The Project Manager Reports – Risks of Flooding after Abstraction Ends?

The following Report was prepared by Sandra Kyriakides, WPAG Project Manager and former Welwyn Hatfield Borough Councillor.

As you may know, Affinity Water will cease abstraction from the River Mimram this April and the Fulling Mill Pumping Stations will close.  This came about through pressure to preserve the rare chalk aquifer stream that is the Mimram, together with the fact that the Affinity licenses were due to expire.  It was not in the water company’s interest to reduce or partially abstract water and their need was greatest at a time when most damage by abstraction would be caused to the river, i.e. summertime.

During my time as a Borough Councillor, and since, I have been deeply concerned that WHBC appeared to have no contingency plan for what may happen after the closure, particularly with regard to flood risk.

Because of that, I have continued to liaise closely with the Environment Agency, Affinity Water, Herts County Council and Welwyn Parish Council to raise awareness of the need to do extensive risk assessments before the planned closure date.

I am very pleased to be able to report that the outcome of this has been to find what appears to be a workable and satisfactory solution.

The update received from the Environment Agency about Affinity Water and the Environment Agency’s plans for the abstraction from the chalk aquifer near Welwyn Village confirms that Affinity Water plan to cease abstraction at the start of April 2017.

They have worked together to come up with an interim solution to address flood risk concerns when the abstraction is ceased and have confirmed that they have an agreement in principle to keep the pumping station in operational condition after the abstraction reduction.

In order to maintain operability of the pumping station, a regular small abstraction will be necessary. This regular small abstraction is planned to begin in May 2017. This means that the EA will have the option to instruct Affinity Water to increase pumping if required for flood risk mitigation.

It is important to note that this option won’t remove the risk of flooding, but aims to keep the same level of flood risk as before the change.  In other words, the River may still flood on occasion as it has in the past, but the cessation of abstraction will not cause additional flooding.

The EA promises to continue to improve the accuracy of their flood risk modelling and to investigate alternative options to manage flood risk in the Mimram catchment. This work aims to provide a permanent way of mitigating any potential increase in flood risk, enabling the EA to fulfil the longer term ambition of permanently closing the pumping station.

Residents living near to Singlers Marsh should have no longer have cause to worry as the modelling does appear to have been both thorough and extensive.

Reducing abstraction in April 2017 is one year earlier than originally planned. This is possible because of the excellent work Affinity Water have done to put the required infrastructure in place one year early.

Due to the recent long spell of dry weather, groundwater levels are below normal for the time of year. It is therefore good that the reduction is happening this year to help protect the river if the dry weather continues over the summer.  It can take a while, however, for groundwater levels to recover so we may not see a significant improvement in the short term depending on weather conditions.  Forecasts indicate that it is unlikely that the Mimram will experience sustained high flows this year, and it is far more likely that there will be very low flows.

WPAG – Project Manager

I have recently been appointed Project Manager of the Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group and would like to take this opportunity to explain the function of this role:

As matters arise that are of concern to the area, they will be researched and details will be posted on the WPAG website, together with a summary of queries and/or comments received from residents which relate to specific issues.  I will also post updates giving information on progress, resolutions or the failure thereof.  I would like to encourage residents to write to me at: ku.gr1511032410o.gap1511032410w@reg1511032410anamt1511032410cejor1511032410p1511032410

Current issues on which the WPAG is keeping a very close eye are:

  1. Crime and Anti-social Behaviour
  2. Parking and speeding offences
  3. Singlers Marsh

 

  1. CRIME AND ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOURPetty crime and anti-social behaviour are steadily on the increase and can be witnessed on more or less a daily basis.  Local shops are experiencing frequent shoplifting by minors, there have been many incidences of abusive and unpleasant behaviour, particularly affecting the High Street businesses and houses in that area.  The latest dangerous craze amongst young boys is riding bicycles on one wheel up the middle of the road into oncoming traffic or pedestrians!The police have been made aware of what is going on.  They urge residents to report to 101 each and every incident that takes place, no matter how minorIf it isn’t reported, it didn’t happen!Please note:  On WEDNESDAY 8th MARCH, between 14:00 and 16:00, The Community Safety Partnership will be visiting Welwyn. (High Street Car Park, or in the Civic Centre if weather bad).  Crime advice, OWL signups and much more.  This will be an opportunity to make the police aware of local concerns and it is therefore really important that as many people as possible come to this event.NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH.

