This analysis is for members of the Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group and is intended to provide a focus on the main issues contained within the Consultation Document, as far as they impact the Village of Welwyn, and the surrounding settlements of Oaklands & Mardley Heath, and Digswell.
For full details of the Local Plan it is recommended that you go to the borough website and access the Local Plan Consultation Document after following simple registration instructions.
Most of the content of the following analysis concerns housing site selection, and is derived from Sections 13, 14 and 15 of the Consultation Document, relating respectively to Oaklands & Mardley Heath, Welwyn Village, and Digswell.
- To understand better the impact that Woolmer Green proposals might have on Welwyn, go to Section 12.
- To understand better what is planned for Codicote, and developments along the B656 Welwyn-Codicote Road which will most likely impact life in Welwyn due to their major impact on B656 Highways issues, go to the North Herts Local PLan.
We must not forget that the Local Plan has to ensure that there is sufficient land available for employment uses (offices, industry and warehousing). The document states that there are no proposals to designate new employment areas in Welwyn.
Local Plans have to define primary and mixed use shopping frontages within designated centres so that their vitality and viability can be supported.
Section 9.10 of the Consultation Document identifies that local neighbourhood or village centres which meet day to day needs for convenience shopping and other services also need to be supported as they perform an important community function.
The Emerging Core Strategy indicated the approach to the designation and protection of wildlife sites, which continues in the Local Plan. The assessment of these sites is the responsibility of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife trust working in partnership with the Herts County Council.
There are 191 locally identified wildlife sites in the borough, including the three Local Nature Reserves within the Parish of Welwyn: Mardley Heath, Danesbury Park, and Singlers Marsh.
Urban Open Land
The Local Plan will generally protect open spaces as they have an important role in protecting the health and well-being of communities.
Welwyn has a ‘Large Village Centre’, as defined in the document Policy Intention SADM14 Welwyn
The borough’s policy intent is that facilities and services within the overall boundary of Welwyn Village Centre be protected. Within the defined retail frontage the council will seek to ensure a proportion (60%) remain in retail use.
In Welwyn Village there are three ‘outlying’ areas – this allows two car parks and Welwyn Civic Centre to be included in the Village Centre and give protection, without including large numbers of residential properties.
Figure 14.18 identifies the proposed village centre for Welwyn and the retail frontages it contains.
Where did the (Housing) Site Selection come from?
To identify land which might be considered available for housing in Welwyn and surrounding settlements, the borough had to make a robust assessment of the sources of supply of housing land which came forward from landowners and developers in April 2014 as part of the exercise known as the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, (SHLAA). This Assessment will be reviewed and updated before the final version of the Local Plan is published.
How are sites categorised?
In putting forward potential sites for housing, there was no exclusion of those sites currently within the Green Belt.
Sites were placed placed into one of three categories as follows:
- ‘More Favourable’,
- ‘Finely Balanced’ and
- ‘Less Favourable’.
The Consultation Document asks us to comment only on the More Favourable sites.
All other site categories have been placed in the Appendix, and are not included per se within the consultation process.
Why is the Consultation Document only looking at ‘More Favourable’ sites?
The borough has to satisfy the Inspector that theirs has been a robust, evidence-based assessment, which concludes that within the Plan period enough new dwellings will be built from the More Favourable Sites, and that the borough does not need to call upon sites which are placed in other categories. We must hope that that will be the case.
However, it would seem sensible to take this opportunity to express any concerns and/or support for the ‘less favourable’ or ‘finely balanced’ sites and present them to the borough as part of this Consultation process on the basis that it is better to air these thoughts than to keep them quiet.
Green Belt Issues
At this point, refresh your knowledge of Green Belt Rules by going to our Post What is – Green Belt? The borough has to present a case which supports any proposed change to Green Belt boundaries, which applies in fact to all the More Favourable Sites being promoted for Welwyn. The Consultation Document therefore proceeds to put forward a case for ‘exceptional circumstances’, built upon the assertion/evidence that the housing capacity within Welwyn Parish’s existing urban area is not enough to meet the identified need for housing.
This is a critical argument which impacts not just the ‘more favourable’, but all the ‘Finely balanced sites’ in the Appendices, should they have to come forward.
How Many New Houses are going to be Needed?
The Consultation Document sets out to identify for each settlement, a total based upon:
- the identified need for housing’ (OAN) in that settlement,
- an analysis of Completions between 2011-2014 and those under construction,
- an analysis of smaller and larger sites,
- leading to the so-called ‘Potential capacity for sites’.
Does it matter if the number of Potential sites falls short of the the OAN ?
To gain an understanding of how the ‘Potential Capacity for sites’ is reached, the Consultation Document summarises Welwyn Parish in the following Sections:
- Section 13.2. (Table 10) for Oaklands & Mardley Heath
- Section 14.13 (Table 13) for Welwyn Village
- Digswell has no – ‘More Favourable’ – Green Belt Sites listed.
These show that the declared total potential housing capacity for Welwyn Parish is:
- Welwyn Village 175
- Oaklands/Mardley Heath 73
- Digswell 9
(A detailed analysis of all the above sites in Welwyn Parish is given below).
N.B. When the WHBC come to setting a housing target for Welwyn Parish, and defining which sites should be developed, they will have to take account of the cumulative effect of developing some or all of these sites on infrastructure etc..
