Welwyn High Street – Plea from Welwyn’s Traders

Open Letter to Hertfordshire County Council

We write as one-voice to Hertfordshire County Council Highways & Environment Division with our concerns about the impact the social distancing measures placed in Welwyn High Street is having and will continue to have on the ability of many of us to survive as businesses at this extremely difficult time.

In particular, the imposition of a one-way system in the High Street is extremely damaging in terms of footfall to the village. This is something we have experienced before, in 2009, with the effect of pushing some traders to the edge of survival.

The SAGE advice on the Government’s website regarding environmental transmission of coronavirus points to an extremely low risk of catching Covid-19 by passing someone on a pavement or in a shop for a short period of time.


For the first 9 weeks following lockdown when essential shops were open, the Great
Welwyn Public largely behaved with courtesy, common-sense, and personal obligation to follow social distancing rules without needing barriers to help them do this. These are the only traders that are ever likely to have queues on the pavement, such is the nature of the others that opened after 15th June, and those planning to open from 4th July onwards. Most of the latter will be operating a booking/ appointment system to avoid queues.

Whilst whole-heartedly supporting the need for people to follow social distancing
guidelines, we believe it is perfectly possible in the context of Welwyn Village for customers and staff to do this in a safe way without imposing restrictions that may lead to the demise of yet another High Street in this country. We are all making our businesses Covid-19 secure and will promote social distancing amongst our customers and outside.

Welwyn Village is fairly unique in its make-up of shops, pubs, restaurants, estate agents, hair, beauty and specialist businesses. The cross-fertilisation of footfall from one business to another has always been one of the main reasons for its ability to survive. We know from previous experience that reduction in parking and the necessity to negotiate the bypass for some journeys means that potential customers often simply decide to go elsewhere and footfall is lost, leading to a downturn in revenue which in these difficult times will be catastrophic.


We ask you to think again and support us in trying to get back on our feet.


Yours sincerely,

Belinda Walsingham, Box of Delights, 24 High Street
Susan Bull, SuSu, 21 High Street
Mick Leto, The Barbers Room, 30 High Street
Howard Hill, Hill & Co Violin Shop, 5 High Street
Matheus Gomes, Vita Ristorante, 12 High Street
Wendy Rowley, Welwyn Florist, 29 High Street
Dennis, Katie, Chris & Phill Dinsdale, Katie’s Bakery, 3 High Street
Tricia Conroy Smith, Off Broadway Travel, 18/20 Prospect Place
Filippo Mazzarella, Aqua Restaurant, 28 High Street
Adam Richardson, The White Horse, 30 Mill Lane
Dan Tubbs, The Wellington, 1 High Street
Steven Hastings & Jenny Havill, Lemon Plaice, 21 Church Street
Gill Ewing, Simmons Bakers, 34 High Street
Peter Morgan, Peter Morgan Hairdressing, 4 Codicote Road
Martin Bishop, Bryan Bishop Estate Agent, 6a High Street

Dawn Somerville, Essie & Betsy, 12 Church Street
Tanya Thanyaphon East, Thai Legacy Therapy, 27 High Street
Morwenna McDonald, Welwyn Osteopathy, 27 High Street
Gill Buszmanning, Comfy Soles Chiropody , 27 High Street
Kelvin Dean, Old Welwyn Clinic, 27 High Street
Deniz Gentle, Headmistress Hairdressing, 10 Church Street
Jay Miah, Taj Mahal Restaurant, 2 High Street
Claire Austin, Austin’s Funerals, 16 High Street
Laura Moyes, Laura Kate, 15 High Street
James Bainbridge, The White Hart, 2 Prospect Place
Lisa Green, Belvoir Estate & Lettings Agents, 9 High Street
Marianne Hawes, Danesbury & QVM Charity Shop, 4 High Street
Gobind Singh Lidhar, XO Wine Merchants, 6 High Street

Welwyn High Street – Plea for Consultation from Revd. Dr David Munchin

Open Letter to Hertfordshire County Council

I am writing as the Rector of St Mary’s Welwyn and on behalf of nearly all of the traders in Welwyn village who have signed the attached letter (Ed. see separate Post) about the COVID19 restrictions. I should also add that after the final draft, Austin’s funeral directors, another important local business, wrote to say that they would wish to be included.

