What would you most like to improve in our Parish?
How would you like our villages to be in 10 years time?
You should have received a copy of the Welwyn Neighbourhood Plan questionnaire last week. Please take a moment to complete and return it.
It is important that your views are taken into account in your Neighbourhood Plan. When it is finalised it will set the policies for development in Welwyn, Mardley Heath, Oaklands and Digswell for the next 10-15 years.
The questionnaire has gone to everyone in the Parish, so it is the most comprehensive part of the consultation plan to understand what is really important to us about where we live.
And if you don’t reply, they cannot take your views into account.
The saga of the Local Plan for the whole of Welwyn Hatfield Borough continues.
In November, the council took two important decisions:
(i) to reduce the target number of new homes that have to be built across the whole borough from 16,000 to 13,800
(ii) to propose a new version of the Local Plan that would broadly meet this reduced obligation
This new version of the plan excluded all the new sites around Welwyn, Digswell, Oaklands and Mardley Heath that had been mooted during 2019.
Although this looked like the outcome that our community had been waiting on for two long years, it still needs to be approved by the independent Inspector, who follows a legally set out process in his assessment. He has concluded that he needs to investigate the reduction in target numbers down to 13,800, rather than just accepting it. He has pointed out that, in the meantime, the new proposed plan now falls well short of the existing target of 16,000 homes.
As a result, the Inspector has announced he will be investigating why various sites in each of Digswell, Mardley Heath, Oaklands and Welwyn were not included in the Plan. This includes the possible reintroduction of the sites around Singlers Marsh in Welwyn village, and the substantial development by Tewin Water in Digswell.
WPAG will be working hard over the coming weeks to resist the reintroduction of any of these sites. We have been invited to contribute to the Inspector’s hearings in March, and will be working with both the borough and parish councils to pursue all means available for avoiding these inappropriate developments.
We will keep you posted on progress as and when there is news to share here.
Residents will no doubt be aware that the Rose and Crown has been closed for almost a year, awaiting a major £500k refurbishment; the aim being to be more of a gastropub, appealing to a wider audience. The current operators have done a good job of communications and supporting local initiatives during Covid19 times and the majority of people seem very positive about the future of the site; being relieved no attempts are being made for residential development there.
However, the inescapable fact is that the Rose and Crown is surrounded by residential properties. In the light of this, their application for a license to serve at weekends until 1:00am (closing at 1:30am) needs to be looked at very seriously and the following questions asked:
How does the parking provision available in the Rose and Crown car park tie up with the number of customers anticipated? There is no spare parking in the village at night, so further increases in cars looking for street parking could cause congestion. There is no public transport available to diners/revellers late in the evening.
Will due consideration be given to the right to sleep of the residents of the houses nearby and in Mill Lane opposite, down which people would walk if Rose and Crown customers were to use the Civic Centre as an overflow car park? People exiting the premises at 1:30am, chatting loudly, could cause disturbance and nuisance in a small village where sound travels widely at night, especially in the summer.
As the intention is also to use the newly refurbished barn for events such as weddings or large parties, what provision would be made for adequate on-site parking, and noise limitation?
Will this application, if granted, set a precedent? It would be difficult to refuse the other establishments in the village from requesting the same late hours.
Do residents agree that midnight closing on Friday and Saturday, not later, and normal trading hours for the rest of the week would be reasonable?
There is no doubt that there is a careful balance to be struck here with supporting commercial activity in our village and protecting the rights of those living in the adjacent area that will be affected.
As the Notices regarding the Licensing Application have been displayed outside the premises during the Christmas period, and during our Tier 4 restrictions, it is possible that many residents may not have seen them.
Residents wishing to comment on the application, should write direct to WHBC:
– There is a 28-day consultation, which ends on the 19th of January 2021. All responsible agencies, (i.e. police, environmental health, fire and rescue, etc.), have been notified so that they can consider the application.
