What is – a listed building?

Why are buildings listed?

The Secretary of State for the Environment is required to compile lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest for the guidance of local planning authorities. Conservation policies are often based on the lists.

How are the buildings chosen?

Principles were originally set up by an expert committee of architects, antiquaries and historians.

Buildings that qualify are:

  • all buildings before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition
  • most buildings between 1700 and 1840, though selection is necessary
  • between 1840 and 1914 only buildings of definite quality and character .

The selection is intended to include the principal works of the principal architects. Selected buildings of 1914 to 1939 are also considered.

In choosing buildings, particular attention is paid to special value within certain types, either for architectural or planning reasons or as illustrating social and economic history (for instance, industrial buildings, railway stations, schools, hospitals, theatres, townhalls, markets, exchanges, almshouses, prisons, lock-ups, mills).

How are they graded?

A  survey is carried out for each local authority area, and buildings are classified in grades to show their relative importance.

Grade I  Buidings of exceptional interest

Grade II  Buildings of special interest which warrant every effort being made to preserve them.

How do Welwyn’s listed buidings rate?

The buildings in the Welwyn schedule are all of special architectural or historic interest,



What is – the Government Housing & Planning Bill 2015-2016 ?

The Housing & Planning Bill 2015-2016 is currently before Parliament and is at the final stage. To read about the Bill in more detail go to:


The Impact Assessment (from which the following is extracted) relates to clauses within the Bill and poses two questions:

  • What is the problem under consideration?
  • Why is government intervention necessary?

Explanatory Notes are provided as follows:

In the year to June 2015, 131,000 new homes were completed. Although housing starts are at their highest annual level since 2007, and there are now almost 800,000 more homes in England than there were in 2009, we are still not fully meeting the demands of over 200,000 households formed every year.

In addition, not enough people who want to own their own home have the opportunity to do so.

The rate of homeownership in England has been falling since its peak in 2003, despite the aspiration for home ownership remaining strong. Although over 230,000 households have been helped by government-backed schemes to buy a home since spring 2010, younger households, in particular, are now less likely to own their own home than a decade ago.

The public need to have confidence that housing policy in our country is fair and fit for the future. Social housing needs to work as efficiently as it can. Private tenants need additional reassurance that rogue landlords will be driven out of business. Further government intervention is required to ensure this happens.

(The Impact Assessment proceeds to pose questions about the policy objectives and the intended effects, i.e. getting the nation building homes faster, helping more people buy their own home, ensuring the way housing is managed is fair and fit for the purpose).

What is – a Rural Exception Site?

(The following is extracted from the NPPF Annex. 2 Glossary)

Rural exception sites: Small sites used for affordable housing in perpetuity where
sites would not normally be used for housing. Rural exception sites seek to address
the needs of the local community by accommodating households who are either
current residents or have an existing family or employment connection. Small
numbers of market homes may be allowed at the local authority’s discretion, for
example where essential to enable the delivery of affordable units without grant



What is – the Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium?

A body exists called the Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium, (HACC)

The HACC is a group  of councillors and council officers from Hertfordshire County Council and local authorities along the A1 in Hertfordshire. The Consortium also has representation from the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Highways England (formerly Highways Agency).

The Consortium was originally formed to lobby Government for investment in the A1 and they do claim some success. They played a part in the Government’s announcement of the A1(M) Junctions 6 – 8  ‘Smart Motorway Project’. This is planned to be built sometime around 2019/20 and will see the hard shoulders used as an extra lane between Junctions 6 and 8. Basically it will mean the current two-lane section will become three lanes in each direction, with laybys created for broken down vehicles.

One of the HACC’s aims (apart from the Junctions 6 – 7 Improvement Scheme which is already completed) is to deliver a strategy for the A1 corridor. The Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), working with Consultants Aecom, have been developing a Strategy, gathering data from the emerging Local PLans and other sources of development data, all of which is being fed into the Welwyn/Hatfield and Stevenage/Hitchin traffic model.

This A1 Strategy is due to 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.

What is – a Local Plan?

What is – a Local Plan?

A Local Plan sets out a vision for the future of a local planning authority, in our case the Borough of Welwyn Hatfield.

It contains strategic policies, growth targets, site allocations and the policies which will guide planning applications.

The Local Plan will decide where and when development should take place.

What period does the Local Plan last?

The Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan will replace the District Plan of 2005 and will cover the period 2011-2031. (The delayed start is due to the inherent delay caused through change in National Government in 2011).

The new Local Plan is thus a 20 year Plan.

What would happen if there is no Local Plan?

A Local Plan is needed in order to comply with Government policy, and is justified by the evidence.

If the borough lacks an up-to-date Local Plan, it could lead to the costly process of ‘planning by appeal’, which would provide far less scope to achieve high quality development.


What is – Green Belt Land?

What is – Green Belt Land?

In United Kingdom town planning, the green belt is a policy for controlling urban growth.

The idea is for a ring of countryside where urbanisation will be resisted for the foreseeable future, maintaining an area where agriculture, forestry and outdoor leisure can be expected to prevail. The fundamental aim of green belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open, and consequently the most important attribute of green belts is their openness.

England has 14 Green Belts covering over a tenth (13%) of the land, providing a breath of fresh air for 45 million people. Altogether, 88% of the population (including those in the Borough of Welwyn Hatfield) live in urban areas within Green Belt boundaries. (Source: CPRE)

Can you build on Green Belt Land?

Areas that are designated as green belt must not be built upon because green belt is defined as an open space.

