The Project Manager Reports – Local Plans should be Appropriate

The following was written by Sandra Kyriakides and published in the Welwyn Hatfield Times on August 9th 2017 p.22 under the headline ‘How many houses needed after Brexit?’

Sir,

I was deeply concerned to learn that the Planning Inspector has claimed that WHBC’s Local Plan “falls far short of meeting the identified housing need”.  I am the first to criticise the Borough Council for many things that it does but the plan it has submitted is already way in excess of what the Borough’s residents feel the area can sustain.

Central Government seems to have no awareness of the fact, or chooses to ignore, that we in Welwyn Hatfield have major traffic problems, inadequate medical provision, not enough schools and definitely not enough infrastructure to cope with the 12,000 homes that WHBC has put into the plan – let alone one or two thousand more.  Is the Inspector totally oblivious of the fact that there is only one proper hospital, which constantly works to capacity?  There are no provisions for another one.

Where are all the people in these homes going to work and how are they going to commute?  We have appalling links to London; the A1(M) is blocked with accidents on a daily basis; the M25 is one of the world’s slowest ring roads; the only bus to London (797) was stopped two years ago and other bus services have been drastically reduced.  As for the trains: mostly unreliable and pretty appalling and Govia’s plans for the future do not make encouraging reading.  Parking anywhere is more and more difficult – especially at train stations, not to mention the exorbitant cost.

So what does the Inspectorate want to achieve?  Cram more and more homes into the area regardless of the fact that the facilities are just not there to support them?

The “elephant in the room” that no-one mentions is Brexit!  How can anyone accurately “assess” future housing requirements when no-one knows how Brexit will affect this?  The OANs (objectively assessed needs) were calculated before the Brexit vote!  There will certainly be a slow-down in residents coming from Europe, and many currently here may decide to return home or relocate due to changes in workplace.

Central Government should take stock of the situation and see how it develops.  It should build new towns with good transport links to major cities and stop forcing local councils to ruin beautiful areas by cramming housing into every nook and cranny regardless of consequences.

Sandra Kyriakides

Project Manager, Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group

Former WHBC Councillor (Independent) for Welwyn West

Dr John Reay 1932 – 2017

It is with great sadness that we record the death of our colleague John Reay, a member of the Committee continuously from 1978 – 2017.

Over those years John held many positions, and early Minute Books record the many positions he held:

1975 – 1984 auditor

1978 – 1982 Treasurer

1982 – 1984 Chairman

1993 – 2002 Chairman

2001 – 2010 Secretary

During his terms of Office as Chairman, with his trade-mark extensive knowledge, wide experience and sound judgement, John undoubtedly helped to shape the community that we all enjoy today. He always led from the front with tenacity and energy.

A notable example arose in 1982, when as a resident of Danesbury, and in his first term of office as Chairman of the WPAG, he played a major part in forming the Danesbury Residents Association with the initial prime purpose of raising sufficient funds to employ Counsel to fight the Appeal by Rialto Homes to build 650 homes on Danesbury Park. Working with the Parish Council and the then District Council, and representing both the Danesbury Residents Association and the Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group, John addressed the Inspector at the Appeal.

The appeal was successfully fought and it pays us all to stop and consider for just one moment what a significant difference it would have made to the village today, had the Rialto development of 650 houses succeeded.

And then, in 1992, before commencing his second term of office as Chairman, John gave a clue to those subjects dearest to his heart when he gave the Annual WPAG AGM Presentation on the subject of ‘The Environment and Us’. He focused his talk on three topics which he pursued vigorously throughout his time here in Welwyn:

  • The A1(M)  motorway
  • The Mimram River
  • The situation regarding waste disposal and litter.

They were just a few of the ‘big issues’ that John was involved with in his 9 years second term of Office as Chairman of the WPAG.

Apart from the Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group, a fuller research would uncover many other Committees and organisations in Welwyn that felt John’s influence over the years.

What is beyond doubt is that the Community will miss John’s influence and his wise counsel. We all owe him a huge debt of thanks for his kindness and wisdom and for the help and encouragement he gave to others who had the temerity to try to follow in his footsteps.

Other Organisations that John was involved with are as follows:

Welwyn Parish Council

(To be researched)

Welwyn & District Road Safety Committee

John was an active member of the Welwyn & District Road Safety Committee for many years.

Danesbury Residents Association

Since 1982 when John as Chairman of the WPAG was instrumental in setting up the Danesbury Residents Association to fight the Rialto Housing development on Danesbury Park, he has remained a Member of the DRA Committee without interruption from 1982-2017, a total of 35 years. During all that time the Committee has enjoyed the benefit of his counsel, advice and extensive knowledge developed over all the years he has been an active and leading member of this community of ours in Welwyn.