– Anyone can submit a representation. To be valid, this must be in relation to one or more of the Licensing Objectives. These are: Preventing Crime and Disorder, Public Nuisance, Public Safety and Protecting Children from Harm. The person making the representation should state why he/she feels that any of these objectives would be undermined by this application.
– The representation must be submitted by 19th January. It can be in the form of an email to > for the attention of James Moatt (Licensing Technical Officer). The representation must be signed, which can be done electronically, and the person making the representation must provide their name and address.
– If a representation is submitted then the application is halted pending a licensing hearing with WHBC’s Licensing Committee who will determine the application i.e. grant/grant with conditions/refuse.
– On receiving a representation the licensing officer must inform the applicant who is entitled to be given the details of the representation and the name and address of the person submitting it (unless there is good reason for not doing so).
– The licensing officer can facilitate communication between the person making the representation and the applicant so that any issues can be discussed and potentially resolved. If issues are resolved and the representation is withdrawn then the application can continue without a hearing unless of course other representations are submitted and not resolved. If the representation is not withdrawn then the application will go to a hearing. The hearing must take place within 28 days after the 19th of January 2021.
There was a full council meeting of WHBC, on Monday, 24th November, which considered a revised version of the borough-wide Local Plan.
This plan contains no new sites around Welwyn, and so does not encroach on Singlers Marsh or the cemetery. It also reduced the total target for new homes over the next 20 years across WHBC from 16,000 to 13,800.
This plan was approved by the full council and has now been sent to the official Inspector for consideration. Though this is still a way off being finalised, it is a really good step forward. Although the vote was not unanimous, it was supported by all of Welwyn’s borough councillors.
WPAG continues to monitor this process. We also feel that the campaign to register Singlers Marsh as a Village Green should continue – it is not yet protected from development, and we have yet to come across any practical reason not to do this.
Finally, although the campaign against the extra sites that were proposed for the Local Plan last year has been successful, it has obscured the fact that many in Welwyn still want to see new homes built here, especially affordable ones for which extra village infrastructure is provided. There will hopefully now be discussions between the various bodies to capture this need in the new plans for the area that will emerge from the parish and borough councils.
WPAG’s activities have continued, despite the limitations of COVID. Our Vice Chairman has done splendid work on matters relating to Welwyn High Street and the Local Plan. He has also carefully researched the regulations with regard to the prospective application for Singlers Marsh to have Village Green status. All these matters are currently in various stages of consultation or action and, when we have definite results to report, we will issue an update.
Two new Committee Members will join WPAG this month: Mary Williamson and Geoffrey Yates. We look forward very much to working with them.
I am delighted to announce the appointment of our new Treasurer, Howard Norfolk who will take over from our Secretary Karen Chater. Our thanks to Karen for taking on two roles and holding the fort for the past year; and also to John Roper for his valiant efforts to keep our accounts up to date during our two years without a Treasurer.
Now that we have changed Banks, from Barclays to Lloyds, and established a new Financial Year to run from 1st January, our accounting life should be far simpler. The Charities Commission have accepted our changes and will now expect submission of our Annual Report to them by the end of January 2021. WPAG will therefore hold its AGM early in January 2021 to accept the Treasurer’s Annual Report and Accounts. Barry Northrup has again kindly offered to verify the accounts as he did last year.
Our Website and Facebook page have been well looked after by David Cheek and our membership has grown steadily. The readership of our Newsletter has also increased and we greatly appreciate the interest and support of the community.
As ever, WPAG has worked closely with Welwyn Parish Council, WHBC and Herts CC. This has covered many local issues: Welwyn High Street, local Planning Applications, Consultations on Highways, Luton Airport Expansion and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), the Local Plan and very importantly the Neighbourhood Plan.