    One of the most beneficial aspects of living in Welwyn and surrounding areas has been the low crime rate.  This is mainly due to the very close-knit community spirit that exists and how people look out for their neighbours.  Maintaining this will help to ensure that Welwyn continues to be a safe and delightful place in which to live, and I would ask any residents who have not already done so to sign up to Neighbourhood Watch OWL (Online Watch Link).  This will enable you to receive online messages from the police about incidents throughout the Borough, as well as putting you in touch with local co-ordinators for your immediate area.  Feel free to contact me for more information.

  2. PARKING AND SPEEDING OFFENCES

    Illegal and inconsiderate parking is an ongoing problem, particularly during rush hour periods and school runs.  Vehicles are frequently parked on double yellow lines, on corners, on the pedestrian crossing and zigzags.  All of these offences create traffic jams and dangerous situations.  The perpetrators are breaking the law.  The Police and the Borough Council are equally responsible for enforcement but, due to staff and finance cuts, neither organisation is able to efficiently control the situation on a regular basis.Speeding and driving carelessly through the village are also a matter of concern.  Suggestions of a 20mph speed limit on some roads and slow down “smiley face” signs have been suggested by some residents as a possible solution.
  3. SINGLERS MARSH      

In April 2017, Affinity Water are scheduled to cease abstraction from the Fulling Mill Pumping Station on Singlers Marsh.  Through liaison with Affinity Water and the Environment Agency, I am able to provide residents with the following information:

EA asked their modellers to test the proposed changes in the Singlers Marsh area.  These were carried out on an early version of the model therefore the results are precautionary and will be improved with further modelling work.  A precautionary approach was also taken with how the interaction between the river and the groundwater was modelled, meaning that the EA approach will overstate the impact.  With flood modelling, they think it is always better to over-estimate rather than under-estimate and, with this precautionary approach to modelling, the EA predict that the River Mimram could see a small rise following the sustainability reduction.

The EA’s technical experts have reviewed the initial model results and, at this stage, believe that a negligible increase in flood risk is the most likely outcome but cannot prove or rule out a small effect on flood risk.

The EA are liaising with Affinity Water to provide an interim operating agreement that would mitigate the possible change in risk and are currently making very positive progress towards this.

The WPAG are keeping a close watch on developments; are in regular communication with Welwyn Parish Council and will keep residents notified of any significant information as it becomes available.

 

The Clock Roundabout and the A1(M) experiment – gridlock

The Danesbury Residents Association (DRA) continues to take the lead in trying to bring the authorities’ attention to the shambles they have created on the Clock roundabout. The DRA has been demanding action since August 2015.

The Welwyn Hatfeld Times, almost one year ago, quoted County Councillor Richard Smith and reported that the traffic light control that the DRA had called for, was at long last going to be installed.

But nothing happened, and following surveys of traffic flow and possible ANPR sites in the summer of 2016, (see The Clock Traffic Light Survey of July 2016) the DRA has been told that even more survey work would be needed before the scheme could proceed.

What scheme?

A recent exchange of emails between the DRA and County Councillor Richard Smith has revealed that, following the appointment of a new Development Manager by Hertfordshire County Council, the plan now is to upgrade the A1(M) between Junction 6 (Welwyn) and Junction 8 (Hitchin) to “Smart Motorway” status and to widen the carriageway from 2 to 3 lanes by using the hard shoulder.

Worse – the design phase of the scheme to upgrade the A1(M) is said to be ‘on schedule’, but work on the ground will not begin until 2019/20 for completion in 2021/22.

Has that news got anything to do with easing local Welwyn traffic problems with an interim measure to install a single ‘temporary’ traffic light?

Hardly.

It would therefore appear that Highways England’s highest priority is to keep the traffic flowing on the motorway and they are not in the least concerned about Welwyn village.

With no prospect of traffic light control at the roundabout, the DRA has decided to ask for  hatched ‘keep clear’ areas to be painted on the roundabout between the north end of the Welwyn bypass and the entry to the northbound A1(M) slip road. That should be a quick and relatively cheap project that should not distract the A1(M) planners too much from higher matters? If at least some drivers respect the hatched area, as some indeed do, then perhaps this will help to avoid the grid-lock which is occurring too frequently at both ends of the working day.

The DRA is pressing hard for a meeting of Senior Officers from both the Borough Council and the County Council, to meet DRA representatives at the roundabout during typical morning and evening rush hour periods to assess the problems at first hand.

But what should be done with drivers who exit the roundabout without signalling, and in so doing deny other car users the opportunity to make use of the gap that should have been created?

 

 

Sherrardspark Wood Warden Society – 50th Anniversary Year 2016

Who we are.

Sherrardspark Wood sits within the green belt that separates Welwyn Garden City and Welwyn village, to the West.

