May 2022 Borough Council Elections

WPAG is a registered charity and does not get involved in political activities. However, campaigning for this year’s borough council elections is likely to be dominated by national issues, whereas WPAG’s focus is on local concerns.

We wanted to find out how engaged the various candidates are with local issues within Welwyn Parish, so we compiled some politically neutral questions and sent them to all four candidates standing in Welwyn West ward and to all three candidates standing in Welwyn East. The seven candidates were sent the same questions at the same time, and they had a week in which to reply. With two days to go, those that had not replied were sent a reminder.

Welwyn West consists of Welwyn village, the Ayots and Oaklands on the north side of the Great North Road. It has four candidates standing in May 2022. A list of these candidates can be found here.

Welwyn East consists of Digswell, Woolmer Green and Oaklands to the south of the Great North Road. It has three candidates standing in May 2022. A list of these candidates can be found here.

All the answers that were received are published below, in their full and original wording. They are grouped by Welwyn West and then Welwyn East. The candidates’ responses are listed in the same order as they appear on the election notice. Some of the responses are fairly lengthy; some are quite short. Some are of direct relevance to Welwyn Parish, while others address borough-level issues.


Question #1:
Ignoring national politics, which local issues do you think most concern Welwyn East/West residents within their community and locality ?

Welwyn West responses

Gareth Aicken (Labour Party):

No reply was received from anyone at the Labour Party, despite acknowledging the request and then later being sent a reminder.

Genevieve Almeyda (Liberal Democrats):

The most important issue in Welwyn Ward  West at the moment is ensuring the rural environment remains so.   There are planning and environmental issues.  A balance must be maintained that ensures greenfield and wildlife spaces are preserved at all cost. The Solar farm proposals are most worrying to the Ayots because this could affect this local natural beauty and a walkers paradise in our county, long term.  Should the proposed 100 acre development of arable land straddling public footpaths between Ayot st Peter and Ayot st Lawrence be approved it would fundamentally affect the wildlife population of the area as for example Barn owls would no longer be able to source food  from those fields full of solar panals; Deers could not roam free in the affected area etc.  In time, there is a decent chance that this rental agreement for securing the arable land could be extended or could lead to conversion of Greenfield site into Brownfield land ripe for more commercial/ industrial development.

Sarah Butcher (Green Party):

Welwyn West is well-known and loved for its wonderful villages surrounded by glorious green spaces. The threat of new housing in Welwyn in particular from the local plan is very real, bringing even more increases in traffic to our already congested roads, and more burden on schools/doctors/amenities etc. The proposal to change the land at the end of Singlers Marsh to widen the road and provide access to around 240 homes in the vicinity in my view is unacceptable. This is a most valuable community asset not to mention the biodiversity on site. I am wholly supportive of the application for that area to become a Village Green.

Since the pandemic traffic has been controlled in Welwyn Village and I would like to see the 20mph limit made permanent and imposed on a wider area, including up to St Mary’s School and Tenterfield Nursery. I would also campaign for a lower speed limit in Oaklands around the school and surrounding houses and shops. Lower speed of traffic also means lower noise levels which is also an issue in our area.

The solar farm proposal in Welwyn West is also an issue for the villages of Ayots St Lawrence and St Peter. Obviously as a Green Party candidate I am in favour of renewable energy but not if it is sited on green belt in this way as I believe it is not an efficient use of the land. I would much prefer to see a policy within the council of siting solar panels on the roofs of industrial/council/retail buildings in towns. Also that all new build homes in the borough are built to the highest possible environmental standards so we can start to reduce our energy needs; solar panels as standard on all roofs, heat pumps, water saving devices and insulation to make new builds more energy efficient and reduce bills for homeowners. 

Sunny Thusu (Conservative Party):

Over the last 4 years I have been fortunate to represent the Welwyn West, and the most prominent issue has been the Local Plan and further development in around the village particularly around Singlers Marsh. 

Other areas of concern remains the issue with keeping the village high street vibrant commercially especially with new businesses opening and continuing to make it an attractive place for people to visit. 

I am also aware of continued problems with parking and verge protection around the ward and maintaining the beautiful environment we live in. 

