ACTION NEEDED on LOCAL PLAN before 12th February 2021

Re-examination of possible sites in Oaklands, Mardley Heath, Digswell & Welwyn

Anyone who engaged with the consultations in 2019 or 2020 will have received an email from the Inspector’s office inviting you to respond to the current re-examination of sites that didn’t make it into the currently-proposed Local Plan.

You may be wondering whether or not to reply to it. We believe lots of good quality answers will help.

The Inspector is looking for factual arguments that address his specific planning-oriented questions. You don’t have to be fluent in “planning speak” but, to be of use, replies need to directly address the stated questions and be dispassionate in their tone.

The Parish Council is compiling a response to all the Inspector’s questions, having reconvened the previous Local Plan Working Group that was so effective back in 2019. WPAG and WPPG are part of this. Most of the response will be based on the arguments already deployed in the previous consultations, although there are updates regarding Singlers Marsh that we will also use.

It is likely that a draft of the Parish Council will be available early next week for people to consult while preparing their own responses.

Please note that the Inspector is most likely to engage with original wording rather than pasted text lifted out of other submissions.

We also understand that the Inspector will be interested to hear about local infrastructure issues. Examples of infrastructure that you might think can’t be easily expanded around our area include primary school capacity (particularly in Welwyn village), parking, GP provision, nearby road networks (including Codicote Rd and Kimpton Rd in Welwyn, and Hertford Rd in Digswell), and village centre traffic flow (again, particularly in Welwyn itself).

It is also possible that the Inspector will be receptive to arguments about the land that would be given up for the new housing – eg if this is in-use agricultural land, then the loss of that land is not insignificant and could be seen as an infrastructure issue.

We’d very much like to encourage everyone who’s been invited to respond to do so, but to try to “play by the Inspector’s rules”: address his questions directly, stay dispassionate, target the planning issues rather than broader societal ones.

Here is the link to his questions around the Singlers Marsh sites .

The deadline is Friday 12th February. Thank you

River Management Consultation Responses

Last year WPAG responded to the Environment Agency’s ‘Challenges and Choices’ consultation to help the next determine key issues for the next River Basin Management Plan. The River Mimram is part of their Thames region

They have now published a summary of the responses and here are the key themes:

• Nature based solutions that can deliver multiple benefits, including:
o flood risk reduction through natural flood management
o enhancements for habitats and biodiversity through actions such as rewilding
• The need for the Environment Agency to address storm water overflows, particularly to:
o improve their operation and reduce their frequency of use
o penalise water companies when they are used too frequently
• The need to tackle over abstraction, particularly the:
o importance of sustainable abstraction on chalk
o need to maintain a minimum flow target
o need to value water appropriately and encourage water meter usage
• Importance of protecting chalk streams:
o from over abstraction, pollution and physical modification
o to have additional protections for these globally unique water environments
• The importance of catchment planning and partnerships:
o to deliver education and citizen campaigns
o to be sufficiently funded for the long term
• The need for the Environment Agency to enforce existing regulations more.
• The importance of the proposed Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes to
the future of agriculture, including:
o getting the new agricultural policy right is crucial to achieving a shift to more
sustainable land use and improve soil health
o supporting their implementation with greater enforcement of existing
regulations
• Chemicals and plastics in the environment, including the:
o need to have campaigns to educate the public in sustainable usage
o government to use of bans and restrictions, where appropriate
• Securing future funding for the environment, including:
o central government to use additional taxation to support environmental
improvements
o securing additional funding to support enforcement of existing regulations
(for example, farm inspections)

If you want to read the full summary (103 pages long), click here.

Your Opinion Matters

What would you most like to improve in our Parish?

How would you like our villages to be in 10 years time?

You should have received a copy of the Welwyn Neighbourhood Plan questionnaire last week. Please take a moment to complete and return it.

It is important that your views are taken into account in your Neighbourhood Plan. When it is finalised it will set the policies for development in Welwyn, Mardley Heath, Oaklands and Digswell for the next 10-15 years.

The questionnaire has gone to everyone in the Parish, so it is the most comprehensive part of the consultation plan to understand what is really important to us about where we live.

