The Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group has been in regular conversation with Cllr Richard Smith with regard to the current and proposed COVID-19 restrictions in Welwyn village.
It has been our understanding that the current, unsatisfactory, arrangements would be amended as soon as possible. We appreciate that this has had to wait for clarification of central government decisions.
The truly draconian measures in place are destructive to the community, its lifestyle and its operation.
The High Street traders and shops, as well as residents, are seriously affected by what has been imposed on the village. In order to allow Welwyn to survive at all, the current restrictions need to be reversed and, if another scheme must be introduced, replaced with something as minimally invasive as possible. Residents have coped until now with social distancing and really the only precaution that is necessary is for everyone to wear a face covering when inside a shop and to queue one metre apart where necessary.
The WPAG Position
The Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group fully supports:
(Ed. In David Cheek’s Post of 22nd March 2020 you were briefed on the Hertfordshire County Council’s (HCC) Consultation on future transport plans, which was scheduled to close on 31st March 2020).
Working with the Welwyn Parish Council, and the Welwyn Parish Plan Group, your Committee studied those sections relevant to Welwyn and we contributed to the submission produced by the WPC.
We re-produce below the Introduction to the WPC Submission for your convenience.
We expect that the full WPC submission on this Consultation, which is very lengthy, will be published shortly on the WPC website.
Welwyn Parish Council
Welwyn Parish Council is pleased to offer comment within the consultation process, on this important piece of strategic planning.
Welwyn civil parish has three main settlements, separated from each other by fields and woodlands of the green belt: the settlement of Oaklands & Mardley Heath and the villages of Digswell and Welwyn. The parish is largely residential but small businesses and farmsteads are scattered throughout. Residents and businesses benefit from post office facilities and a mix of shops in all three areas and a wide range of amenities: a primary school in each area (the secondary schools are in WGC or further afield); the Welwyn Community Library; Welwyn has 3 churches, Digswell has 2 and both have Village Halls used for recreation, sport and social events.
Soccer and cricket pitches in Welwyn, owned and maintained by the parish council, are used by clubs from within the Parish and further afield; there are tennis clubs at Welwyn and Digswell, a bowls club at Welwyn and children’s play areas in Welwyn and Digswell. There are many open spaces and local nature reserves with rural footpaths, providing for informal recreation as well as local wildlife. With a population of over 9000, our Parish is relatively large; it is highly regarded as a place for families to live and house prices and the buoyant property market reflect that.
Comments on the GTP have been co-ordinated under the aegis of the which included:
• Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group – WPAG – formed over 60 years ago, to encourage, and coordinate public interest in all issues concerning Planning and Amenities in and around Welwyn)
• Welwyn Parish Plan Group – WPPG – who compiled the current Parish Plan in 2008 which sought to represent the wishes and ideas of the community in Digswell, Oaklands & Mardley Heath and Welwyn, propose a strategy to show what we should aim to achieve. It has been used to help drive change and as a reference to influence policy
• Individual residents.
The Working Group has also encouraged residents to make their own responses to this consultation.
The majority of the detail relating to Welwyn Parish is contained in the South Central Growth & Transport Plan; only one project (PR27) in the North Central GTP is relevant to Welwyn but it should be noted that SM93 (in the NC Plan) duplicates the detail of SM98 (in the SC Plan), albeit with a different and arguably misleading title. The following sections offer comments on the various schemes that impact upon our parish area.
The following is extracted from papers produced by Affinity Water.
Within the next five years and beyond there may not be enough water to meet increases in demand, unless we make some changes.
Affinity Water have recently completed a Public Consultation to ensure that there is enough water for future generations. They now invite you to respond to their revised draft Water Resources Management Plan (dWRMP) further consultation.
Doing nothing is not an option.
We need to act now to ensure there is enough for future generations. Affinity Water plans include:
Helping customers reduce their water usage
Fixing even more leaks
Further improving rare chalk streams
Building a new reservoir to store water
Transferring water from another area via an existing canal
Working with other water companies to solve the challenge.
