(The following Report is based upon research and analysis undertaken by Ron Oxley, WPAG Lead Member for Planning Applications).
The Frythe – Approval of Plans to Redevelop
The Frythe, just south west of Welwyn, was sold on 19th December 2010 to the development Company, Land Improvements. Although the 47 acre site is Green Belt land, it presents approximately 29 acres of Brownfield Development opportunity.
Land Improvements is a development company specialising in producing plans, obtaining planning approvals & organising pre-contract site preparation and management of the subsequent construction work.
On 20th December 2012, two years after the sale, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) granted Full Planning Application to build 196 new homes, (to include Affordable Housing). Agreement was also given to convert the original Victorian mansion into 14 apartments.
The basic layout of the site was approved, with several distinct areas ‘designated’, or marked out, for housing development. Using this approach, eight areas (A to H) have been designated, allowing each to have a distinct identity.
The Planning Application includes the provision of roads and footways, car parking, drainage, pool improvement, soft and hard landscaping, play space and lighting, and a perimeter enclosure.
Demolition of the laboratories and offices is now complete, and the groundwork for roadways and services is under construction, preparatory to the next stage, which will be to draw up building works contracts.
The first market-driven housing completions are expected in the third quarter of 2014, with Affordable Housing following on in parallel with later market-driven completions.
Infrastructure for a Bus Service onto the site will be investigated.
The Frythe – The Process of Planning
Local bodies involved over the past year, as the projected plans emerged, have included:-
- Welwyn Parish Council,
- The Welwyn Parish Plan Action Group and
- The Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group.
These three bodies have co-ordinated their actions under the Chairmanship of Cllr Colin Hukin (Chair WPC Planning & Licensing Committee)
In September 2012, when Land Improvements submitted an Outline Planning Application to WHBC, early proposals were for 200 dwellings, the majority of which would be for sale, but including 12.5% Affordable Homes to be sited in just one designated area.
There has been protracted discussion on the details of this approach, between WHBC and Land improvements, including the issue of the section 106 agreement (whereby a developer is required to undertake additional works, usually outside of the site boundary).
A modified application (subsequently approved on 20th December 2012 as stated above) was for 196 dwellings up to 3.5 m tall with garages, and including 14 apartments in the Frythe house conversion. The provision for Affordable Housing has now been agreed at 23%, namely 45 units formed of 17 flats and 28 houses, and these are now to be situated in two designated locations (Areas A and C), and not just one as originally proposed.
Many of the mature trees on the site are rare, and some are exotic, and because they are protected, will remain so. The existing large pond is to be restored and the landscape retained as much as possible.
The Frythe – Community Factors and Local Concerns
The Welwyn Parish Council, aided and abetted by the Welwyn Parish Plan Action Group, and Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group, have worked tirelessly together to express concerns about the possible significant effect such a major development will have upon Welwyn Village and surrounding areas.
Concerns relate to the impact that a sizeably increased population will have on local schools and medical services, with associated increases in pedestrian and vehicular traffic, impacting in turn upon traffic movement and car parking.
Within the anticipated section 106 agreement, local requests have been made which include allowance for:
- Funding for the upgrading of Whitehill Car Park in Welwyn village,
- Construction of a footpath and cycleway down Whitehill to School Lane, linking with existing footpaths to the Welwyn playing fields and schools
- The provision of adequate pedestrian access to the B197 (at the site front entrance) and an improved footpath link to Welwyn village down London Road
- Provision of on-site pedestrian access to countryside walks and to rural footpaths
- Provision of suitable Parish boundary markers and signage
- Completion of sundry works in Welwyn village to accommodate additional traffic, parking and pedestrian movement
Many of these concerns will continue to be addressed as development progresses, but there have been few indicators to show how, or if, we will be successful in achieving any of these requests, and we are not in a position to make ‘demands’.
But we do however plan further meetings with Land Improvements, who have been extremely helpful and forthcoming so far when addressing and explaining the factors which will influence final decisions. They have consistently shown an awareness of need to develop a site clearly identified with the community of Welwyn, and able to enjoy the benefits of Welwyn’s amenities. Whether they achieve that aim we shall see.
We will expect to create a series of updates as the development proceeds.