Singlers Marsh Village Green update

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.

The issue

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 10 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.

To achieve this we need to prove that a significant number of locals have had unfettered access over the course of the last 20 years.

The application is supported by Welwyn Parish Council, WPAG, local residents’ associations and users of Singlers Marsh.

What happens next?

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.

They have advertised the application to allow people to object, and by the deadline two people had objected: the developer and WHBC.

We now have a month to rebutt their objections and then HCC’s considerations start.

It is the HCC Officer’s view that this may well go to a Public Inquiry. But 72% of responders felt so strongly about Singlers Marsh that they are prepared to give evidence if necessary – which is brilliant support. Thank you.

However, the whole 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’.

The background

Herts County Council (HCC) is the awarding body.

The application for registration as a protected ‘Village Green’ was submitted in 2020 when the proposal to build the houses around the Cemetery was not in the Local Plan. If it had been, this would have created a ’Trigger Event’ which would have stopped the application. However it was not, so HCC considered the application ‘duly made’ and have just put it out for consultation. Which means we now need to gather the evidence by 30th September.

A ‘significant’ number of local inhabitants need to show that they have enjoyed access, without any hindrance, over the course of the last 20 years. ‘Significant’ in this context is 5-10% and the more people from within the immediate vicinity, classified as Welwyn Parish, and streets close to Singlers Mars, the better.

In addition to individuals, we received testimony from groups who have used Singlers Marsh such as schools, Scouts, Welwyn Festival and the 10k Run,

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.