And if you don’t reply, they cannot take your views into account.

You can fill it in online at https://forms.gle/oH37vUJYr9uDE2KEA.

You can post the hard copy back or deliver it to the Parish Council Office. You can scan it and email it to .

And if you can’t find the questionnaire, you can download another one at https://welwyn-pc.gov.uk/notice/neighbourhood-plan and click on Neighbourhood Plan Survey

The latest date to return it is 8th February

Thank you.

Local Plan latest development – Jan 2021

The saga of the Local Plan for the whole of Welwyn Hatfield Borough continues.

In November, the council took two important decisions:

(i) to reduce the target number of new homes that have to be built across the whole borough from 16,000 to 13,800

(ii) to propose a new version of the Local Plan that would broadly meet this reduced obligation

This new version of the plan excluded all the new sites around Welwyn, Digswell, Oaklands and Mardley Heath that had been mooted during 2019.

Although this looked like the outcome that our community had been waiting on for two long years, it still needs to be approved by the independent Inspector, who follows a legally set out process in his assessment. He has concluded that he needs to investigate the reduction in target numbers down to 13,800, rather than just accepting it. He has pointed out that, in the meantime, the new proposed plan now falls well short of the existing target of 16,000 homes.

As a result, the Inspector has announced he will be investigating why various sites in each of Digswell, Mardley Heath, Oaklands and Welwyn were not included in the Plan. This includes the possible reintroduction of the sites around Singlers Marsh in Welwyn village, and the substantial development by Tewin Water in Digswell.

WPAG will be working hard over the coming weeks to resist the reintroduction of any of these sites. We have been invited to contribute to the Inspector’s hearings in March, and will be working with both the borough and parish councils to pursue all means available for avoiding these inappropriate developments.

We will keep you posted on progress as and when there is news to share here.

Rose & Crown, Church St, Welwyn

Residents will no doubt be aware that the Rose and Crown has been closed for almost a year, awaiting a major £500k refurbishment; the aim being to be more of a gastropub, appealing to a wider audience.  The current operators have done a good job of communications and supporting local initiatives during Covid19 times and the majority of people seem very positive about the future of the site;  being relieved no attempts are being made for residential development there.

However, the inescapable fact is that the Rose and Crown is surrounded by residential properties.  In the light of this, their application for a license to serve at weekends until 1:00am (closing at 1:30am) needs to be looked at very seriously and the following questions asked:

  • How does the parking provision available in the Rose and Crown car park tie up with the number of customers anticipated?  There is no spare parking in the village at night, so further increases in cars looking for street parking could cause congestion.  There is no public transport available to diners/revellers late in the evening.
  • Will due consideration be given to the right to sleep of the residents of the houses nearby and in Mill Lane opposite, down which people would walk if Rose and Crown customers were to use the Civic Centre as an overflow car park?   People exiting the premises at 1:30am, chatting loudly, could cause disturbance and nuisance in a small village where sound travels widely at night, especially in the summer.
  • As the intention is also to use the newly refurbished barn for events such as weddings or large parties, what provision would be made for adequate on-site parking, and noise limitation?
  • Will this application, if granted, set a precedent?   It would be difficult to refuse the other establishments in the village from requesting the same late hours.
  • Do residents agree that midnight closing on Friday and Saturday, not later, and normal trading hours for the rest of the week would be reasonable?

There is no doubt that there is a careful balance to be struck here with supporting commercial activity in our village and protecting the rights of those living in the adjacent area that will be affected.

As the Notices regarding the Licensing Application have been displayed outside the premises during the Christmas period, and during our Tier 4 restrictions, it is possible that many residents may not have seen them.

Residents wishing to comment on the application, should write direct to WHBC:

– There is a 28-day consultation, which ends on the 19th of January 2021.  All responsible agencies, (i.e. police, environmental health, fire and rescue, etc.), have been notified so that they can consider the application.

– Anyone can submit a representation. To be valid, this must be in relation to one or more of the Licensing Objectives.  These are:  Preventing Crime and Disorder, Public Nuisance, Public Safety and Protecting Children from Harm.   The person making the representation should state why he/she feels that any of these objectives would be undermined by this application.

