and around Welwyn Cemetery and Singlers Marsh (“Wel 1,2 & 15”) are not included, though the sites accepted back in 2016 (eg at Vineyards on Codicote Road, and Sandyhurst opposite the BP station) will proceed without change.

However, the plan is 2,000 homes short of the target of 15,200 homes.  The Inspector only accepted the plan on the condition that the process for finding those extra sites should be started within 12 months of adoption, and conclude with a new plan in place by October 2026.

Therefore, we expect a whole new ‘call for sites’ process to begin in the new year, aiming to find those additional 2,000 homes from locations across the borough.  Some of the councillors believe the target may yet rise further than that – despite the Inspector’s target having been shown to be based on an over-estimate of the borough’s population.

We expect that land owners will re-submit many of the sites that were unsuccessful in the previous selection process.  Some of those sites (including Dig 1 and Wel 1/2/15) had actually been deemed suitable by WHBC’s planning officers, and it was only a councillor-level decision to keep them out of the plan.  With a different administration now in place following last May’s elections, a repeat of the councillor-level decision looks unlikely.

Dig 1 and Wel 1/2/15 will be particularly attractive to the officers, as they can each deliver a large number of extra homes.  The number of homes that can be built at Dig 1 has varied over the years, but we believe it would be in the region of 100-150.  The previous plans for Wel 1/2/15 proposed ~250 homes.  We expect these sites to be near the top of the planning officers’ list after the forthcoming call for sites process.

We fully recognise that Welwyn, Digswell, Oaklands and Mardley Heath need new homes.  However, we know that large-scale developments in this area cater mainly for established families moving into the area from elsewhere, rather than starter homes for local younger adults to move into.  Our opposition to these development sites is also driven by the fact that our villages are, to all intents and purposes, full: local and through roads are congested, local parking is full, local schools can no longer fulfil their sibling policies, GP appointments are scarce, and so on.

We already have several hundred homes being added in Knebworth and Codicote, much of which will deliver even more traffic onto roads around Welwyn and people into the schools and the GP surgeries.  Within the limitations of the river valley and the motorway, the road network is impossible to expand.  Nor can the schools be expanded on their current sites.  And the county council’s budget cannot cover expansion of either, even if it were possible.

Development of these sites would swamp the local infrastructure, and also damage the environment and character of our settlements.  The traffic generated would have a direct effect on the green spaces at the heart of our communities.  It is not hard to imagine the consequences of 500 extra cars joining the Link Road/Codicote Road junction in Welwyn, engines idling alongside Singlers Marsh while they wait to join the traffic jam from Codicote, crossing a new bridge across the Mimram and polluting its unique chalk stream water, reducing access to the only part of the river that the public can enjoy along its entire 12-mile length.

Singlers Marsh Village Green application

Having Singlers Marsh registered as an official ‘Village Green’ would mean that the entirety of Singlers Marsh would be protected from development, remaining as it is today for public recreation. Although it is a Local Nature Reserve and a Local Wildlife Site, these designations do not provide much protection.

Not only did the Inspector dismiss them publicly during the Local Plan process, but a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that WHBC already have a Memorandum of Understanding with a developer to sell off part of the southern side, with well-placed rumours suggesting a value of over £1m.  Somewhat astonishingly, the new Council Leader has confirmed to us that WHBC will prioritise the commercial value of the land over its environmental value.

The developer and WHBC are objecting to the Village Green registration.  The developer’s motivation is obvious, but WHBC’s reasons have been more opaque.  The officers have trotted out a long list of reasons to object, none of which appear to have been checked against the reality of how Village Greens actually work.  We know from FOI requests that WHBC has never sought an external expert opinion on the issue.  Our clear understanding (based on expert and legal advice) is that all the activities that currently take place on the land would carry on unaffected.

Earlier this year, WHBC boiled its list of objections down to three core reasons: that the land is fine as it is; that there would be a clash with its environmental management; and, that it is duty-bound to object.  The first point is obviously highly subjective, and community groups tell us they feel it is poorly managed at present.  Moreover, there would be no changes if it becomes a Village Green.  The second point is undermined by the many other Nature Reserves and Wildlife Sites around the country that have already become Village Greens, lists of which we have supplied.  The third point is negated by the actions of other councils, who have voluntarily registered their green spaces as Village Greens.

The real reason seems to be WHBC’s desire to be able to sell part of Singlers Marsh at a profit if a development opportunity arises.  Its leader, Cllr Zukowskyj, confirmed as much in an email where he confirmed that there were no policy reasons for objecting to the application (ie the environmental protections don’t amount to much), but that WHBC “is obliged by law to maintain best value” and “not to object may adversely affect future decisions with a fiduciary bearing.”