Welwyn East responses

Daniel Carlen (Labour Party):

No reply was received from anyone at the Labour Party, despite acknowledging the request and then later being sent a reminder.

Terry Mitchinson (Conservative Party):

I will focus on the ward in which I am standing, Welwyn East. The Local Plan is obviously an area of major concern. Currently there are no major sites included in the parish of Welwyn, but it is clear local people remain worried that any inappropriate development would impact on the character and heritage of the area. Other issues include a number of sites being converted from single homes into apartments, single houses being replaced with multiple homes, the loss of trees in an important spinney, the preservation of natural areas, flooding in roads in Oaklands, the possible expansion of the Travellers site near the Clock roundabout, the potential loss of shops and inadequate parking provision in Digswell, and the need for a new pedestrian crossing in Woolmer Green. Concerns remain also about speed limits along the B197 through both Oaklands and Woolmer Green – especially as there are two schools along this road – and also in Station Road, Digswell.

Alan Reimer (Liberal Democrats):

The most important issue for me is Planning.  As Welwyn Garden City celebrates its centenary, decisions made now could be with us for the next 100 years.


Question #2:
Could you let us know if/how you’ve been engaging with these issues over the past year ?

Welwyn West responses

Gareth Aicken (Labour Party):

No reply was received from anyone at the Labour Party, despite acknowledging the request and then later being sent a reminder.

Genevieve Almeyda (Liberal Democrats):

I attended the Solar park consultation which took part at Ayot st Peter’s church some months ago. I was surprised at the plans and detailed graphs displayed.  However, digging deeper it became clear there was no community benefit that is the electricity generated would be for a private company near shire park.

Sarah Butcher (Green Party):

With regard to the Singlers Marsh proposal I filled in my questionnaire for the application for village green status. I am a member of the Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group and have received and read the minutes of the latest meetings. As I walk on Singlers Marsh regularly I am keen to engage with people about these proposals.

With regard to the solar farm proposal I made comment on it via the website and am following the timeline online. I am in contact with members of the Green Party in Ayot St Lawrence and am being updated with the latest developments.

Sunny Thusu (Conservative Party):

With regards to the local plan over the last 2 years I have liaised with local resident groups and with WPAG on concerns of the impact of development around the Marsh. I have a track record of ensuring that the local plan protects our green spaces and have spoken at committee meetings opposing any such development. As things stand neither have been included in the Local Plan and I hope to continue to fight for it to remain a space for Welwyn Hatfield residents. Following on with this theme I am also supporting the Village Green application so as to protect this valuable resource for future generations.

With respect to the high street myself and fellow councillors at all levels have worked with Tesco‘s to install an ATM machine following the closure of Barclays Bank. I have also sought approval of applications to allow more businesses to open adding to the variety of restaurants on offer for residents from around the borough to enjoy. 

I have worked closely with my counterpart in Herts County to ensure the appropriate measures are taken to protect verges and ensure traffic measures that were taken in the early part of the pandemic have been sensitively returned to close to normality.

Welwyn East responses

Daniel Carlen (Labour Party):

No reply was received from anyone at the Labour Party, despite acknowledging the request and then later being sent a reminder.

Terry Mitchinson (Conservative Party):

While I am not currently a serving councillor, I have lived in Welwyn Hatfield for more than 60 years, the past three decades in Welwyn village. I also worked on the Welwyn Hatfield Times for over 40 years, 25 of them as editor. So I have always been well informed as to ongoing issues throughout this community. Since being selected to stand in Welwyn East back in early February, I have made it my mission to be even more closely aligned with the area. I set out to knock on as many doors as possible to get people’s views first hand. It is a very large area geographically, stretching from the far end of Woolmer Green, through Oaklands, into Digswell, taking in the edge of Haldens in WGC, and up to the edge of Burnham Green. I am making good progress and have spoken to hundreds of people over the past few months. I have also attended Welwyn Parish Council meetings and Saturday morning breakfast clubs. I am also in constant touch with existing ward councillors Roger Trigg and Julie Cragg, along with county councillor Tony Kingsbury. On top of this I use local facilities and have been known to drop into the various village hostelries on occasion to chat with locals.

