The Local Plan – a message for Welwyn Parish Council

The following is drafted by Sandra Kyriakides.

WPAG believes that in the context of further WHBC Green Belt Study – Stage 3 called for by the Inspector, (see the WHBC December Local Plan Newsletter) the WPC should reiterate to WHBC by the 20th December 2019 deadline, the major concerns we have for any development in Welwyn – particularly on Green Belt sites – other than those that have already been agreed.

We argue this case on the basis of: 

  • the total lack of infrastructure to support further development
  • regular peak hour gridlock at the Clock roundabout 
  • major redevelopment plans in Codicote (and further afield at Langley) which will increase traffic flow along the B656, which is already overcapacity at peak periods
  • the recent approval of a housing development at the former Entech site in Woolmer Green and traffic flows on the B197
  • lack of adequate medical provision for an increased population – Lister and QEII Hospitals are running at capacity – and 3-week waiting for GP appointments in local surgeries.

Welwyn’s Neighbourhood Plan – an immediate update


A start has been made to undertake online research into the methodology of approach followed by Parish Councils around the country.

At the 20th November 2018 meeting of the WPC Planning & Licensing Committee, a representative from the Codicote Parish Council was invited to share their experiences, which was extremely helpful. 

The Welwyn Parish Council has since established a Neighbourhood Planning Working Party, to be chaired by Cllr Mark Castle, with Ian Skidmore (Chairman Welwyn Parish Planning Group) as Vice-chairman.

It is expected that at least two members of the WPAG Committee will be invited to join the Working Party, and we are advising on suitable wider membership. 

We will report on the progress of this Working Party.

 

The Welwyn Neighbourhood Plan – Where does Welwyn stand?

NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN

The following is drafted by Sandra Kyriakides

This is a new power available to local councils, introduced by the Localism Act 2011.

If Welwyn Parish Council decides to proceed with a Neighbourhood Plan, this would enable control over the definition of future type and location of development.

An adopted Neighbourhood Plan would become part of the statutory development plan.

The local planning authority (i.e. WHBC) has a duty to support those creating neighbourhood plans.

With the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), if in possession of an adopted Neighbourhood Plan, WPC would be entitled to a payment of 25% uncapped.  Without a plan it would receive a payment equal to 15% capped to £100 per dwelling.

If the Parish Council does not have a Neighbourhood Plan, WHBC would receive uncapped payments equal to 25%.

If a Neighbourhood Plan is produced by another organisation (i.e. not the Parish Council) within the community, payments would be subject to consultation with the local authority.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT FOR WELWYN NOT TO HAVE A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN:

  • WHBC WOULD THEN RECEIVE ALL MONEYS ON BUILDING WITHIN OUR PARISH TO SPEND AS THEY WISH.
  • WELWYN WOULD HAVE NO CONTROL OVER FUTURE BUILDING PROJECTS.

Welwyn Parish Council is undecided as to whether it will proceed to produce a Neighbourhood Plan because of (a) the cost implication and (b) the amount of work required to do so.

However, a working party has been set up by WPC, currently lead by Cllr Mark Castle.  The Clerk is working with Cllr Castle on the Terms of Reference for the group.   The group will examine the pros and cons of having a plan and put forward their recommendation to WPC which will then discuss this at a meeting.  If the decision is to proceed, volunteers from members of the public with specific skills in planning/architecture as well as from local action groups will be sought, to help produce the plan.

WPAG CONSIDERS IT IS VITAL THAT THERE IS A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN AND THAT WPC WOULD BE REMISS IN ITS PUBLIC DUTY TO THE COMMUNITY IF IT FAILS TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS.

The Local Plan – Next Steps

The following draft has been prepared by Sandra Kyriakides

A report to Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel (CPPP) on Thursday (13 December) outlines how the council will seek to meet the objectively assessed need for 16,000 new homes in the borough to 2033.

Members are set to consider the next steps in the development of the borough’s Local Plan, including a further call for new sites.

It follows a request from the government’s planning inspector to carry out a further study assessing the borough’s green belt to find more land for housing. This work assessed the likely impact of development on the green belt, identifying that the borough’s housing need can only be met in full if the council considers land where development would have high impact.

The report to CPPP recommends a call for new sites in the hope that more will come forward in lower harm areas. These will be published for public comment and council officers will then assess sites for their suitability for development. A decision will then be made on which sites are added to the plan for consideration by the inspector.

Cllr Stephen Boulton, Executive Member for Planning, said: “For our plan to move forwards, we must prove to the inspector that we’ve explored all possible options to deliver the level of growth the borough needs for the future.”

“A call for sites in the New Year will give us the best chance of producing a sound plan, a plan that balances the protection of our green belt with the need to deliver the new homes, jobs, services and infrastructure our children and grandchildren will rely on.”

Members will also agree a new timetable, which would see a four week call for new sites in January 2019, followed by sites being published for six weeks of public comment in February and March. It is hoped the plan will now be adopted in spring 2020.

To read the full report, visit the council’s website.