 

 

 

Welwyn North Rail Users – Timetable Consultation – Hurry

The following report is extracted from an email from Parish Councillor Peter Neville

Govia (the local rail operator) have opened a consultation into the weekday timetables to be introduced in December 2018 (i.e. in about 18 months’ time). Weekend timetables will be shared later in the year.

Go to Welwyn North Draft Time Table for details of the draft time-table.

Details of other routes (e.g. Moorgate-WGC) are available at https://www.transformingrail.com/download-timetables

In summary the draft timetable provides  for half-hourly trains from Welwyn North calling at WGC, Hatfield, Potters Bar, Finsbury Park, St Pancras and thence via Farringdon, the City and Blackfriars to destinations in Kent (sadly not Gatwick or Brighton as originally hoped – we would have to change at Finsbury Park or St Pancras for those).

In the rush hour, additional trains run Welwyn North NONSTOP twice-hourly to KingsX in the morning. And correspondingly in the reverse direction, with similar fast trains northbound in the evening rush hour.

The consultation runs until 5pm on Thursday 27 July 2017.

Comments on the proposed timetable can be sent by email to <moc.y1506073724awlia1506073724rtg@n1506073724oitat1506073724lusno1506073724celba1506073724temit1506073724.rtg1506073724>.

To assist the consultation from a personal perspective, the railway company recommend a visit to their journey checking tool on www.transformingrail.com/

But the tool excludes journeys in the Peterborough direction, which will lose its through service from WGC/WN!

 

WPAG Subscriptions for 2017-18 are due


To All Supporters of the Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group

Annual Subscriptions are now due.

Membership is due on 31st March each year and we now seek your 2017/2018 Annual Subscription of £4 per individual, or £6 for family membership.

We are aware that with the loss of our long-running Treasurer we have been negligent in recent years in collecting Subscriptions from all our members. If you are not a fully paid-up member we have decided that we will impose a moratorium on all overdue subscriptions and start again for the current year and, with your help, try to do a better job in future years.

For those of you who enjoy the website, and who receive our occasional Newsletters for free, we ask you to consider joining as paid-up WPAG members. We are a Registered Charity, (No. 272277), and we have no other source of income other than from subscriptions.

Our organisation is non-profit making and is run by an elected committee of volunteers for the community.  Membership subscriptions are intentionally very low and cover our basic administrative costs for website, stationery, printing etc., although the website costs are likely to climb.

So, for a very small outlay, please help us keep it going, as we think it is worth it and we have a renewed mission within the community of Welwyn.

How to pay your Subscription? – Go to the Membership Page

We are trying to move away from the need for you to write a cheque, mail it to the Treasurer, and get a receipt in the post. This takes time and money and for most of us is no longer necessary.

So from 2017, you have a Four choices of payment method.

Choice 1   Paypal  – One off payment

Choice 2   Paypal  –  Recurring payment

Choice 3   BACS payment direct to the WPAG account and make it annually               recurring.

Choice 4   Contact the Treasurer and arrange to send a cheque.

Why your support is worth it.

1. Continued Community Involvement.

We have recently undergone some major administrative changes.  We now have two ex-Borough Councillors serving on our committee, bringing with them years of local knowledge and experience, together with specific knowledge of planning and licensing requirements.  They are: Carl Storer (now WPAG Chairman) and Sandra Kyriakides (WPAG Project Manager).

Formed in the 1960’s, the Group works closely with Welwyn Parish Council and has two members co-opted onto the WPC Planning and Licensing Committee.  We monitor all proposed Planning Applications for their potential impact on the character of Welwyn and the amenities enjoyed by its residents, and we work to maintain the continuing protection of the Welwyn Conservation Area.  We are proud of this good relationship and our ability to work together for the benefit of the local community.

2. WPAG website – what we offer

Our website has also undergone radical change.  WPAG takes an active interest in all aspects of life in and around Welwyn including community services, and recreational facilities. Through the website we encourage and support the activities of local Clubs and Societies and offer local groups the opportunity to use us to advertise their activities and forthcoming events, thereby putting local information at your fingertips through our web pages.

Our Project Manager will post regular updates on matters of concern, local issues and interesting developments.

Visit us at the Welwyn Festival Fun Day 

For the first time this year, we will have a table at the Welwyn Festival Fun Day on Singlers Marsh.  This will be inside the Welwyn Parish Council Tent and we hope you will take the opportunity to come and talk to us and to sign up for membership on the day, if you have not already done so.