Welwyn’s Neighbourhood Plan will be of vital importance to us for the future. A comprehensive questionnaire, (which WPC will distribute in the near future) will ask residents to respond fully. WPAG Committee Members are members of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group that Welwyn Parish Council has established. The Local Plan is nearing the point of acceptance or rejection. Production of our Neighbourhood Plan will then be vital to the protection of our beautiful Parish for future generations, as well as providing us with the means to access a percentage of CIL payments and to influence the specific local use of funds obtained.
WPAG therefore urges residents to take the time to complete and return the questionnaire when it comes out as soon as possible; anyone who would like to join the working party to help us to create our Neighbourhood Plan should contact Cllr. Bill Morris at WPC.
Our Committee has been unable to meet physically during the many months of lockdown and social distancing restrictions. Consequently, our contact has been less often and limited to Zoom! Let us hope that 2021 will soon see us reunited around a meeting table again.
On behalf of the WPAG Committee, I would like to take this opportunity to send seasonal greetings to our members and readers of our Newsletter and Facebook pages. We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safer New Year.
Singlers Marsh was formed during the Ice Age. The glaciers more or less stopped at the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire borders. But the rocks, soil and sediment they pushed before them created the chalk hills of the Chilterns, from which the River Mimram flows, and the Mimram valley.
The Mimram was a much wider, deeper river than it is now and Singlers Marsh was part of the flood plain, where the river could expand into several channels when the water levels rose – helping to protect Welwyn from flooding.
The marshy, fertile meadows or ‘medes’ were excellent for grazing animals, but not surprisingly marked on old maps as ‘Likely to flood’. There are tales of swimming and boating on the Mimram, skating on the marsh when it iced over and tug of war matches ‘across the Mimram’ – when the losers got wet.
When the Link Road was built in the 60’s, sadly the resulting clay spoil was allowed to be tipped onto the Marsh, creating a domed effect, thus removing its effectiveness as a flood plain! However, it was then seeded. 1969 saw Welwyn Rural District Council buying the marsh from Three Valleys Water and in 1973 they made the historic decision to create Singlers Marsh into a nature reserve, with the lovely quote, reported in the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We sincerely hope this spot will become a restful retreat for those who want to spend a few hours away from the crowds”.
Welwyn RDC then handed ownership on to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC), who have registered it as a ‘Local Nature Reserve’. Now much used as a safe place by walkers, the Guides, school, dog walkers, family picnics and of course the Welwyn Festival Fun Runs and Fun Day. During the Covid lockdown it has been used very regularly for everyone’s exercise and, during the hot weather, loads of socially-distanced’ picnics.
But despite the classification as a ‘Local Nature Reserve’ this gives little protection from development. Last year WHBC readily gave permission for part of the Marsh to be used in a road and bridge widening scheme to support the proposed housing developments around the cemetery. 959 people signed a petition to stop this being done and, at the moment, this proposal has not been included in the latest Local Plan submission, but we have yet to hear the Inspector’s final decision.
So how can we protect this beautiful space for us and generations to come?
Well, there are two possibilities:
We can try to get it ‘Village Green’ status, which has a much higher level of protection. This was tried a few years ago but was stymied by the landowner WHBC. Anyone can make this application and one is currently underway at https://www.protectthemarsh.co.uk/. However, it usually needs the support of the landowner to be successful. So could we persuade Welwyn Parish Council to buy the land? And then there is a vested interest to get this greater level of protection.
Welwyn Parish has voted to develop a Neighbourhood Plan which is your vision of what Welwyn should be like in the next 15-20 years, primarily in terms of house planning and infrastructure. When approved, it has some ‘teeth’ with planning decisions. Part of the Plan is what should be protected both in terms of architecture, green belt, open spaces – and our three nature reserves. Developing this Plan will start with a questionnaire which everyone will receive. This will be your chance to say how important Singlers Marsh is to you.
Your WPAG is involved with both these projects, but we will need your support when the time comes.
Enjoy Singlers Marsh now. And let’s do our best to protect it for years to come.