WHBC’s desire to profit from a sale of the land might be set against the fact that it was originally bought with ratepayers’ money in the 1960s by the then-existing Welwyn Rural District Council, which then gifted it for free to WHBC (or WHDC as it then was) in the 1974 council reorganisation.

There is possibly a window of opportunity to influence WHBC at this point, now that the Local Plan has been adopted.  With no development proposals currently allowed for the sites around Singlers Marsh, and with the land valued on WHBC’s books at zero (according to another FOI request), commonsense could allow a voluntary registration at this point.  However, the new leader is taking an entrenched viewpoint on this.  We are continuing to find ways to encourage this, and we have received public support from both our MP (Grant Shapps) and from Andrew Lewin (the Labour candidate at the next parliamentary election).

If WHBC can be persuaded to pause its opposition, seek expert advice on the implications (or otherwise) of the land becoming a Village Green and then make a voluntary registration, we will all be saved a lot of work and money.  The alternative is to continue with the public inquiry, which began in November 2022 but which has been paused ever since due to legal arguments.  WHBC has so far spent over £16,000 on legal representation at the inquiry, and we expect it will spend over £100,000 if the inquiry goes the distance.  We fail to see why this is a better option for anyone than taking professional expert advice from (eg) the Open Spaces Society and considering a new course of action.

The Village Green application is made in the name of WPAG but is being co-ordinated by an alliance of WPAG, the Parish Council, Friends of the Mimram, and local residents associations.  The alliance calls itself the Singlers Marsh Action Group.  It has raised funds from the community to cover its legal costs at the inquiry, and these are stewarded by WPAG which – as a registered charity – files annual accounts and also benefits from Gift Aid top-up.  The VG funds are ringfenced within the WPAG accounts.  Total funds raised to date are £15,300, with a further £13,000 pledged but not yet collected.  The legal costs to date have been £8,700, leaving £6,600 of cash reserves (plus the pledged amounts).

Without a change of heart by WHBC, the application will be determined by the county council.  Having determined that our application has merit, they appointed an external barrister to run an independent inquiry process.  Our legal costs are being spent on a barrister to represent us at the inquiry, and we have chosen one who specialises in village green and common land law.  We occasionally also use a firm of solicitors who specialise in environmental issues, but SMAG does most of the work as volunteers.  The help of these professionals has been invaluable, and they believe we have a “very convincing” case.

The inquiry has been delayed throughout 2023 by legal arguments about the role of its inspector.  He initially made a ruling that we believed was unlawful, and had to make legal threats to get it reversed.  Though he is supposed to be independent of all the parties, we were given reason to believe he had been advising one of the parties on the conduct of the inquiry.  We asked to see the correspondence, but were refused.  However, an FOI request produced almost all of it, and it seems to show a clear conflict of interest.  Very disappointingly, the county council’s legal team are refusing to act on this, and we are currently considering our options.

WPAG has waited throughout the year to get this resolved and learn the dates for the next stage of the process, while all the time hoping that WHBC would review their position and thus make the whole inquiry unnecessary.  We are continuing to explore further options.

If the inquiry does restart in the new year, we will need to raise further funds to cover our upcoming legal costs.  We are extremely grateful to everyone who has already donated.  Smaller donations can be made online via www.justgiving.com/campaign/save-singlers-marsh, and larger donations can be discussed by contacting SMAG via email at .  The JustGiving site will handle GiftAid automatically, and we can manually process any direct donations.  At the end of the process, any unused funds will be returned pro rata to their donors (where the donors have identified themselves to us), and the rest will be ringfenced for future work on the Local Plan.

Welwyn Conservation Area

Earlier in the year, WHBC published their proposed revisions to the Conservation Area in the centre of Welwyn, and then held a consultation which ended in July.  WPAG responded with a comprehensive set of suggestions, as did other parties such as the Parish Council.  WHBC’s response did not accept any of the proposed changes to the document.

Under this proposal, the Conservation Area will shrink substantially, and bad planning decisions in the past will be rewarded by removing whole areas from the conservation rules.  We believe that there were mistakes in the original analysis, and it is regrettable that they have not been addressed via the consultation.  We hope that the councillors will not adopt the new proposal in its current form.

Water matters

Despite the wet spring and summer this year, we live in a “water-stressed” area.  With continued climate changes and population growth, the problem will only get worse.  Affinity Water are obliged to produce a 40-year plan to show how they will meet those needs whilst also protecting precious chalk streams, such as the Mimram.  This will then be turned into a Business Plan for the next five years.

WPAG has actively contributed to this planning process, which is now being put to Ofwat (the water regulator).  The main emphasis is on saving more water by reducing leaks and encouraging lower consumption, while planning extra water supplies such as bringing water from the Midlands down the Grand Union Canal and building a new reservoir.  At the same time, they will reduce the amount of water taken out of the chalk stream aquifers to improve local habitats.