Sherrardspark Wood Wardens’ Society is an independent voluntary group helping to care for the woods in accordance with the management plan of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC), which has been agreed with Natural England and the Forestry Commission with a view to keeping this Site of Special Scientific Interest in favourable condition.

Volunteer Work Parties – Home and Away

Work parties take place on both Thursday and SSPWWW Group Six Ways Dec 2010 web_1unday and more than 20 members regularly attend. The Society puts much time and effort into the work it undertakes not only in Sherrardspark Wood but also when helping volunteers at other sites in the district.

A group of Wood Wardens regulary attends the work parties organised on the third Thursday each month by the Friends of Danesbury Local Nature Reserve in Welwyn, where they are currently much involved in the work on the Danesbury Park Fernery Restoration Project. The Wood Wardens also provide regular support to the Friends of Mardley Heath who meet on the third Sunday every month..

Celebrations

The year 2006 saw the Wood Wardens 40th year anniversary. This was celebrated with an excellent picnic in Sherrardspark Wood and a Wood Wardens’ commemorative bench was erected at Six Ways, a meeting of 6 paths within the wood.

The wood wardens enjoy the social camaraderie that has been generated within its membership, and in 2011 a Wood Wardens’ Walking Group was formed which offers a monthly walk rounded off by a pub lunch.

2016 will be the Wood Wardens 50th anniversary and a busy Programme has been arranged.

Calendar of Events

The 2016 Programme can be found on the WPAG Events Calendar. But for full details of the Wood Wardens Society and all their many activities, go to the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens website.

 

The Clock Roundabout – Traffic Light Survey

The Danesbury Residents Association (DRA) has been at the forefront trying to resolve concerns about traffic congestion issues, and specifically grid-locking which was predicted would, and has arisen, as a result of two main events:

  1. The A1(M) EXIT 6 (N) slip road changes which encouraqes traffic to make a rat-run from the A1(M) Exit slip road, along the Welwyn  By-pass and back on to the 20160222_160825Motorway at the A1(M) entry slip by the Clock,
  2. The opening of the new Clock Gardens development of 50 apartments with the potential for residents’ cars to access and egress directly onto the roundabout at rush hour in the morning and evenings

The DRA have been actively pressing for a single traffic light to be installed on the south side of the roundabout, to break up the traffic flow, which would discourage the A1(M) rat-runners and allow local traffic access to the roundabout from all directions. (For the background story – see The Clock – the seconds are ticking away)

In their quest for ‘ANSWERS’ and ”ACTION’ County Councillor Richard Smith has been actively supporting the DRA. But, until recently, the DRA has been advised that there was no way that Highways England would consider placing traffic lights at the Clock. But, it seems that things might be changing!

Recently we have noticed that County Highways have been installing temporary ANPR cameras at various points on the A1(M) Exit 6 entry and exit points, and also attached to posts on all sides of the Clock Roundabout. The use of ANPR cameras enables a subsequent analysis to match rat-running vehicles as they enter and leave the system – and thereby produce the evidence we all seek.

So, what is actually happening?

County Councillor Richard Smith has come to our rescue once again, and he extracted the following note from somebody who, by the length of his Job Title, must surely know what is going on – and judging by his response to  Richard Smith – he does!

The following extract is from a helpful email dated 6th July 2016 from County Highways Group Manager Sanjay Patel. to County Cllr. Richard Smith, and relates to ‘a Survey being carried out ‘next week’... Unfortunately we have been unable to include the ‘attached plan‘ referred to, but the explanations are nevertheless very helpful.

Re: Traffic lights/ANPR Camera Survey by J6 A1

The attached plan indicates the locations of the where the surveys will be carried out and this will provide the following information that we will use for the signals design:

*       2 day Manual classified turning counts at all 3 junctions (the Clock, A1m SB off slip / A100 junction and the A1m NB off slip / B197 junction) as shown in yellow on the attached plan.
*       2 day Queue lengths at all 3 junctions
*       2 day ANPR surveys at the locations shown as open red circles on the attached plan
*       7 day ATC or video based MCC counts at the ANPR locations.

Sanjay Patel
Group Manager – Highways Operations & Strategies Intelligent Transport Systems & Development Management & Standards
Hertfordshire County Council

 

We have all seen the orange boxes and the temporary cameras and other equipment at all sides of the roundabout, and observant residents have noticed that a visual survey of traffic entering and leaving Clock Gardens and the roundabout, has indeed started. So we know that, at last, somebody has listened to us all, and at last it appears that something is happening.

But, don’t hold your breath, this is only a Survey. As soon as we hear of further actions, we will try to keep you informed.

