Singlers Marsh Village Green update – December 2021

Thank you to over 1000 people who completed the questionnaire to help apply for official Village Green status for Singlers Marsh

You can download the summary of the evidence presented here.

Latest Situation

Just before Christmas, Herts County Council (HCC) decided that given the scale of the support for our application it will be sent to a non-statutory Public Inquiry for a recommendation.

While this is not the’ best’ outcome, it is nevertheless a ‘good’ outcome as the Inquiry will not be held before WHBC make their decision in February on which sites to include in the Local Plan. (More details). So it makes the viability of developing the Welwyn Cemetery/Singlers Marsh sites more uncertain.

The next stage is that HCC will appoint an independent barrister to hold the Inquiry and both we and the objectors (WHBC and Bayard, the developer) will then need to get the legal arguements together.

The Background

Singlers Marsh is designated as a Local Nature Reserve, but unfortunately this does not stop it being used for development.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) currently hold plans to build a new dual lane bridge across the River Mimram taking a slice off Singlers Marsh to widen the road to potentially 240 new houses which would surround the cemetery.

Of course there needs to be need houses in the Borough, but Welwyn has grown by 33% in the last 20 years. In the last 5 years alone Welwyn has taken on 9 times the number of new houses compared to our share of the population. Other villages have taken much less: Brookmans Park – 5 times, Cufley – 3 times and Welham Green level. Is this fair? Let alone overwhelming the village’s roads, school and surgery.

One solution

Getting Singlers Marsh recognised as a ‘Village Green’ would better protect it from any development now and in the future.

This requires getting evidence from a significant number of local users (ideally at least 5% of the local area) that they have have had continuous, unfettered access to the Marsh for at least the last 20 years.

WPAG took over and fronted the application, supported by the Singlers Marsh Action Group and WPC.

Following the campaign, evidence was gathered from over 1000 people (10% of Welwyn Parish), schools, organisations and of course the Festiva. The oldest usage being 70 years. The Evidence summary and all the original questionnaires were presented to Herts County Council on 12th October. HCC manage the whole process and will ultimately decide the issue.

HCC also advertised the application to allow people to object, and by the deadline two people had objected: the developer and WHBC. We then had a month to rebutt their objections.

Having decided to go to a Public Inquiry this process could take one or even two years. So we will let you know progress.

The benefits of Village Green status

Registration of land as a Village Green is likely to prevent development. 

It becomes is a criminal offence to undertake any act which interrupts the use or enjoyment of a green as a place for exercise and recreation or to cause any damage to the green. 

It becomes an offence to drive over a registered town or village green without lawful authority and in certain other circumstances. 

It is deemed to be a public nuisance and therefore, an offence, to enclose or encroach on a green, or interfere with, disturb or build on a green, unless this is done “with a view to the better enjoyment of such town or village green.” 

Village Greens may also be subject to any registered rights of common land. So the Commons Act 1876 makes it a criminal offence to ‘damage or encroach on it’ or to ‘interfere with the public’s recreational enjoyment’.

Throughout the process we have received very positive support from many individuals and organisations. So thank you for time, effort and support.

Thank you.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions are here.

If you would like to be kept up to date with the progress sign up to receive the free wpag newsletter at https://www.wpag.org.uk/free-newsletter

The history of Singlers Marsh is here.

How the Local Plan could impact Singlers Marsh is here.