Alan Reimer (Liberal Democrats):

As a member of the Welwyn Garden Society, I’ve supported their activities.  This includes posting leaflets & taking part in demonstrations to protect the City from plans which not compatible with the philosophy of the Garden City.


Question #3:
How would you help to resolve these local issues if you are elected, using practical and realistic activities ?

Welwyn West responses

Gareth Aicken (Labour Party):

No reply was received from anyone at the Labour Party, despite acknowledging the request and then later being sent a reminder.

Genevieve Almeyda (Liberal Democrats):

If I see something which I believe is wrong or not fair I will speak out. My skills as a retired Barrister are useful as I have developed a thick skin and am not afraid to ask delicate but decisive questions which can shed light on areas of ambiguity.   Recently I have been more actively engaged in the Wheatquarter/Biopark developments and how these developments will negatively impact our Garden City where I live now.  I have been part of a committee which has organised a community protest (23rd April) to Save Welwyn Garden City from the horrors of concrete tower block development.  I helped design the badges and I have helped with leafletting to ensure the public were aware of the protest.

Sarah Butcher (Green Party):

I believe Welwyn West has taken more than its fair share of new housing in the last 10 years. There are other areas in Welwyn Hatfield which have not. I would campaign for these areas to take more of their share. Provision of housing is a very difficult and challenging issue, but every area must do its bit. In Welwyn particularly the congestion on the roads is a real issue and one which cannot be easily solved. When the A1 was constructed all those years ago no one could have imagined how many cars would need access in and out of the village with all the resulting pollution and parking issues. This will only be exacerbated by more housing.

With regard to lower speed limits, I know some tests have been done to find out what speeds cars go in the areas mentioned so I would try and push for the publication of these so that people can see the need for a change to slower speeds. These would help with safety and reduce pollution and noise. 

The solar farm is intended to provide energy to a data centre in Welwyn Garden City. The energy does need to come from somewhere, but Welwyn Hatfield Council’s environmental record is very poor and I believe they are using this solar farm as a quick fix to improve their credentials and help them reach net zero. I would like to see a much broader and more inclusive policy on renewables over the whole area, not just on one area of green belt.

On a broader note, because of our first past the post voting system over half of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council is Conservative, even though this does not accurately represent how people vote. All three councillors in Welwyn West are Conservative. At present there is no Green Party representative on the council.  I believe people vote for candidates with local knowledge and experience, but I hope they also recognise that diversity of views is important. If elected I hope to persuade the council that every decision made must include consideration of the environment with particular reference to their Climate Emergency Declaration of 2019. Even small actions and local decisions can make a difference to the environment all over the UK and further afield also benefitting the lives of people in our borough.

Finally, I would also like to see more of the following;

Proper, well connected and extensive cycle paths, recycling bins in all public spaces, cheaper public transport with incentive/reward schemes for regular use, more electric charging points, phasing out the use of pesticides in towns/villages on verges/playing fields and more wild flower verges to enhance biodiversity.

Sunny Thusu (Conservative Party):

First and foremost I will always represent the community that have elected me, ensuring local views are taken into account in the council’s decisions. I will continue to engage with residents via face-to-face meetings, social media and direct communication. My presence on committees that determine development and planning issues that affect Welwyn will ensure that we defend the green belt while making it possible for appropriate businesses and retailers to thrive in Welwyn.

Welwyn East responses

Daniel Carlen (Labour Party):

No reply was received from anyone at the Labour Party, despite acknowledging the request and then later being sent a reminder.

Terry Mitchinson (Conservative Party):

I will continue to be approachable and liaise in all ways possible with local people. Being local myself villagers know how easy it is to get in touch with me to raise any issue, be-it face-to-face, or via the phone and email. The main aim of ward councillors is to represent the views of local people to the wider council, while understanding the bigger picture. I have already been proactive in raising some of those issues mentioned above, including asking how speed limit reductions, especially near schools, can be escalated up the county council’s priority list and liaising with Roger and Julie about the removal of trees in Digswell.

Alan Reimer (Liberal Democrats):

To develop a Local Plan which protects the design concept of the Garden City & the green belt.  Protecting green spaces is a key part of tackling the climate emergency.

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