 

The Answer Lies in the Soil – Geology Expert comes to Welwyn

Welwyn Natural History Society and the Hertfordshire Natural History Society

Joint Annual Invited Lecture

Dr Haydon Bailey will be speaking at this year’s Annual Invited Lecture at the Civic Centre on Wednesday 25th November at 8 p.m in place of Professor John Catt, who is unfortunately unwell.

The original talk subject ‘Aspects of Hertfordshire Geology & Landscape‘, has now been sub-titled ‘Living in Hertfordshire – for the last 100 million years‘.

Dr Bailey is founder and director of Network Stratigraphic Consulting Ltd, in Potters Bar, and is a micropalaentologist specialising in the cretaceous period, and chalk field studies for the oil and related industries in the UK, Europe, and North Africa.

Dr Bailey co-authored ‘Hertfordshire Geology and landscape’ with Professor John Catt, which was published in 2010 to national acclaim. He contributed the chapters on ‘The Upper Cretaceous period’ and ‘Mineral Resources and Building Stones’.

This book is intended to explain the geology of the county to natural historians and others working in the county, who have little knowledge of geology. In the book, Prof. John Catt describes Hertfordshire, ‘in many respects an undistinguished county’, but one that has amazingly interesting geology.

For more information about the Invited Talk go to the Hertfordshire Natural History website .

The Dr Haydon Bailey talk will be held in the Civic Centre Large Hall at 8 p.m. on Wednesday 25th November.

Everyone welcome – entrance £3 – pay at the door, includes a glass of wine or soft drink.

The Clock – the seconds are ticking away.

(For the background to the following critique, see the earlier post A1(M) Improvement).

Those who live in and around Welwyn, and those who regularly pass through Welwyn via the Welwyn By-pass or the B656 Link Road, await anxiously for the builders dust to settle; for the landscaping to finish;2015-09-06 13.07.44-1 and then nervously for the Clock to strike ‘Won’.

But who will be the winners?

We are glad that the eye-sore of the burned-out, derelict, former Hotel site has been cleared, and we are glad that more housing will be made available, and we will welcome the new residents into the Welwyn Community.

But we do not have to be glad about the existing rush-hour traffic chaos on the Clock Roundabout, that can only get worse, nor should we be glad that local residents will feel the effect of over-flow car parking that will inevitably follow once the new flats are completed and occupied.

Borough Councillors have expressed their concerns, and there have been suggestions, including creation of a box to prevent grid-locking on the roundabout, and at the entrance to The Clock too. But we have no news of progress on that front.

And the Danesbury Residents Association’s proposal to place a single traffic-light control on the southern entry to the roundabout as a simple, and relatively cheap solution to reduce the build-up of long queues on both the B656 and the B197, received discouraging sounds from County Highways. “We don’t plan to do that sort of thing”…

Perhaps we are jumping the gun?

Perhaps The Clock will stop?

Unlikely, to say the least.

CPRE – ‘Our Green Belt’ Campaign

WPAG are subscribers to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). You can go to their Hertfordshire branch website for local news and information, or otherwise go to the National website. But since the summer issue of the national ‘Fieldwork Newsletter‘ was published, details of a new CPRE ‘Our Green Belt’ campaign have just been launched.

CPRE are marking the 60th Anniversary of the launch of official government Green Belt policy to protect the countryside by preventing urban sprawl. While CPRE’s recent poll showed there is still widespread public support for the Green Belt, it also highlighted that more needs to be done to continue to spread the word about its benefits.

The CPRE therefore wrote a letter to The Times recently, supported by famous luminaries, which called on the Government to strengthen the protection of the Green Belt, and to highlight its importance.

The CPRE has also launched the ‘Our Green Belt’ campaign, and is calling on the public to share Green Belt stories and case studies with the CPRE.

If you support the CPRE as a tool for good planning and share your support for the Green Belt, you are asked to go to the appropriate place on their website to submit your story.

 

Panshanger Park – Newsletter No.5 August 2015

The latest Newsletter from the Friends of Panshanger Park is now freely available online to members and friends. To subscribe, go to the Panshanger Park website.

The latest Newsletter details the many activities that can be enjoyed, including:

  • Heritage Walks – last Sunday each month
  • Panshanger Park Runs –  between 250-300 runners regularly
  • Work Parties – see the website for details
  • Photography Competitiion – entries needed by 30th September 2015

The Newsletter also details current Planning Applications which are causing concern to The Friends.