In the meantime, the Mimram has continued to have good water levels and flow rates this year. An Environment Agency Fish Survey showed that fish stocks were improving after the river dried out in 2020.  A long term “citizen science” survey of invertebrate wildlife in the river’s water indicates that it is thankfully free of major pollution, at least for now.

The Mimram is in generally good health, though there is still a way to go and we are working to protect it from further setbacks.  We are working with the Friends of the Mimram volunteer group to re-establish its “Singlers Marsh Special Interest Group” to focus on the problems faced by the river as it flows through Welwyn in particular.

Heritage Trail

The Heritage Trail is looking like it will be recommissioned in the new year.  The website that powered it went offline in 2018 after a university funding problem.  Attempts to replace it were delayed as Welwyn Archaeological Society (WAS) needed to find a new legal owner for it.  At the time, the Parish Council was unwilling to help, and so WPAG offered to take it on.  However, the pandemic then intervened.

Pleasingly, the Parish Council took a different view when WPAG took the idea back to them about a year ago, and a plan is now emerging.  The Parish Council will take legal ownership of the signage and the website, while a collaboration between the Parish Council, WAS and WPAG will restore the content on a new website, and extend it to additional sites such as the Fernery and Singlers Marsh.  A first version of the new site may be available as soon as January.

We understand that the Parish Council is also keen to replicate the concept in Digswell, and we hope that will go well.

Neighbourhood Plan

Back in 2018, former Parish Council chair and current WPAG committee member (and trustee) John Roper invited the Parish Council to formulate a Neighbourhood Plan.  These sit alongside a Local Plan and allow a town or Parish Council to have a say in how borough and county policies (such as planning) are implemented locally.

Cllr Bill Morris has been leading this project for the Parish Council for well over four years.  Several WPAG committee members have been involved both on the steering committee and in various working groups as the plan has progressed.  Bill and his colleagues have done a superb job of melding together a wide range of topics that matter to the communities in Welwyn, Oaklands, Mardley Heath and Digswell.  The process is now nearing completion and should hopefully be put to a local referendum next year.

Parish Council Planning & Licensing Committee

By a long-standing arrangement, WPAG committee members are co-opted onto the Parish Council’s planning & licensing committee, which meets every three weeks throughout the year.  The committee’s remit overlaps closely with WPAG’s areas of interest, and this collaboration continues to be very fruitful.  We are grateful to Sandra Saunders, Caroline Tinner and John Roper in particular for their efforts here.

2024: More Projects and Request for Assistance

Looking ahead into 2024, we will continue our specific work on the Local Plan, the Heritage Trail and the Village Green application, as well as our other activities.  We also want to start looking at how to better protect and promote the River Mimram as it flows through the parish, and what can be done to better handle the ever-increasing volumes of road traffic in and around our settlements.

We have room on our committee for some extra members.  We are looking for people from across Welwyn village, Oaklands, Mardley Heath and Digswell with an interest in keeping the area special.  We meet as a committee a few times during the year, and work on the various projects as needed.  Committee members do not need to have lived locally for decades.  Some of us are retired, while others are still working, and some of us are fairly new to Welwyn.  We are looking for people with an interest to get into what are often quite complex issues, and to look at them with a calm and level approach.

If you might be interested in getting involved, please contact Russell Haggar at for an informal discussion.

Seasons Greetings

With Christmas now only a few weeks away, the WPAG Committee would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Christmas, and to thank you for your support during 2023.

We will provide updates on our various projects via further email newsletters as well as on our Facebook page (facebook.com/WelwynPlanning), and please keep an eye open for arrangements for our AGM.  If you want to find out more about anything that we’re doing, please do contact us and ask.

With very best wishes,

Russell Haggar
Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group

New Safer Routes to School projects in Oaklands and Woolmer Green

Consultation 30th January – 27th February 2023

Outside Oaklands School: a sketch of how the improvements could look

Hertfordshire County Council is proposing two Safer Routes to School projects in Oaklands and Woolmer Green. The projects aim to improve safety outside schools and help people walk, wheel and cycle more often by making these journeys safer and more convenient.

The proposals include wider pavements, new crossing points, additional cycling facilities and a reduction in the speed limit. This would make getting to local shops, schools and other local amenities easier and more enjoyable.

We want you to have your say on the current proposals so that your thoughts can help shape the designs. An engagement survey is open to everyone until 27 February 2023.

To find out more about the project and participate in the survey please visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/activetravelfund 

To receive information in an alternative format, please contact Hertfordshire County Council:


Telephone:  0300 123 4047