– The representation must be submitted by 19th January.  It can be in the form of an email to > for the attention of James Moatt (Licensing Technical Officer). The representation must be signed, which can be done electronically, and the person making the representation must provide their name and address.

– If a representation is submitted then the application is halted pending a licensing hearing with WHBC’s Licensing Committee who will determine the application i.e. grant/grant with conditions/refuse.

– On receiving a representation the licensing officer must inform the applicant who is entitled to be given the details of the representation and the name and address of the person submitting it (unless there is good reason for not doing so).

– The licensing officer can facilitate communication between the person making the representation and the applicant so that any issues can be discussed and potentially resolved. If issues are resolved and the representation is withdrawn then the application can continue without a hearing unless of course other representations are submitted and not resolved. If the representation is not withdrawn then the application will go to a hearing.  The hearing must take place within 28 days after the 19th of January 2021.  

Sandra Saunders

Chairman

Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group

Good News update on Local Plan

There was a full council meeting of WHBC, on Monday, 24th November, which considered a revised version of the borough-wide Local Plan.

This plan contains no new sites around Welwyn, and so does not encroach on Singlers Marsh or the cemetery. It also reduced the total target for new homes over the next 20 years across WHBC from 16,000 to 13,800.

This plan was approved by the full council and has now been sent to the official Inspector for consideration. Though this is still a way off being finalised, it is a really good step forward. Although the vote was not unanimous, it was supported by all of Welwyn’s borough councillors.

WPAG continues to monitor this process. We also feel that the campaign to register Singlers Marsh as a Village Green should continue – it is not yet protected from development, and we have yet to come across any practical reason not to do this.

Finally, although the campaign against the extra sites that were proposed for the Local Plan last year has been successful, it has obscured the fact that many in Welwyn still want to see new homes built here, especially affordable ones for which extra village infrastructure is provided. There will hopefully now be discussions between the various bodies to capture this need in the new plans for the area that will emerge from the parish and borough councils.

November 2020 Chairman’s Report

WPAG’s activities have continued, despite the limitations of COVID.  Our Vice Chairman has done splendid work on matters relating to Welwyn High Street and the Local Plan.  He has also carefully researched the regulations with regard to the prospective application for Singlers Marsh to have Village Green status.  All these matters are currently in various stages of consultation or action and, when we have definite results to report, we will issue an update.

Two new Committee Members will join WPAG this month: Mary Williamson and Geoffrey Yates.  We look forward very much to working with them.

I am delighted to announce the appointment of our new Treasurer, Howard Norfolk who will take over from our Secretary Karen Chater.  Our thanks to Karen for taking on two roles and holding the fort for the past year; and also to John Roper for his valiant efforts to keep our accounts up to date during our two years without a Treasurer.

Now that we have changed Banks, from Barclays to Lloyds, and established a new Financial Year to run from 1st January, our accounting life should be far simpler.  The Charities Commission have accepted our changes and will now expect submission of our Annual Report to them by the end of January 2021.  WPAG will therefore hold its AGM early in January 2021 to accept the Treasurer’s Annual Report and Accounts.  Barry Northrup has again kindly offered to verify the accounts as he did last year.

Our Website and Facebook page have been well looked after by David Cheek and our membership has grown steadily.  The readership of our Newsletter has also increased and we greatly appreciate the interest and support of the community.

As ever, WPAG has worked closely with Welwyn Parish Council, WHBC and Herts CC.  This has covered many local issues: Welwyn High Street, local Planning Applications, Consultations on Highways, Luton Airport Expansion and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), the Local Plan and very importantly the Neighbourhood Plan.

Welwyn’s Neighbourhood Plan will be of vital importance to us for the future.  A comprehensive questionnaire, (which WPC will distribute in the near future) will ask residents to respond fully.  WPAG Committee Members are members of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group that Welwyn Parish Council has established.  The Local Plan is nearing the point of acceptance or rejection.  Production of our Neighbourhood Plan will then be vital to the protection of our beautiful Parish for future generations, as well as providing us with the means to access a percentage of CIL payments and to influence the specific local use of funds obtained.