If you want to learn about the background to the creation of this fine Country Park, right on our doorstep, then the Panshanger Park website provides masses of information about the history of the S52 Legal Agreement to deliver a Country Park at Panshanger for the people of Hertfordshire, which dates back to May 1980, when following a Public Inquiry, the Secretary of State for Environment granted planning permission for mineral extraction at Panshanger Park, in return for the delivery of a Country Park across the 1000 acre estate.

The A1(M) Junction 6 – Improvement or otherwise?

The Improvement.

Late in 2014 the Highways Agency (now called Highways England) announced that as part of its ‘Pinch Point Programme’, it would be ‘improving’ the northbound carriageway and slip roads at Junction 6 in order to ‘improve’ traffic flow between Junctions 6 and 7. This stretch of motorway carries 39,000 vehicles per day, and the ‘pinch’ is caused where the road going North at Junction 6 reduces from three lanes to two.

The Improvement work was completed in two phases at a cost of around £2.2million. and overhead gantries have now been installed. The Motorway layout has indeed been ‘changed’:-

a) to provide a ‘lane drop’ at Junction 6, leaving just two running lanes continuing to Junction 7, and

b) to lengthen and ‘amend’ the layout of the Junction 6 ‘on-slip’ at The Clock, with the purpose of reducing the traffic feed entering the A1(M) to a single lane, so as to ease the merging of traffic on the main carriageway further along.

The Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) view.

The Spring/Summer 2015 Edition of the WHBC Newsletter ‘On The Move’, (which regularly documents progress on projects/actions), reported that ‘Early indications are that the scheme has not lived up to expectations. Queues are longer, and anecdotally there appears to be more rat-running along the A1000.  Highways England is currently evaluating the situation and considering further measures to improve performance of this congested junction’. 

The Welwyn village view.

As reported above, evidence is mounting that the changes to the Motorway have made what was a serious local traffic issue, infinitely worse:-

a) the lane-drop has provided north-bound rat-running traffic with a one mile clearway to Junction 6, and

b)  the narrower ‘on-slip’ road at The Clock, regardless of its new length, causes rat-running traffic to back up to the already congested Clock roundabout, regularly causing a gridlock at rush hour.

The Danesbury Residents Association (DRA) solution.

The DRA has been voluble over many months, and active in raising concerns to local Borough Councillors, and to local resident County Cllr. Richard Smith.

The DRA Chairman Peter Branchflower, has put forward a remedial short-term solution. The suggestion is to install a single traffic light control at the southern entry point to the Clock Roundabout. This would regulate (i.e. halt/discourage) Motorway rat-running traffic, with the important side benefit of making it easier, and safer for local traffic to enter the roundabout at all times from the B656 Link Road (Codicote Road), and the B197 Great North Road (Oaklands/Woolmer Green/Knebworth).

The DRA suggestion has the active support of County Councillor Richard Smith, and the support of the local Borough Councillors too. County Cllr. Richard Smith raised concerns on 28th June with the County Executive Member for Highways and warned of worsening problems as The Clock development nears completion and current congestion problems worsen. (The Clock will soon open its 50 doors to new residents, with a projected 50-100 extra car movements directly onto the Roundabout).

The Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium. (HACC).

One of the local Borough Councillors, Cllr Mandy Perkins, sits on the Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium. (To learn of the purpose and membership structure of HACC please go to the Hertfordshire A1 Consortium.)

One of the HACC’s aims (apart from the Junctions 6 – 7 Improvement Scheme itself) is to deliver a strategy for the A1 corridor which will be available late Autumn 2015. It will be a fairly high-level document that will highlight problem areas and suggest interventions at junctions along the A1 and the adjacent local road network.

But this is clearly long term planning that will not help anybody in the short term, and in the short term, things do not look good.

Nevertheless, through the HACC there is an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on Highways England (HE) to bring about further works to improve the operation of their scheme. And indeed, at the 6th July 2015 meeting, local Consortium representatives vigorously urged Highways England to re-think on the current local rush-hour problems caused at The Clock Roundabout.

Where do we go from here?

On 7th August 2015, the DRA were advised by County Highways, (Andrew Morris – Highways Major Project Group) that ‘signalising the Clock Roundabout is not a proposal being considered in detail as part of the A1 Strategy. Even if the Strategy were to recommend this type of scheme, there would still be a need for further analysis, design development and funding obtained. To my knowledge HCC does not have any current proposals for signalising that junction’.

And then on 26th August 2015, County Cllr. Richard Smith again discussed these matters  with the County Executive Member for Highways and pressed for short term measures to reduce the daily congestion.

For the moment, we must remain hopeful that somebody in authority has the capacity to apply ‘The Churchill Factor’ and “Action This Day”.