How Many New Houses are Needed in Welwyn?
The Consultation Document reports that the number of households in Welwyn has increased significantly by 12% over the past 10 years, although in common with most of the borough’s villages its actual population growth has been much lower. This indicates an overall reduction in average household size.
Section 14.3 comments that if growth is distributed across the borough on a proportionate basis (i.e. a number derived from the current distribution, and number, of houses, and employment across the entire borough), then the identified need for housing (OAN) in Welwyn between 2011 and 2031 is 420. Since 2011 87 dwellings have already been completed or have commenced construction, leaving a need to find sufficient land in and around Welwyn for a further 333 new dwellings.
Section 14.4. The borough identifies sites that are considered to be ‘more favourable for development’, and thus, by definition, ‘the best’. But other options for Welwyn should not be overlooked at – they are ‘hidden’ in the Appendices (which are given as a precis below) because the borough has decided that they do not need to be included in the Local Plan. But this view might be contested, so have a look for yourself.
Section 14.13 (Table 13) identifies:
- Completions 2011-2014 and under construction 87
- Small urban sites <5 dwellings, and office conversions 13
- Sub-total ‘Under Construction’ 100
Green belt Sites
- Wel3 – School Lane – Old pumping station 10
- Wel4 – Sandyhurst – south of Nodeway Gardens 35
- Wel11 – The Vineyards, Codicote Road – rear garden 30
Total potential housing capacity 175
How Many New Houses are Needed for Digswell?
- Completions and under construction 3
- Small urban sites < 5 dwellings 6
- Sub-total 9
- Green Belt sites 0
- Total potential housing capacity 9
How Many New Houses are needed for Oaklands & Mardley Heath?
- Completions & Under construction 20
- Small sites < 5 dwellings 6
- WE01 52 Great North Road 7
- WN11 17Canonsfield Road 9
- Sub-total 42
- OMH5 Land rear of 2-12 Great North Road 20
- OMH8 Great North Road 5
- GTLAA04 Four Oaks (Travellers site) 6
- Total potential housing capacity 73
A Listing of the More Favourable Housing Sites – with a precis of Borough Comment
Wel3 School Lane
- Previously developed as a pumping station.
- Minor accessibility concerns.
- Given the low capacity of the site this may not be a major issue.
Wel4 Sandyhurst (south of Nodeway Gardens and bounded by A1(M) on the East
- A logical and defensible greenbelt boundary can be drawn around it
- Potential for noise needs to be mitigated in any development coming forward
- The Borough present this as a site which poses no great threat to Green Belt change rules, and it is surrounded by existing development
Wel1 The Vineyards
- this site threatens the gap between Welwyn and Codicote (and coalescence issues)
- well enclosed with relatively strong boundaries
- small size
- potential issues in securing an access to be overcome.
- this highlights the fact that access to the B656 Codicote Road appears impractical, and that the only alternative would be access via the Danesbury Estate.
Oaklands & Mardley Heath
WE01 Great North Road
- Part green field site
- Has capacity for 7 dwellings
- Available within 5 years
WN11 17 Canonsfield Road
- Part green field site
- Adjacent to WE01
- Capacity for 9 dwellings
- adjacent to to WE01
- available within 5 years
OMH5 Land at rear of 2-12 Great North Road
OMH8 2 Great North Road
- Both the above sites are adjacent to one another
- A1(M) provides strong northern boundary
- Has defensible new green belt boundary along A1(M)
GTLAA04 Four Oaks
- Promoted for a gypsy and traveller site
- A 6 pitch extension proposed to existing 5 pitch site (N.B. 1 pitch = 2 caravans)
- Only partial impact on local green belt regarding gaps between settlements
- A1(M) forms a strong northern boundary
- A1(M) presents a defensible new greenbelt boundary
Appendices – Finely Balanced Sites
Welwyn Village (See A.10 figure 54)
Wel1 Land at Kimpton Road
- Development would increase ribbon development between Welwyn& Codicote
- Topography would lead to a high visual openness
- Currently makes a significant contribution to the greenbelt purpose of protecting the countryside.
Wel2 Land East of Welwyn Cemetery
- Does not join an existing settlement boundary of Welwyn
- Could come forward in conjunction with Wel1 (above)
- Would increase ribbon development between Welwyn and Codicote
- Would erode an existing fragile Green Belt boundary
Oaklands & Mardley Heath (See B.14 Figure 62)
OMH7 Land at 22 The Avenue
- Separated from existing settlement boundary by the A1(M)
- A1(M) a strong northern boundary
- Joins existing development but not possible to draw a new Green Belt boundary around the site.
- Would seriously compromise the defensibility of a much wider area of Green Belt beyond.
Digswell (See B16 Figure 63)
Dig1 Land behind 2 New Road
- Topography makes the site particularly visible and at risk of overland flow.
- High level of physical and visual openness and strong countryside characteristics
- Weak Eastern boundary – difficult to draw a logical and defensible new greenbelt boundary
Dig4 Land at Digswell Lane and Bessemer Road
- Preserves the gap between Digswell and Welwyn Garden City
- Currently has a very strong greenbelt boundary
- A new green belt around Dig4 would be much less logical and defensible.