EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF RESPONSE
Welwyn Parish Council (WPC) is pleased to comment on the 2020 Site Allocation that revised the Local Plan (2016) and was approved by the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) Cabinet and issued for consultation. We have restricted our comments to those aspects of the Plan that affect our area of responsibility as far as possible.
We have reviewed the sustainability and legality aspects and consider that the portion of the Local Plan (as approved by WHBC Cabinet) relating to this Parish, meets these requirements. We therefore largely welcome and agree with the Plan. We support WHBC’s decisions regarding the sites to be allocated in Welwyn, Oaklands and Mardley Heath (there were none proposed for Digswell) with the exception of one site (HS32) for which we maintain our original objection on soundness grounds. We are concerned that WHBC have not yet announced the formulation of the “gap policy” as recommended by LUC as settlement coalescence is a major issue for us.
This Council was very concerned that some additional sites proposed by prospective
developers would have meant great harm to our parish. Our concerns were regarding green belt harm and boundary sustainability, unsuitable ground e.g. partial flood plain or too close to the River Mimram (the important chalk stream that runs through much of the parish) or necessitating major infrastructure implementation for feasibility or sustainability.
All of the sites originally proposed following the 2019 Call for Sites for Digswell and most of those proposed for Oaklands, Mardley Heath and Welwyn, had major suitability, access or green belt boundary implications. The Welwyn sites in particular, if they had been selected for allocation, would have had a massive negative impact on the village: traffic; unsuitable road infrastructure; visually intrusive, marring currently open rural views; impinging upon local open spaces.
We strongly believe the WHBC assessment of the 4 Welwyn sites rejected under the CPPP and Cabinet decisions, included arguments and conclusions that were seriously flawed. When considered collectively (which part of the argument for their original inclusion maintained: to support infrastructure improvement) the harm to the green belt would be very great, almost catastrophic and not merely the “medium-high” of each individual site (with which we also disagree). Accordingly we were pleased that WHBC decided to exclude from site allocation, all sites which would cause medium-high or worse harm to the Green Belt, which encompassed those 4 sites. We fully support that decision.
Any infrastructure implementation would involve considerable investment, but we recognise that this is largely a matter of will and prioritisation and not an absolute barrier to development. This Council has consistently asked for infrastructure such as roads, bus routes, schools and health facilities to be established commensurate with the timescales of developments (ideally in advance) and not months or even years behind with resulting congestion, noise, pollution, inconvenience and destruction of the rural nature of much of the parish (especially the historic centres of Digswell and Welwyn villages).