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”.

Walking the dog in and around Welwyn

Dog owners are very lucky to be living in this area, as there are so many different places where you can take your beloved pet for a walk. We all know how dog walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. So lets take a look at some of the best amenity places around Welwyn where you can walk your dog, or dogs, and get the most out of this exercise.

Mardley Heath

Located in the Oaklands area, Mardley Heath is a Local Nature Reserve with some very interesting walks, some in wooded areas and some open space areas where your dog can run around free. Mardley Heath is owned by the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and is managed by the council and Friends of Mardley Heath. There is a car park on Heath Road, which serves Mardley Heath very well. Mardley Heath can be accessed in numerous places including Hangmans Lane, Heath Road, Canonsfield Road, Dolesbury Drive, and others.

Danesbury Park

This is a beautiful 24.5 hectare public park and Local Nature Reserve, also owned and managed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The site was formerly the park of Danesbury House, and it still has some large mature trees which are important to wildlife. On occasions the park hosts Long Horn Cattle so take note of the notices that are posted on the entrances to the park which will provide information about the cattle and their occupancy of the park. When the cattle are present in the park, make sure your pets are kept under control. There is access from a number of roads including Codicote Road, North Ride and Danesbury Park Road.

Singlers Marsh

On the other side of Codicote Road from Danesbury Park is Singlers Marsh, a 6.3 hectare Local Nature Reserve owned and managed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The site is bordered by the River Mimram. It has grassland, which is sometimes managed by cattle grazing and cutting, and areas of willow scrub with some more mature trees. As with Danesbury Park, be careful with your pets when the cattle are grazing and make sure they are under control. Singlers Marsh provides a habitat for a wide range of insects and birds. There is access by a kissing gate at the corner of Codicote Road and Fulling Mill Lane.

Harmergreen Wood

This is a 44-acre ancient woodland site which is ideal for dog-walking. It is a ‘back to basics’ woodland which is very appealing to those who like to witness nature in its natural form. The woods are located within walking distance of Welwyn North train station and can be accessed from Robbery Bottom Lane, Turpins Rise, and Harmergreen Lane.

All the sites mentioned that are owned and managed by the council, dog waste bins have been provided and are used by all responsible dog owners. This helps to ensure our community areas are kept clean.

These are just some of the best places in our beautiful area for dog-walking. So it would be nice to make the most of them and enjoy keeping healthy.

Sherrardspark Wood – Summer Activities

The Sherrardspark Wood Wardens Society organise a number of interesting walks which are detailed in their website.

The following walks are being organised over the next few months:

  • Saturday 8th August 2015 “Do you know your woodland trees?”
  • Saturday 22nd August 2015 “Bat Watching at Stanborough Lakes”
  • Saturday 19th September 2015 “Fungal Foray”

Please note that some of these walks allow only limited numbers and it is important to go to the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens website to get full details and, where needed, pre-book.

The Panshanger Oak seen again

Lafarge Tarmac has opened up an Oak Trail which will allow people to see the magnificent Panshanger Oak once again. The Oak Trail starts close to Riverside Cottage in the heart of the park, and allows the public to walk close to The Broadwater, which is a lake fed by River Mimram and designed by Humphry Repton 200 years ago. On the Broadwater is a 19th century waterwheel.

Access to the Oak Trail is by foot from the Thieves Lane car park

On top of the hill are the remains of the Orangery and Conservatory, as well as the site of the former Panshanger House, demolished in 1953. From the site of the old house there is an impressive view across the valley towards Cole Green.

For more details of the impressive work of the Friends of Panshanger Park, and to see  how you might help, go to the Friends of Panshanger Park.

 

Panshanger Park – Heritage Walks 2015

The Friends of Panshanger Park hold monthly accompanied Walks led by members of the Friends, who will talk about the features of the delightful Humphry Repton landscape and the history of the site, and point out all the many wildlife features.

Walks start at 2 p.m. from Thieves Lane Car Park on the following dates:

Saturday 28th March

Sunday 26th April

Sunday 31st May

Sunday 28th June

If you would like to join one of their Walks, you are asked to let the Friends know in advance by email to:

For more information about the varied activities go to the Friends of Panshanger Park website.

 

Panshanger Park – a Country Park right on our doorstep

The Friends of Panshanger Park (the FPP) was formed to ensure that Panshanger Park is restored to its original, historically significant, landscape once the owners (Lafarge Tarmac) have finished their gravel extraction. Privately owned by Lafarge Tarmac, the 1000 acre Panshanger Park estate has been extensively mined for minerals for over 30 years.

Since being formed, the WPAG has been represented on the FPP Committee by WPAG Committee Member Don Street. Don has been working tirelessly with the FPP team, determined to enable open public access to this wonderful Country Park, which is right on our doorstep.

Lets be honest. Most of us have yet to visit Panshanger Country Park.

It is therefore recommended that initially you visit the Friends of Panshanger Park website:

  • to gain an appreciation of just how protracted, difficult, and stressful this undertaking has been for the FPP,
  • to learn just how much success the Friends have already achieved
  • to learn where the public now have access, and
  • to make a date in your diary and visit.

You will be certain to be impressed by what you find. The Friends of Panshanger Park deserve all the support and encouragement that we can give them.

 

Pick up Litter – Sunday 8th March

The Welwyn Village Pick Up  Group will be picking up litter on Sunday March 8th.

Please come along and help us keep Welwyn clear of litter.

Meet at the Car Park in Welwyn Village High Street, opposite the Doctors’ Surgery at 11.am.

Bags and litter picking tools will be available.

 

 

 

 

Meet at 11am in the car park

New Barnfield – a belated update

We reported in February 2013 that the Secretary of State had called in Veolia’s Planning Application to build an incinerator at New Barnfield and that a Public Enquiry was to be held.

For the record, and because this website was off-air at the time, we now report that following the Public Enquiry the planning permission, previously granted, was overturned in July 2014 by the Planning Inspector acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles.

So it’s over. There will be no waste incinerator in Hatfield.

Luton Airport – a news update

In Welwyn, have you recently been irritated or disturbed by the noise of an aircraft taking off or landing at Luton Airport?

If you have, then you are certain to be interested in, and supportive of, the work being undertaken by a group of volunteers nearby who operate under the banner LADACAN which stands for Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise.

LADACAN has a very good website which will keep you up-to-date with all their latest activities and actions. Click on LADACAN now, or go to our Links Page when you have more time.

Their website presents an easy to read summary of:

What is currently happening?
Luton Airport has just completed a consultation on the introduction of a new technology called RNAV to control aircraft navigation. It is intended to keep aircraft more closely on the designated routes, though the initial trials in spring of 2013 showed that there were problems with accuracy. The results of the consultation will be announced shortly – for more details click here >>

The Noise Action Plan for Luton Airport is currently being reviewed and updated, and LADACAN is involved in the consultation. The plan – often dubbed a Noise Inaction Plan – is woefully short of real actions designed to drive down noise, and we are seeking to influence the airport operators LLAOL to give it more teeth. For more on this story and to see the LADACAN response, click here >>

The Planning Conditions which emerged as a result of the recently granted expansion planning application represent a new approach to trying to control noise, using a Quota Count system. People feel that while quota counts may incentivise the use of slightly quieter aircraft, they permit many more flights – and it is planes going overhead which annoy them. For more on this story and to see the LADACAN input, click here >>