The Local Plan – a Green Belt Update

The following post was drafted by Sandra Kyriakides

WHBC LOCAL PLAN EXAMINATION

The Local Plan for Welwyn Hatfield Borough was submitted for examination on 15 May 2017 and Melvyn Middleton BA(Econ) DipTP DipMgmt MRTPI was appointed by the Secretary of State to carry out an independent examination of our Local Plan (2013-2032).

The Inspector’s task is to consider the soundness of the submitted plan, based on the criteria set out in paragraph 182 of the National Planning Policy Framework (the Framework).

A series of Public Staged Hearings have been held by the Inspector with WHBC Officers, and he has received submissions from invited public representatives.

All the Staged Hearings are all available to be studied on the WHBC website.

Green Belt

Of particular interest at this time are the Inspector’s comments at the Stage 5 Hearing which addressed Green Belt issues.

To understand these better, we will first review current legislation regarding Green Belts.

Government policy on the Green Belt is set out in chapter 13 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  Paragraph 133 states that ‘the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence’.

2.18 This is elaborated in NPPF paragraph 134, which states that Green Belts should serve five purposes, as set out below.

The purposes of Green Belt:

  • To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas.
  • To prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another.
  • To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.
  • To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns.
  • To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban

Welwyn Hatfield’s case

The acuteness of the need for housing and the limited availability of land within urban areas for housing and employment have led WHBC to conclude that exceptional circumstances exist to review Green Belt boundaries to positively plan for the Borough’s development needs.  To deliver the most sustainable pattern of growth, development is to be directed to the urban areas and inset villages.  In addition, a new village ‘Symondshyde’ is proposed to the North West of Hatfield.

The Stage 5 Hearing

The Green Belt Review prepared and submitted by WHBC was discussed at the Stage 5 Hearing with the Government Inspector on 6th & 7th November 2018.  It can be viewed online on the WHBC website.  The document is 20 pages long; the points of interest that I picked up are mostly in questions 37 and 38.

The Council holds the view, and has therefore stated that exceptional circumstances exist only to meet the need for employment and housing growth and any change to the boundary will therefore be limited to the site allocations process.

The Inspector indicated at the round up session on the Green Belt Study that in his view the methodology was robust, and he has confirmed that he is not intending to have any further hearing sessions to discuss methodology.

As (public) representations have been made, stating that assessment of harm was not carried out on a consistent basis, the Inspector has asked that there should be consultation on the consistency of the scorings of the parcels and sub-division of parcels. The Inspector wants these matters to have been addressed before the village hearing sessions take place.

The deadline for comments is 5:00pm on Thursday 20 December.  Comments received will be posted on the WHBC website on the examination pages, estimated by end of January.

 

North Herts Concrete Plant – the latest bad news

We have learned, too late for action at his stage, that a Planning Application 18/01726/FP has been placed with North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) for a Concrete Plant to be constructed on the B656 at Langley, North of Codicote.

The Welwyn Parish Council Planning & Licensing Committee, of which WPAG is a co-opted member, were given no time to consult and respond by the 2nd August deadline, and so Full Council formulated a quick response at their meeting on 30th July.

This Application has huge potential for further worsening the local road infrastructure, in particular the overloaded B656 Welwyn/Codicote Road and the Welwyn Link Road to the A1(M) Roundabout at Clock House Gardens, and we therefore give the earliest opportunity we can to brief you on the position.

Please follow the following link to read a Public Notice and the Planning Application NHDC consultation re concrete plant.

WPAG will now continue to monitor this development closely through our association with the Welwyn Parish Council Planning & Licensing Committee.

 

The Project Manager Reports -The Local Plan Threatens

LOCAL PLAN UPDATE:

 

The latest edition of the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan Newsletter is now available.

Note that the current assessment of housing needs is now 16000, i.e. 3500 more than when the Plan was submitted!

WHBC will be looking at what bits of Green Belt they can now build on.

We need to object to any further development in the villages in the Northern part of the Borough – we are pretty much at capacity with what is already planned.

The Borough Council should be asked to look again at the huge amounts of space around Cuffley and Brookmans Park where development would be more suitable, nearer to London and transport links, and with the possibility to provide suitable infrastructure.

In Welwyn, our roads just cannot take any more traffic!  Our schools cannot take any more children; our doctors’ surgeries are full and the Lister Hospital A & E is running almost at capacity.   That is just the tip of the iceberg.

The local election has left the same group in control of WHBC, albeit only just.   They are responsible for the current situation and for finding solutions.  We will need to keep a very close eye on their proposals.

Sandra Kyriakides

Project Manager

Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group

 

May 2018

 

The Project Manager Reports – The County Local Transport Plan – WPAG Submission

As reported separately, (see Hertfordshire’s Local Transport Plan) the WPAG has been working on the draft County Local Transport Plan with the Welwyn Parish Council Planning & Licensing Committee. The following is a copy of the separate Submission to County made by the WPAG which results from this work.