Whilst we understand that there was pressure to make quick decisions and that public safety was paramount, we also know that now you are looking to revise arrangements on a semi-permanent basis. As the photograph demonstrates, footfall is now so low in the village that the present measures in place are clearly disproportionate. Therefore as the letter states, we would like to see full consultation with local stakeholders including traders, and a major scaling back of the measures.

If I might add by own alliterative contribution, there are three other concerns: buses, beer and bicycles.

Whichever way the one way system goes, many people, including most of our elderly residents, rely on buses to access the village and its services. They cannot be dropped off half a mile from the doctors surgery, for instance – this needs to be thought through.

Brewery lorries need to access the village (historically Welwyn owes its existence to the coaching inns). In particular a south bound one-way along Mill Lane would mean beer could simply not get to the White Horse, and would make it difficult for other pubs.

Perhaps more personally, any one-way system should make proper provision for cyclists. At the moment I can ride from the church to my house and church school at the other end of the High Street – 200 yards on a village road. Without proper provision this would become nearly a mile along the incredibly busy by pass, three roundabouts, including a ¾ turn at the ‘Clock’ roundabout entrance to the A1M. Hundreds of commuting cyclists use this route, and the risk of a rush hour accident would be very high.

Thank you for reading this. We understand that there are difficult decisions to make, but do be in touch if we can help with on the ground meetings. We are in touch with all the traders and could easily pull a consultation meeting together to help you with your planning.

Yours

David Munchin,

The Rev’d Dr. David Munchin,

Team Rector of Welwyn,

www.welwyn.org.uk

Welwyn High Street – WPAG Protest

Open Letter To Hertfordshire County Council

The Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group has been in regular conversation with Cllr Richard Smith with regard to the current and proposed COVID-19 restrictions in Welwyn village.

It has been our understanding that the current, unsatisfactory, arrangements would be amended as soon as possible. We appreciate that this has had to wait for clarification of central government decisions.

Current Chaos

The truly draconian measures in place are destructive to the community, its lifestyle and its operation.

The High Street traders and shops, as well as residents, are seriously affected by what has been imposed on the village. In order to allow Welwyn to survive at all, the current restrictions need to be reversed and, if another scheme must be introduced, replaced with something as minimally invasive as possible. Residents have coped until now with social distancing and really the only precaution that is necessary is for everyone to wear a face covering when inside a shop and to queue one metre apart where necessary.

The WPAG Position

The Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group fully supports:

We sincerely hope that due account will be given to this matter, urgently.

Yours sincerely,

Sandra Saunders (Kyriakides)

CHAIRMAN, WELWYN PLANNING & AMENITY GROUP

In your hands – the Future for Singlers Marsh

What is the future for Singlers Marsh?

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 Past

1904 Postcard from Singlers Bridge along the Codicote Road

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.

The Drain flooded

The Present

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”.

A Hot Spell June 2020

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.

Welwyn Fun Day 2013 & the Duck Race

The Future

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:

  1. 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.

    OR
  2. 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.

STOP PRESS – Welwyn High Street

THE WELWYN PLANNING & AMENITY GROUP ARE AWARE OF YOUR CONCERNS

OUR SHOPS ARE COMING BACK.  PLEASE SUPPORT THEM – OR WE MAY LOSE THEM, AND THE VIBRANT ECONOMY OF OUR VILLAGE.

WITH REGARD TO THE CHANGES TO THE TRAFFIC FLOW IN THE HIGH STREET, WPAG IS AWARE THAT “ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL” and is concerned at the effect these changes will make on residents and businesses.