WPAG therefore urges residents to take the time to complete and return the questionnaire when it comes out as soon as possible; anyone who would like to join the working party to help us to create our Neighbourhood Plan should contact Cllr. Bill Morris at WPC.

Our Committee has been unable to meet physically during the many months of lockdown and social distancing restrictions.  Consequently, our contact has been less often and limited to Zoom!   Let us hope that 2021 will soon see us reunited around a meeting table again.

On behalf of the WPAG Committee, I would like to take this opportunity to send seasonal greetings to our members and readers of our Newsletter and Facebook pages.  We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safer New Year.

Thank you again for your support.

Chair, Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group

Welwyn High Street – Plea from Welwyn’s Traders

Open Letter to Hertfordshire County Council

We write as one-voice to Hertfordshire County Council Highways & Environment Division with our concerns about the impact the social distancing measures placed in Welwyn High Street is having and will continue to have on the ability of many of us to survive as businesses at this extremely difficult time.

In particular, the imposition of a one-way system in the High Street is extremely damaging in terms of footfall to the village. This is something we have experienced before, in 2009, with the effect of pushing some traders to the edge of survival.

The SAGE advice on the Government’s website regarding environmental transmission of coronavirus points to an extremely low risk of catching Covid-19 by passing someone on a pavement or in a shop for a short period of time.


For the first 9 weeks following lockdown when essential shops were open, the Great
Welwyn Public largely behaved with courtesy, common-sense, and personal obligation to follow social distancing rules without needing barriers to help them do this. These are the only traders that are ever likely to have queues on the pavement, such is the nature of the others that opened after 15th June, and those planning to open from 4th July onwards. Most of the latter will be operating a booking/ appointment system to avoid queues.

Whilst whole-heartedly supporting the need for people to follow social distancing
guidelines, we believe it is perfectly possible in the context of Welwyn Village for customers and staff to do this in a safe way without imposing restrictions that may lead to the demise of yet another High Street in this country. We are all making our businesses Covid-19 secure and will promote social distancing amongst our customers and outside.

Welwyn Village is fairly unique in its make-up of shops, pubs, restaurants, estate agents, hair, beauty and specialist businesses. The cross-fertilisation of footfall from one business to another has always been one of the main reasons for its ability to survive. We know from previous experience that reduction in parking and the necessity to negotiate the bypass for some journeys means that potential customers often simply decide to go elsewhere and footfall is lost, leading to a downturn in revenue which in these difficult times will be catastrophic.


We ask you to think again and support us in trying to get back on our feet.


Yours sincerely,

Belinda Walsingham, Box of Delights, 24 High Street
Susan Bull, SuSu, 21 High Street
Mick Leto, The Barbers Room, 30 High Street
Howard Hill, Hill & Co Violin Shop, 5 High Street
Matheus Gomes, Vita Ristorante, 12 High Street
Wendy Rowley, Welwyn Florist, 29 High Street
Dennis, Katie, Chris & Phill Dinsdale, Katie’s Bakery, 3 High Street
Tricia Conroy Smith, Off Broadway Travel, 18/20 Prospect Place
Filippo Mazzarella, Aqua Restaurant, 28 High Street
Adam Richardson, The White Horse, 30 Mill Lane
Dan Tubbs, The Wellington, 1 High Street
Steven Hastings & Jenny Havill, Lemon Plaice, 21 Church Street
Gill Ewing, Simmons Bakers, 34 High Street
Peter Morgan, Peter Morgan Hairdressing, 4 Codicote Road
Martin Bishop, Bryan Bishop Estate Agent, 6a High Street

Dawn Somerville, Essie & Betsy, 12 Church Street
Tanya Thanyaphon East, Thai Legacy Therapy, 27 High Street
Morwenna McDonald, Welwyn Osteopathy, 27 High Street
Gill Buszmanning, Comfy Soles Chiropody , 27 High Street
Kelvin Dean, Old Welwyn Clinic, 27 High Street
Deniz Gentle, Headmistress Hairdressing, 10 Church Street
Jay Miah, Taj Mahal Restaurant, 2 High Street
Claire Austin, Austin’s Funerals, 16 High Street
Laura Moyes, Laura Kate, 15 High Street
James Bainbridge, The White Hart, 2 Prospect Place
Lisa Green, Belvoir Estate & Lettings Agents, 9 High Street
Marianne Hawes, Danesbury & QVM Charity Shop, 4 High Street
Gobind Singh Lidhar, XO Wine Merchants, 6 High Street

Welwyn High Street – WPAG Protest

Open Letter To Hertfordshire County Council

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.

