July was a difficult month, mainly because the serious illness and subsequent death of a very dear friend impacted greatly on my time and my emotions during that period. However on most days I still managed to spend a couple of hours on my computer, answering emails and letters received from Welwyn residents.
Sunday 1st: I attended the Liberal-Democrat Duck Race fundraising event in Lemsford. It was a thoroughly enjoyable, non-political, occasion at which I met some very interesting people. I was glad to have been able to give my support to this event as the two Liberal-Democrat councillors have so kindly been my mentors and guides since I joined the Council as a new Independent member in May, and I am extremely grateful to them for their help.
Tuesday 3rd: Following the receipt of an email asking for assistance from a resident of Parkside, I went to visit the site at 11.00am. She has a problem, which is duplicated throughout the site, and which has proved to be most challenging. The site was purchased and developed by a private contractor and the properties were sold. They are therefore outside the control or interest of the WHBC. However, most of the trees on the site are covered by a TPO (Tree Protection Order) from the Council. This site has not been satisfactorily maintained; many trees have drastically overgrown and are infringing on property both in respect of light and safety. The residents have been unable to trace the owner of the land; and the council records were not up to date in this respect.
Wednesday 4th, Thursday 5th, Friday 6th July: I spent three days tracing the owner of Parkside. After a few “red herrings” and wrong calls, I eventually tracked him down. He agreed to meet me on return from his holiday and also promised to send me details of his land ownership, as he understood that the trees were on “unregistered land” and therefore not his responsibility! I subsequently received several more letters from residents of Parkside, asking for help. I have reported back to them on my progress and will keep them informed.
Sunday 8th: I went to the Olympic Torch Relay in Welwyn Garden City and I was so impressed at the wonderful support by residents from Welwyn Hatfield Borough and the wonderful atmosphere that permeated the occasion. The warmth and enthusiasm of the crowd was amazing and we were so lucky that the rain held off just until after the torch passed through! I only wish we had more occasions to unite as citizens and create the community spirit that was so prevalent on that day.
Thursday 12th: I attended meetings with Council Officers at Campus East in the morning and attended to outstanding paperwork in the afternoon.
Friday 13th: A meeting, instigated by me, was held at my house at 2.30pm attended by the Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP, his assistant Robyn Thakara, David Cheek, Robin Cole and Tony Langford of Friends of the Mimram, Charlie Bell, Living Rivers Officer Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, me of course as Independent Councillor for Welwyn West, and Cllr Mandy Perkins, Conservative Councillor for Welwyn West. It was a very successful meeting, at which Grant Shapps promised his full support and assistance at Government level. The Welwyn Hatfield Times news editor, Chris Lennon, joined the group when it gathered by the side of the Mimram for a photo shoot and the WHT has been magnificent in its support by offering to run the story and the Petition to Save the Mimram for the next month in the local paper. Photos are already on this website. You can sign the petition yourself by clicking here.
Sunday 15th: Meeting at my house at 12:00 noon with PC Ben Satchfield to update me on the matter of traffic congestion and safety during the school run on London Road. At my request, this issue had been followed up and the area had been visited by county and police officials. It was very unfortunate that on the day they visited the problem was minimal – an extremely unusual occurrence. I have requested a return visit when the school term starts again in September and that the situation should be properly monitored. I have been advised that the county council will work on a traffic plan with St Mary’s School to see what improvements can be made. Meanwhile, a petition has been lodged by residents with the WHBC requesting restricted parking on the corners of The Crescent.
That afternoon I attended the Mayor’s Garden Party, held to raise funds for her designated charities: Dogs for the Disabled Welwyn Garden City Support Group and Home-Start Welwyn Hatfield. This event took place in the delightful garden of Andrew Carnegie in WGC which, despite the chilly summer afternoon and threat of rain, was very well-attended. On my return home at 6.00pm I was telephoned by a resident in Welwyn concerning the presentation of a petition and called round to see her that evening.