However, that does not mean that no buildings can be erected in green belt. Buildings for agricultural uses and sanitation facilities, for instance, are usually allowed. And, in some cases, it is also possible to change the use of land in green belt, and even gain permission for structures that are officially not allowed in green belt.

But such cases are very rare.

So – can Green Belt boundaries actually be changed?

While the government says that green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances it does now affirm that creation of the Local Plan is one of those ‘exceptional’ circumstances, and one that will of course be inspected when the plan is submitted. N.B. Welwyn Hatfield is in the process of doing just that – creating a new Local Plan.

The Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan – cause for Green Belt change?

The Borough of Welwyn Hatfield has just put out its new Local Plan Consultation Document for Public Consultation, a process which ends on 19th March 2015.

In recent times, and prior to publication of the Local Plan Consultation Document, WHBC undertook two green belt reviews: the first in 2013 looked more widely at this part of Hertfordshire including outside Borough boundaries, but the second in 2014 was specific to Welwyn Hatfield.

As part of this latter process, the following two activities took place:

  1. A process was initiated called Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments (SHLAA’s) whereby (known) local landowners were invited to propose sites for potential housing development. This was to have been concluded by the end of April 2014.
  2. By the end of 2014, WHBC Officers then analysed the landowners’  proposed sites against criteria which, among other issues, included the proximity of existing green belt boundaries.

A common, non-green belt, argument for failing this critical analysis was that proposed sites were not contiguous with an (existing) urban (including village) boundary, which is one of the rules which guards against ribbon development, and coalescence between settlements/villages/towns.

But there are now, nevertheless, instances where the WHBC is actually proposing to change current Green Belt boundaries, and that includes sites in and around the settlements of Welwyn Village, Digswell, and Oaklands & Mardley Heath. The borough estimates that the building of all the houses in the new Local Plan will reduce the green belt to 76% of the area within its boundaries.

One safeguard is that new boundaries have to be definable, where possible, by physical things roads, railway, rivers, woodland etc, and not just by drawing a line across a field.




What is – a Brownfield Site?

Land that has been previously developed is known as Brownfield land.

The number of brownfield sites in the UK changes as land is constantly reclaimed or abandoned.

Brownfield land was increasing until the 1980s when the need for development land outstripped supply.

Land reclamation has brought the amount down with the strong demand for development land.

There are five identifiers used to define brownfield land:

  1. Previously developed land which is now vacant
  2. Vacant buildings
  3. Derelict land and buildings
  4. Other previously developed land or buildings, currently in use, allocated for development in the adopted plan or having planning permission for housing
  5. Other previously developed land or buildings where it is known there is potential for redevelopment.

What is NOT –  Brownfield land?

Buildings and surrounding land that are currently in use for agricultural or forestry purposes are excluded from the definition set out above.

Land in built-up areas that has not been developed previously (e.g. parks, recreation grounds, and allotments) are also not classed as brownfield.

Previously developed land with the remains of any structure, for example an old barn, that has now blended into the landscape to the extent that it can be considered as part of the natural surroundings may also be excluded.

What else should we know?

A brownfield site may, in addition to the above classifications, be vacant, derelict or contaminated land.

Common brownfield land might include redundant industrial sites and railways.

Are Brownfield Sites good for us?

Common beneficial uses of reclaimed brownfield land include – the creation of open spaces for public use, woodlands and residential housing development.


(The above definitions are selected for their clarity from the website – Selling and Buying Land for Sale UK –  www.lawsonfairbank.co.uk  – with minor style editing).


What is – a Parish Plan?

What is a Parish Plan?

A Parish Plan is a community led plan that sets out a VISION of how the community wants to develop, and identifies the ACTION needed to achieve it.

A Parish Plan is produced by the community, and for the community. It is based on a detailed consultation involving the whole community. Based on the views and opinions of the people who actually live there, it sets out the needs and aspirations of the Parish

The Parish Plan identifies what actions the community would like to be taken, who should take each action forward, and what time scale should be set for each one.

A Parish Plan is a statement of how a local community sees itself developing in the future.

Who Creates and Manages a Parish Plan?

A Parish Council launches the Parish Plan process and supports the establishment of a Parish Plan Steering Group, formed of leading volunteer members of the community, who manage the process from then onwards.

The Parish Plan Steering Group may or may not include Parish Councillors, but it operates independently of the Parish Council.

The Steering Group organises and conducts public meetings, raises questionnaires within the community and analyses the responses. The Steering Group consults outside bodies as appropriate before drawing up a draft Parish Plan which the Parish Council formally agrees. The Steering Group then elects a Management Committee or Parish Plan Action Group to drive things forward from that point.

How long does a Parish Plan Last?

As and when actions are completed the Parish Plan will be updated .

The Parish Plan Action Group will continually seek to respond to the community’s needs and aspirations as they develop, and in this way the Parish Plan becomes a living document. Continue reading

What is/are – Permitted Development Rights?

Permitted Development Rights

The Government’s Planning Portal guide details the certain types of minor changes that can be made to your house without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called Permitted Development Rights.  They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings.

In some areas of the country, known generally as ‘designated areas’, permitted development rights are more restricted. If you live in a Conservation Area, a National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads, you will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which do not need an application in other areas.

There are also different requirements if the property is a listed building.

To learn more about the detail of what is, or is not, click here, Permitted Development Rights, or go to the Government Planning Portal on the Links page for information on a wide range of planning related subjects.