Fish were rescued as the River Mimram dried up last autumn. Now, with the very wet February and March, the river is full and flowing faster than it has done for years. Clear water bubbling along and clearing some of the silt which has built up over time starting to reveal the gravel bed of a chalk stream. The river is fed by the underground aquifer and the chart shows the highest level of groundwater for several years. (On the chart, the Green band is Average)
However, all the ‘river life’ was either rescued or died last autumn, so it looks pretty dead. The Environment Agency (EA) expect it to take three or four years for ‘river life’ to return to normal. (Does this sound familiar?) The hope is that fish will migrate downstream from parts of the river that did not dry out, such as the mill pond towards Kimpton.
So the plan is to conduct a series of ‘electro’ fish surveys throughout the year to see if the fish do return. To do this they hold a ‘wand’ with a low electric current in the water, which stuns the fish long enough for them to be counted and measured without doing them any harm.
The first of these surveys was done recently and, while they didn’t find much, they did find several bullhead fish – a start. And some tadpoles!
If the fish population does not recover over the next few years, they will restock the river with breeding fish.
However, in 2020 it seems to be one extreme or the other, in April we only got 24% of the average effective rainfall and May looks likely to be the driest May on record. Already the river level is starting to drop……
Hertfordshire County Council has a consultation out on future transport plans for South Herts. This includes Welwyn, Digswell, Oaklands and Mardley Heath.
WPAG and Welwyn Parish Council will be submitting a response, but the more individuals that respond the better.
So this is your chance to have your say – by 31st March 2020
The big issues are:
managing commuter traffic around the A1(M),
the bottlenecks around the Clock and Parkside Roundabouts, the A100, B197 and B656,
the rat-running through Welwyn to avoid the gridlock.
Unfortunately, HCC does not have a joined up view. The plan is to wait to see if the ‘Smart A1(M) Motorway’ alleviates it (it won’t because of the increase in housing), and projects to improve cycleways and pedestrian access. This isn’t good enough.
To read the Consultation click here. The sections of the Consultation relevant to Welwyn start on Page 82, and relate to projects PK15 and PK16.
Write to the HCC and give them your comments and thoughts. Click here to have your say.
The more individuals that HCC hear from, the better.
WPAG will publish our response as soon as possible.
All the rain gives us the River Mimram back, but where are the fish?
The River Mimram is one of the world’s rare chalk streams. (There are only 220 of them.) And they are fed by underground aquifers which are replenished by steady, winter rains. However, after three very dry winters, our aquifer was almost empty and the river dried up. (Affinity Water had already reduced the amount they abstract from Singlers Marsh and have not increased it since.)
The Environment Agency (EA) measure the groundwater levels
of the Mimram at Lilley Bottom and you can see from their chart below that the
groundwater was exceptionally low in September. But now, after all the rain
this Autumn and Winter, it has now risen but it is still below average. Provided
we get an average rainfall fall for the next two months, this should be enough
to keep the river running through the summer.
One other aspect of the dry winters was that by last Spring
we were in an official drought and Affinity Water were expecting to have to
introduce a hosepipe ban (Temporary Use Ban) this April. That will no longer be
necessary, but their Drought Committee will continue to monitor the situation.
And what about the fish in the Mimram? Last September, as
the river levels dropped dramatically, the EA rescued the fish and rehoused
them downstream. Now we have to wait for the riverflies to return, who are the
bottom of the food chain. Once they are back then we hope the fish will return
and be sustainable. However, due to the large weirs at Tewinbury and Mill Lane,
the fish cannot migrate upstream as they would do naturally.
So there are three options. Some fish did survive upstream
above Codicote and they might come down stream to Welwyn. The EA could restock
the Welwyn stretch with breeding fish. Or the EA could bring some of the fish
stock back from Panshanger. The EA plan to monitor the situation closely and
make the decision, but don’t expect to see anything much for three to four
In the meantime, enjoy the Mimram Mimram at Singlers Marsh. Or, if you fancy a walk, there is a very good stretch at Panshanger Park, near Hertford.