WPAG will be closely monitoring the situation.  We will liaise with Herts CC and WPC and try to ensure arising issues are resolved.

Please note that the changes are temporary.  The initial trial is for 21 days from 25th May.  This is, however, likely to be extended, dependent upon government guidelines.

RESIDENTS PLEASE LET US KNOW:

  • What problems you are directly experiencing due to the changes
  • Whether the changes have made you feel safer on the High Street
  • Any modifications that you feel would improve the situation

BUSINESSES – PLEASE LET US KNOW

  • If you are currently operating, has footfall in your business dropped since the changes were implemented?  By approximately how much?
  • If you are due to open, how you feel the changes might affect your business?
  • Any modifications that you feel would improve the situation

Email:

WPAG feels that this temporary scheme can work if there is adequate co-operation, consultation and communication from those running it.

Indeed, the village has coped admirably until now and the few shops that will reopen may not affect the footfall in the village enough to warrant the current amount of disruption.

WHY ARE THESE CHANGES HAPPENING?

In preparation for the reopening of some of our shops and businesses, Central Government has provided funds to local councils to deploy measures that will:

  • Provide space to pedestrians
  • Allow people to use our high streets safely
  • Queue safely outside shops
  • Pass each other at a suitable distance.

Such measures have been actioned throughout the UK where the existing footway width does not allow people to keep 2 metres apart.

The measures now temporarily in place have taken space away from vehicular traffic in order to enable people to keep 2m apart, in line with official guidelines.

Traffic flows are currently lower than historic trends, whilst both pedestrian and cycle usage have increased, many people are continuing to work from home and public transport usage patterns have all changed.  The new measures will be kept under review to check they are operating as intended and, as necessary, adapted to a changing situation.

FOR GENERAL INFORMATION

The following extract is from Public Health England’s statement on the Gov.UK website:

Coronaviruses can be spread when people with the virus have close, sustained contact with people who are not infected. This typically means spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person, such as talking to someone for instance. 

So, passing someone quickly in the street would not appear to pose any risk, whereas chatting in a queue less than 2metres apart would.

NHS advice posted on 26/05/2020 was that masks/face coverings should be worn in shops, crowded areas and on public transport.

We can also take encouragement from the fact that, in terms of risk, the infection rate in the East of England is very low in comparison with other areas. 

Sandra Kyriakides/Saunders

Chairman, Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group

Welwyn’s Heritage Trail

The following report was drafted by Sandra Kyriakides

THE WELWYN HERITAGE TRAIL

Welwyn’s Heritage Trail was established a few years ago by the Welwyn Archaelogical Society with Lottery Funding.  Sadly, the website has not functioned for some time due to a loss of management, and lack of funding.

Through our active involvement with the Welwyn Parish Council’s Community Engagement Committee, WPAG has stepped in to manage this Project, aided by a generous donation of funds from the Welwyn Parish Plan Group. The aim is to restore this valuable guide to Welwyn’s heritage.

As a result, WPAG is currently working with volunteer local IT designers with the purpose of restoring the Welwyn Heritage Trail early in 2019.

The Danesbury Victorian Fernery and grotto

The Van Gogh Bust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The opportunity will be taken to add two more sites to Welwyn’s Heritage Trail, to inform visitors and direct them to their location.

Sandra Kyriakides – Project Manager

Support the Oaklands Campaign for a Playground

THE CAMPAIGN FOR A PLAYGROUND IN OAKLANDS NEEDS SUPPORT FROM LOCAL MUMS

This is a message from the Oaklands Playground Team

Calling mums of youngsters in the Oaklands area.  Vicky Turkentine is looking for support with her campaign to establish a playground in the Oaklands area.  As you know, there is nothing for young ones at present and this is a facility that is very much lacking for local residents.

Please check out her website and help her in any way you can.  She is totally dedicated to this project and has put much time and effort into researching a suitable location.