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The Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group wishes to make the following comments on the Draft Local Transport Plan on behalf of Welwyn residents:

 

  1. Although the Welwyn Parish has a diverse population, there are a large number of elderly/older residents, many of whom are not fully mobile. There is a dependency on the car as a mode of transport for those who are able to drive.

 

  1. Likewise, schools in rural communities are not always within walking distance of homes, nor are the homes served by bus routes that provide an adequate service to meet the needs of parents and residents.

 

  1. We have considerable reservations about policy 4, page 51. Assumptions are made that car usage can be reduced by introducing parking restrictions.  This is all well and good for areas where the public transport system is fit for purpose; sadly in our Parish it is not, especially outside working hours and at weekends.  There is no direct transport link from the village to the nearest train station.  The one, extremely popular, bus route to London was withdrawn three years ago.  Cuts from County Council subsidies have resulted in cuts to bus timetables.  This leaves residents with no option other than the car.  We have a Catch 22 situation.

 

 

  1. In addition, a policy that restricts parking in town centres and high streets will eventually kill off the small businesses altogether. The reason that the big supermarkets are successful is because there is parking and people don’t have to struggle on buses with heavy shopping or walk long distances from bus stops.  What is needed is a policy that does not discourage the use of local shops and we are strongly opposed to any increase in parking restrictions or charges.

 

  1. The A1(M) has a junction leading directly into Welwyn village. This becomes a rat-run during rush hours for vehicles trying to overtake the congestion on that section of the motorway by cutting through the village and rejoining the A1(M) at the next junction.  The result is total congestion during peak times and a risk of danger to pedestrians using the narrow High Street pavements.

 

 

  1. The consistent requests to Highways from Parish, Borough and County councillors for a trial traffic lights scheme during peak times have not been granted. This issue is a continuing bone of contention for residents and we fail to understand the reasoning behind not at least running a trial.

 

  1. The proposed “smart” motorway will not, in our opinion, provide a solution to or alleviate this problem. In particular, there is major congestion during peak periods in all directions from the junction 6 northbound slip road, known locally as “The Clock” roundabout.  This blocks the B197 as far as Woolmer Green, the A1000 through to Digswell and the B656 as far as Codicote.  Residents report that it takes longer to reach the motorway than it does to drive to London once they have joined it.  A journey that should take 5 or 10 minutes can easily be 30 minutes or more.

 

 

  1. The situation will worsen as more new builds emerge, on the edge of the Parish and in adjacent villages, with increased traffic all using the same routes to reach the Al(M). There is insufficient infrastructure to support all the local plan building projects along the A1(M) corridor and the eventual increase in traffic will exacerbate what is already a major daily issue for local residents.  The Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group find the fact that this issue has not been given proper consideration to be unacceptable.

 

  1. The WPAG supports the proposed development of runways at Luton and Stansted. Anything that will provide increased facilities to the local area, reducing the need for long journeys by car to other airports, can only be beneficial to the community.

 

 

  1. Another issue that has caused concern is the frequent use of rural roads by heavy vehicles that access quarries. Although conditions were set that this should not happen, there seems to be no enforcement of the agreement.  In particular, large lorries servicing the quarry at Codicote, are using the B656.  This is a narrow road, with very narrow pavements and such vehicles cause both danger, noise, inconvenience and pollution to residents.

 

  1. Lastly, we would raise the issue of the East-West connectivity. This is virtually non-existent and a major improvement in public transport for this corridor is long overdue.

 

  1. The DTLP is, by its very nature, forced to make generalisations. However, it must be taken into account that rural concerns are very different to those of more developed areas.  The differences in local transport links and facilities, together with the ability to reach nearby shopping areas and hospitals, are immense.

 

  1. The lives of ordinary people are drastically affected by decisions taken by those who have no concept of the transport and commuting problems they are forced to cope with on a daily basis. Understandably, the decision-makers do not know specific areas and do not personally experience the issues raised.  That is why it is vitally important that credence is given to points raised by representatives of local communities who have on-site experience.

 

 

Sandra Kyriakides

PROJECT MANAGER, WELWYN PLANNING AND AMENITY GROUP

ku.gr1544836822o.gap1544836822w@reg1544836822anamt1544836822cejor1544836822P1544836822

Tel : 07802 725423

 

 

Hertfordshire Local Transport Plan – Draft for Public Consultation

The Draft County Local Transport Plan was Published on 31st October 2017 for Public Consultation, and is Open until 23rd January 2018.

We recommend that you go to the Online Draft and head for the Executive Summary if you do not want to read all 115 pages.

Within the scope of our co-opted status with the Welwyn Parish Council Planning & Licensing Committee, WPAG has discussed the Draft in Committee and, as a result,  will submit our views as a separate document to that being submitted by the Welwyn Parish Council.

 

Local Plan – The Inspector is already on the Case

Following the submission of the Local Plan for independent examination on 15th May 2017, Melvyn Middleton has been appointed as the government planning inspector who will conduct the independent examination into the the soundness of the Local Plan.

And he has already started!

For details, and to learn more about  the process, please look at the Borough Councils Newsletter which follows:

Local Plan Newsletter September 2017 (1)