Monday 16th: I attended a Local Government Information Unit Parliamentary Reception at The House of Commons, at which the Keynote Speaker, the Rt. Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, gave a very meaningful speech in relation to the group’s current inquiry into adult social care. I found this a very useful event and gained an elementary insight into the plans for future provision and funding of this important issue. It was another chilly, wet summer evening, but nevertheless the Terrace Pavilion of the House of Commons was a marvellous venue, offering wonderful views of the Thames and London in general. It was a privilege to be there.
Tuesday 17th: I went to visit a site in Hatfield in the afternoon that was due for discussion at a Planning Control Committee Meeting later in the week. That evening, I attended a Personal Safety Course at Campus West run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
Wednesday 18th: At 3.00am I was advised of the death of a very dear friend, who lived in Welwyn Garden City. I had known Dr Wladislaw (Billy) Essigman MD FRCP, for 56 years and he was as a father to me. He was a Consultant Rheumatologist at the Lister Hospital for many years before his retirement, and had been an amazing GP when I knew him in my childhood. During World War II he served with the Polish Army Medical Corps and was always modest about this, particularly in respect of the week-long battle at Monte Cassino in May 1944, when the Polish Corps lost 1000 men and Billy worked day and night helping to save the injured. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
At 10.00am I had a follow-up meeting with PC Ben Satchfield and I am afraid I was rather tired!
Thursday 19th: I played in a Ladies Golf Competition in the morning at Mill Green, and attended a Planning Control Committee meeting at Campus West in the evening.
Friday 20th: I received a call from a local resident whose recycling bin had not been emptied. Despite several calls and promises that this would be done, the situation remained the same. He was especially concerned as he was due to go on holiday. Having also been promised that it would be emptied, I went to the site to check for myself. The bin was still full. Following another phone call from me, it was emptied within the hour.
Saturday 21st: I held my monthly morning Surgery at St Mary’s Church Hall from 10.00am and was pleased to see the two residents who called in. A resident of St Mary’s Close complained about the state of the road surface in the close. I subsequently checked this out and have passed the issue on to the county council Highways Department.
Monday 23rd July: At 1.30pm I attended a meeting at Danesbury Park, together with the WHBC officer concerned, to discuss refuse and recycling issues. This is an unusual case because the site is a unique conservation area and residents have no facility for storing the large collection bins that most of us use. Many of the residents are elderly and a long walk to bins, carrying sacks of rubbish, would certainly not be feasible, particularly in the winter months.
At 6.45pm I attended a very interesting presentation to council members given by the Isabel Hospice, explaining fully the extent of the excellent work carried out by the Hospice and its plans and requirements for the future. This was followed at 6.30pm by a full Council Meeting.
I also received complaints on this day about a bonfire in Welwyn which had been lit persistently during hot weather and left to burn all night, at a time when people had doors and windows open and wanted to sit out in the garden.
Tuesday 24th: After calling by Campus East to complete some paperwork in the morning, I babysat my grandson for a few hours and then went to Stevenage to say a fond farewell to Dr Essigman in Austin’s Chapel of Rest. It was important for me to do this because I wished to erase the memory of the tragic vision I had retained of him a few days prior to his death. It was a great comfort to see how James Smith had physically restored him as he would have wished to be remembered; and this is the picture I will treasure. Thank you, James.
Wednesday 25th: I visited a Welwyn resident whose Planning Application for a small extension to his property had been refused. I was able to help with advice on what options were available to him and how to proceed further.
Thursday 26th: Day off from all council duties to attend Billy’s funeral at Harwood Park.
Friday 27th: Feedback on bonfire queries with council and reported back to residents who had complained.
I then took a short 2-day break to Portsmouth.
Tuesday 31st: Ben Satchfield called by to introduce the new Chief Inspector for Welwyn Hatfield, Dave Wheatley. I greatly enjoyed meeting Dave and am sure he will be a great asset to the Borough. He has a friendly and open manner and an obvious grasp of local community needs. I look forward to seeing him again in the not too distant future.
As you can see it’s been another busy month. Finally, my next councillor surgery is Saturday the August 18th at 10:00am in St. Mary’s church hall, and of course all are welcome to attend.