As with the earlier articles, the following comments are the result of the work of the Welwyn Planning sub-group, formed by the Welwyn Parish Council for the express purpose of analysing the Draft Local Plan, and including elected representatives of the Welwyn Parish Council Planning Committee. the Welwyn Parish Plan Action Group, and the Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group.
It is self evident that Housing Developments should not be undertaken without regard to the impact on the local infrastructure, of schools, traffic and health, but it is commonly felt in the community that this is exactly what planners and developers do.
There is a concern that whereas the needs of an upcoming development might be assessed, there is also a need to take into account the impact of very recently completed, or part completed developments.
In regard to Schools, provision has to be made by law for childrens’ education and, unlike increases in traffic, cannot be ignored.
For this reason when discussing the need for primary school provision in the Civic Parish of Welwyn, the Planning sub-group has taken into account the recently completed 100 houses on the Frythe development (Wilshere Park) in order to judge or make an assessment of needs.
Other infrastructural issues relate to funding, and specifically the application of section 106 Agreements and CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) which Welwyn Hatfield has yet to introduce. The pond is cloudy at the very time when clarity is needed.
When the Borough introduces CIL there will be statutory rules regarding restrictions on the number of financial contributions obtained through planning obligations which can be ‘pooled’ to fund particular infrastructure. The effect of this is that planning obligations under section 106 will remain in use alongside a CIL charge, but for a more restricted set of purposes.
For this reason, the Infrastructure Plan should explain the consequences, advantages or disadvantages of waiting until late 2017 or 2018 before the CIL is introduced.
Matters specific to Welwyn Parish
The infrastructure comments below are based upon the following estimates of housing numbers in and around Welwyn Parish obtained from the relevant plans.
Welwyn, recently completed (see comment above) 100
Welwyn: Approved but not yet built. 150
Welwyn : In the Plan 100
Woolmer Green: Plan 150
Codicote: NH Plan 315
From what we know from Local Plans we can expect 450 of the houses recently completed or planned for this part of Welwyn Hatfield to be occupied in the first 5 years of the Plan and approximately half of those planned for Codicote in the same period.
The demand within the parish will be for primary school places and this demand, according to HCC calculations, equates to IFE, ie 30 children, which agrees with the WHBC estimate (Para 6.59) and capacity throughout the primary school years ultimately of 210..
The primaries at Woolmer Green and Oaklands have neither the capacity nor the space to expand. We understand, (although no details have been provided) that the same applies to St John’s Digswell.
St Mary’s could expand to be a 3FE school and, given its Outstanding rating from Ofsted this would be attractive to residents. It is appreciated that this would require the loss of contiguous playing fields but this is permissible (Paras 6.24/25). There is a statement that St Mary’s is a listed building. This is not correct.
The alternative, a new school, which would have to be a Free School/academy, would require land of its own on which to be established.
Codicote is in the Borough of North Hertfordshire but its 1FE primary (recently reduced from 2FE?) is short of places. Development in Codicote will put further pressure on the local school and some consequent spill over to Welwyn Parish (Para 6.59). unless that school is expanded. Some influx from Knebworth might also be expected (Para 6.59).
Para 5.104: There is a traffic mitigation plan for the 4 roundabout complex associated with the A1(M) junction 6. In addition to southbound traffic from the motorway itself the feeder roads from the north, B197 from Knebworth and Woolmer Green and B656 from Hitchin and Codicote will, by 2022 be carrying significantly more traffic into Welwyn Hatfield via Welwyn.
With the intended timescale of development (see above) the traffic mitigation scheme is scheduled for the period 2023-2027.
This is too late!
The Traffic Mitigation Plan is a small scheme, costing approximately £0.5M. and the Borough should urge the Highways Agency to bring this small scheme forward by several years to minimise the traffic problems that these developments will make, rather than attempting unsatisfactory patch-up solutions later.
The Bridge Cottage Practice in Welwyn has a patient list of just over 16000. Its catchment area extends beyond Codicote to Kimpton, where there is a satellite surgery by appointment only.
The algorithm used to calculate GP needs (para 7.30) suggests that 8.5 full time GPs will be needed to service the expanded list (17000). It is not clear to us what the current staffing level is but this figure should be the target.
We will hope to be able to fill in the gaps as we move forwards.