It seems incredible that it is now a year since the beginning of COVID lockdowns and WPAG is still managing to function fully, albeit remotely and via technology.
At our virtual AGM held in January via Zoom, our committee officers were re-elected and new members welcomed onto the committee. Some residents joined us on this occasion and we thank them very much for their attendance and support.
Our new committee members and Treasurer have now settled into the group and taken on specific tasks. In addition, WPAG committee members have assisted WPC in the uploading of responses from the WPC Neighbourhood Plan Survey. The response to this survey has been excellent and the hard work now starts on assimilating the data and producing the Plan.
The winter months and the Christmas period have been quiet with regard to consultation documents. WPAG has responded to the Hertfordshire Waste Local Plan Consultation, expressing concern that, of the two community recycling amenity sites nearest to Welwyn, one is closing down and the other declared unsuitable due to traffic congestion caused by the site. We have stressed that it is unacceptable for residents to have to travel more than half an hour to dispose of large household waste and that traffic congestion at the Stevenage facility is caused by the drastic reduction in opening hours over the past two years. We have also highlighted the increase in fly-tipping.
WPAG is monitoring the situation regarding the planters on Welwyn High Street and Church Street. WPC currently has an arrangement for maintaining them with HCC. The planters and 20mph speed notices will remain until such time social distancing is no longer required, or possibly much longer. We will keep you updated.
The Rose and Crown, under new management and currently undergoing major refurbishment, applied for extensions to its opening hours. WPAG submitted the views of residents to the WHBC Licensing Committee and also attended the virtual Licensing Hearing. Approval was granted for early opening hours to provide breakfasts, but the late evening closures are in line with all the other hospitality venues in the village. WPAG will be keeping a close eye on the Rose and Crown when it reopens, especially with regard to parking and noise issues. WHBC Environmental Health has stated that it will operate strict control on adherence to regulations with regard to noise. It is nice to see this lovely venue being brought back to life and we look forward to meeting the new landlords and their team and to welcoming them to our vibrant community.
The local application for Village Green Status for Singlers Marsh has been registered and will slowly move forward through the various stages of consideration. This is not our application but we will monitor and advise on any progress as we hear it; this interim stage has a long way to go.
WPAG continues to work closely with Welwyn Parish Council, WHBC and Herts CC. Two WPAG committee members attend the WPC Planning and Licensing Committee virtual meetings twice monthly, at which all local planning applications are discussed.
Our Vice Chairman has worked closely with WPC and WPPG (Welwyn Parish Plan Group) on the responses to the WHBC Local Plan Call for Sites Consultations with the Government Inspector, particularly with regard to potential inclusion of Wel1/2/6 and 15. Although these sites are not currently in the Local Plan, there is the possibility that the Inspector will find the grounds for excluding them unsound. He is concerned with the fairness and equality of distribution of development in the Borough as well as meeting the assessed housing need. The objections put forward to developing 250 houses on the Welwyn sites around Singlers Marsh are valid and considerable constraints would make such development difficult, expensive and hard to deliver within five years. However, the developer has put forward strong arguments and acceptable proposals in favour of building.
Due to the appalling lack of clarity, and under-provision to the public of valuable information by WHBC, local residents and action groups were unaware of some important and relevant details in plans submitted by developers, to which there were subsequently no objections, thus deeming them acceptable.
The issue of grave concern is the proposal to buy a strip of land on Singlers Marsh, adjacent to the existing bridge, and to build a new bridge and access road for the development. This would result in major damage to the ecology, wildlife, river, etc., especially from pollution created by cars from 250 dwellings queueing to join the already congested roundabout on Fulling Mill Lane and B656. As Environment and Wildlife agencies were unaware of the proposals, they have not objected. Relevant details were to be found through obscure references in lengthy and complicated earlier documents, which were not referred to by WHBC in the 2019 consultation papers. There was no direct consultation with any agency or local group about this specific proposal.
WPAG is making a formal complaint to WHBC about this dire lack of communication and is asking for the full support of Welwyn’s local councillors. They will doubtless be contacting residents in preparation for the upcoming local elections, and this is something you may care to raise with them.
On behalf of the WPAG Committee, I send our best wishes for a better Spring than last year and the hope that we will soon all be able to enjoy our local facilities to the full again.
Chair, Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group