One final reminder. We are a Registered Charity and a non-profit making organisation run by an elected committee of local Welwyn volunteers for the benefit of the community. Membership subscriptions are very low and cover our basic administrative costs for website, stationery, printing etc.

Please continue your support, and become a fully paid-up WPAG member.

The 2017 Welwyn Festival – Information Stand

The WPC and the WPAG plan a Joint Stand at the 2017 Welwyn Festival.

To celebrate the close working relationship built up over the past ten years between the Welwyn Parish Council (WPC) and the WPAG, the Chairman of WPC has agreed that both bodies should join together to present a Welwyn Information Stand at the 2017 Welwyn Festival’s Fun Day on Singlers Marsh on Saturday 24th June.

WPC Chairman Bill Morris said ” it is really good that the WPAG is  working together with WPC for the good of the community and I hope our association continues to be mutually beneficial and enjoyable  to us all for a long time to come”.

 

Since 2009 two co-opted WPAG Committee members have attended the WPC Planning & Licensing Committee which meets every three weeks throughout the year to analyse and agree (or disagree) on Planning Applications presented to the WPC by the Borough Planning Department. The WPAG representatives have not missed a single meeting over that time, and they continue to offer valuable comment and opinion to the Parish Councillors based upon the extensive source of experience and opinion from within the broad base of the WPAG Membership.

The Project Manager Reports – Anti-Social Behaviour in the Village

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

ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

The meeting held at Welwyn Civic Centre on Wednesday 8th March provided the impressive number of local residents and businesses who attended the opportunity to express their concerns to members of the Police, Fire Service and Borough Council officers.

The issues raised were primarily those of public safety and the wish for more visual police presence in the area, particularly at times when incidents are more prevalent. The concerns were duly noted and taken on board.

There has been a slight increase of police car patrols through the village and there would appear to have been a corresponding decrease in the kind of anti-social behaviour that was taking place.

Please be aware of anything untoward and be sure to report it immediately to 101.  As I said last time, we need to keep the police aware of any concerns in the village and, “if it isn’t reported, it didn’t happen” so be sure to pick up the phone!

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.

Ron Oxley – Obituary

RON OXLEY  1923 – 2017   

(The following is an extract from the Eulogy read at Ron Oxley’s funeral by Jon Green, former Chairman of the Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group).

Ron Oxley has been a member of the Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group Committee continuously for over 30 years, and as a member of this volunteer group, he stood up for the interests of the Welwyn community.

During all that time Ron made it a speciality of his to examine and analyse each and every planning application that came before the Welwyn Parish Council for a decision.

About 10 years ago Ron, together with me as the WPAG Chairman, were co-opted onto the Welwyn Parish Council Planning & Licensing Committee, and from then onwards we were able to make our comments in person and directly to the Parish Councillors at the monthly meetings.

Ron’s previous career as an Architect in Local Government, and his personal experience of planning regulations, made him immensely valuable; the Parish Council Committee were now able to give their opinion on planning applications to the Borough Council, supported by the authority of Ron’s advice.

In preparation for each meeting, Ron used to examine every application in great detail at home, before the meetings, and check meticulously for any hidden snags, or risks of impact on other property, and for any threats to the character of our historic village centre.

He has maintained above all, a special concern to protect Welwyn’s Conservation Area and the precious Green Belt, which are both often under threat from development.

Whenever he made a comment or raised a query the Parish Councillors listened – Ron was a conscientious and respected guardian of Welwyn’s interests. Although happy to express his views on any subject, Ron was actually a very private man who always preferred and practised discretion. But once you had earned his respect, he became an open and sociable colleague with a quiet but keen sense of humour.

To the end of his life, and despite much persuasion, he refused to ease up on what he considered his special responsibilities. It was an example of dedication which will be hard for his successors to match.

Those who knew him will have admired him for many reasons, but I am sure that without exception everyone will keep Ron in their memory as a forthright, honest and trustworthy friend.

We shall all miss him badly.

Jon Green

Panshanger Park – Study Day 2nd May 2017

Panshanger Park is a Grade II* HE  registered landscape and lies within the ‘Central Herts Green Corridor’.

The study Day on 2nd May 2017 will trace the involvement of the Friends of Panshanger Park in the conservation and restoration of this section of the Mimram Valley and adjacent plateaux following extensive gravel extraction.

The Study Day will be held from 10.30 am to 12.45 pm at Mayflower Place, Hertingfordbury, SG14 2LG. Go to Entry Form to register.

The day will end with a guided walk at Panshanger Park through Humphry Repton’s historic landscape to appreciate the beauty of the site and the on-going challenges  associated with its restoration.