Affinity Water need your views to help shape our service to you. Their consultation period runs from 1 March – 26 April 2019.
Go to the Consultation Document and have your say on our plans to meet this challenge! Affinity Water really do want to hear your views.
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.
The Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group wishes to make the following comments on the Draft Local Transport Plan on behalf of Welwyn residents:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PROJECT MANAGER, WELWYN PLANNING AND AMENITY GROUP
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.
New research from Knight Frank and planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore has identified local authority areas where economic and planning data, combined with regional knowledge, suggest good fundamentals for residential development in the short to medium term.
Factors taken into account include forecast economic and employment growth, as well as future housing supply and demand. Sales to stock ratios, social environment, infrastructure and affordability were also measured.
Local planning knowledge was then added, examining which planning authorities had a five-year land supply and where a local plan was in place, as well as looking at policy support for housing and economic growth.
This, along with input from Knight Frank land agents, resulted in a list of areas where the fundamentals suggested development opportunities.
Key findings highlighted that:
Manchester and Leeds are expected to be among the councils which will experience the strongest rates of household growth over the next ten years
In the Midlands, Warwick scores highly on “liveability”, and also has strong employment growth forecasts, while robust household growth is projected in Leicester
Brentwood is one of the hotspots with the strongest forecasts for future employment increases, as well as showing one of the largest imbalances between pipeline supply and household growth over the next five years
South Cambridgeshire also has a particularly strong forecast for employment growth and has been rated highest in an independent survey of rural locations across the UK
Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset local authorities have a local plan and a five-year housing supply, and the determination to step up development
Guildford and Reigate & Banstead in Surrey are well positioned to take advantage of the housing need generated by the capital.
Iain Painting, Senior Planning Partner, Barton Wilmore, said: “Our shortlist of development opportunities is aligned with an increased emphasis on urbanisation, focusing on many of England’s key cities both in and well beyond the South East.
“Opportunities exist where local authorities are struggling to source a five-year land supply through the local plan system, such as York, but also where councils have a positive appetite for growth, supported by policy, such as Leeds and Bath.”
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has called for an overhaul of the way local authorities set housing targets after claiming the present system led to countryside being lost unnecessarily.
The pressure group claimed in a report that research it has commissioned showed that local authorities were being asked to base their plans on aspiration rather than need. This resulted in ever higher housing targets and the consequent unnecessary release of countryside for development without an increase in overall house building.
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).
New figures show that there has been a decrease of around 2,000 hectares overall of green belt in England between April 2013 and the end of March 2015 largely because of new local plans adopted by 11 local authorities.
These latest figures show that the extent of the designated green belt in England as at 31st March 2015 was estimated at 1,636,620 hectares, around 13 per cent of the land area of England.
Since these statistics were first compiled for 1997, there has been an increase of 32,000 hectares in the area of green belt after taking account of the re-designation of some green belt as part of the New Forest National Park in 2005.
(The following is an extract from the Planning Portal Content Team, reporting on 24th September 2015).
Ministers should consult on bringing large-scale housing schemes within the Planning Act 2008 regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), a report commissioned by law firm Bond Dickinson and planning consultants Quod has urged.
The report, based on the views of housing and planning experts in both the public and private sectors, claimed that use of the NSIP regime could harness the power of the private sector and “relieve hard-pressed local authority budgets”.
Less than half the estimated 240,000 new homes needed each year were completed in 2014, and the last six years had seen the lowest level of house building since the Second World War, it added.
The report insisted that there was widespread support for creating new settlements on the scale of the post-war New Towns to address the housing crisis.
However, it argued that this was unlikely to happen without policy and legislation that overcame the current barriers to bringing forward large-scale housing and mixed use projects within the current planning system.
The report noted recent research suggesting that only 25 per cent of local planning authorities had a local plan which had been adopted as sound since the publication of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012.