Current Chaos

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:

We sincerely hope that due account will be given to this matter, urgently.

Yours sincerely,

Sandra Saunders (Kyriakides)

CHAIRMAN, WELWYN PLANNING & AMENITY GROUP

In your hands – the Future for Singlers Marsh

What is the future for Singlers Marsh?

Singlers Marsh was formed during the Ice Age. The glaciers more or less stopped at the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire borders. But the rocks, soil and sediment they pushed before them created the chalk hills of the Chilterns, from which the River Mimram flows, and the Mimram valley.

The Past

1904 Postcard from Singlers Bridge along the Codicote Road

The Mimram was a much wider, deeper river than it is now and Singlers Marsh was part of the flood plain, where the river could expand into several channels when the water levels rose – helping to protect Welwyn from flooding.

The marshy, fertile meadows or ‘medes’ were excellent for grazing animals, but not surprisingly marked on old maps as ‘Likely to flood’. There are tales of swimming and boating on the Mimram, skating on the marsh when it iced over and tug of war matches ‘across the Mimram’ – when the losers got wet.

The Drain flooded

The Present

When the Link Road was built in the 60’s, sadly the resulting clay spoil was allowed to be tipped onto the Marsh, creating a domed effect, thus removing its effectiveness as a flood plain! However, it was then seeded. 1969 saw Welwyn Rural District Council buying the marsh from Three Valleys Water and in 1973 they made the historic decision to create Singlers Marsh into a nature reserve, with the lovely quote, reported in the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We sincerely hope this spot will become a restful retreat for those who want to spend a few hours away from the crowds”.

A Hot Spell June 2020

Welwyn RDC then handed ownership on to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC), who have registered it as a ‘Local Nature Reserve’. Now much used as a safe place by walkers, the Guides, school, dog walkers, family picnics and of course the Welwyn Festival Fun Runs and Fun Day. During the Covid lockdown it has been used very regularly for everyone’s exercise and, during the hot weather, loads of socially-distanced’ picnics.

Welwyn Fun Day 2013 & the Duck Race

The Future

But despite the classification as a ‘Local Nature Reserve’ this gives little protection from development. Last year WHBC readily gave permission for part of the Marsh to be used in a road and bridge widening scheme to support the proposed housing developments around the cemetery. 959 people signed a petition to stop this being done and, at the moment, this proposal has not been included in the latest Local Plan submission, but we have yet to hear the Inspector’s final decision.

So how can we protect this beautiful space for us and generations to come?

Well, there are two possibilities:

  1. We can try to get it ‘Village Green’ status, which has a much higher level of protection. This was tried a few years ago but was stymied by the landowner WHBC. Anyone can make this application and one is currently underway at https://www.protectthemarsh.co.uk/. However, it usually needs the support of the landowner to be successful. So could we persuade Welwyn Parish Council to buy the land? And then there is a vested interest to get this greater level of protection.

    OR
  2. Welwyn Parish has voted to develop a Neighbourhood Plan which is your vision of what Welwyn should be like in the next 15-20 years, primarily in terms of house planning and infrastructure. When approved, it has some ‘teeth’ with planning decisions.  Part of the Plan is what should be protected both in terms of architecture, green belt, open spaces – and our three nature reserves. Developing this Plan will start with a questionnaire which everyone will receive. This will be your chance to say how important Singlers Marsh is to you.

Your WPAG is involved with both these projects, but we will need your support when the time comes.

Enjoy Singlers Marsh now. And let’s do our best to protect it for years to come.