August 2013 Update

At the beginning of August, I spent a few days in Scotland at the Aboyne Highland Games, where I joined up with my Clan (Leask) for the annual gathering.  We were blessed with glorious weather and it was wonderful to meet up with old friends and to make new ones.  There were Leask visitors from as far afield as Australia and they loved every minute – especially the pipe bands!

Wednesday 8th:

Back to work with a vengeance!  Morning meetings at WHBC with Estates officer to discuss the ongoing problems with Parkside, then on to Planning to discuss the proposals for advertising on roundabouts in Welwyn village with the officer concerned.  In the afternoon there were more discussions with the Parking Services Officer about current proposals for Welwyn and the next couple of hours was spent delivering R.A.I.D. (Residents Against Inappropriate Development) leaflets produced by the Residents Association in The Avenue, Welwyn East in their attempt to raise public awareness and support for their current problem :  Travellers’ development of a property within the Green Belt and residential area to accommodate caravans; work that was carried out without planning permission and with the destruction of green belt trees and area.  The matter went to an official hearing this month and is now before the Secretary of State for consideration.

Thursday 9th:

Attended a Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel Meeting to support Welwyn West residents who were submitting a petition against the WHBC proposed Residents Parking Permit Scheme.

Friday 10th:

Meeting with Herts County Councillor Richard Smith concerning the problems over land ownership of common areas within Parkside.  He was extremely helpful with suggestions and the provision of useful background information.  It was refreshing to have assistance and support from someone who, like myself, has only the interests of Welwyn as a priority.

Sunday 12th:

Planning Control Committee site visit to Hatfield to view a property in Wilkins Green Lane.  This was the subject of an appeal against a planning decision and needed visual verification.  It is always good to do this in difficult cases and real problems or envisaged ones can only be seen “live” and are not apparent on plans.  It was a worthwhile visit and, although the committee had varying viewpoints, it was better able to reach an informed decision at the forthcoming meeting.

Tuesday 14th:

Telephone call from a resident concerning an ongoing neighbourhood dispute.  Information passed to the Community Housing Trust and the Police and a watchful eye to be kept on the situation by all concerned.  That afternoon I went to inspect a site in The Crescent .  WHBC had proposed to plant another tree on the Green – an area that was already abundant with trees and residents had objected to yet another one, giving valid reasons.   I subsequently followed this up with the Parish Council and the appropriate officers at WHBC and hopefully the situation is now resolved to the residents’ satisfaction.

Wednesday  15th:

A meeting at my house with a very concerned resident from Mill Lane and Cllr Bill Morris, Chair of the Welwyn Parish Council Car Parking Committee to discuss current parking provisions and requirements and the proposed WHBC residents parking permit scheme for Prospect Place.  The meeting started at 10.30am and finished at 1.45pm!  It was a marathon, but a lot was achieved.

Thursday 16th:

My birthday!  Day off?  Absolutely not!  7.30pm meeting at Campus West of the WHBC Planning Control Committee, of which I am a member.

Saturday 18th:

Surgery at St Mary’s Church.  This time I was delighted to see more residents and was pleased to be able to take on the action required, one concerning Parkside – on which I am currently working, and another concerning refusal of a planning application to fell trees.   Cllr Mandy Perkins also shares the surgery and she undertook to take on the complaint raised concerning the amount of litter and cigarette ends that abound the rear of Tesco in Welwyn Village, which is very unpleasant for residents in the vicinity.

Monday 20th:

An on-site meeting with Cllr Richard Smith at Parkside.  We walked the whole site for 1 ½ hours and examined each resident’s complaint in detail.  We also walked the paths and established adopted pathways and responsibilities under the auspices of Herts County Council and those definitely relating to either residents or the company that built the development.  Again, Cllr Smith was incredibly helpful and has made a huge difference to my ability to make headway with what has been two months of frustrating research into an abyss of unclear land registration.

Wednesday 22nd :

Attended a Cheese and Wine evening at Gosling Sports Centre, hosted by Mayor Cllr Helen Bromley in support of her designated charities.  It was a lovely evening, with rather an intimate group of attendees.  I was very impressed by the improvements that have been made at Gosling and look forward to a more in depth visit in the near future.

Thursday 23rd:

I spent two hours in the morning at Campus West at the Official Hearing for the Appeal concerning No.17  The Avenue’s Travellers’ Site application.  Comments are obviously not allowed as this matter is under review by the Secretary of State.  I found the whole experience interesting and frustrating.  My sympathies were with the poor WHBC officer who had to defend work and decisions made by others.  I then paid a quick visit to Campus East to the Council Offices to submit a form and to see a couple of officers before going home.

Friday 24th:

After weeks of correspondence and emails, I finally managed to have a meeting with the owner of the company responsible for Parkside, T & B (St Albans) Ltd.  Mr Jelley was extremely amenable and explained that the development had been built by his father’s company (father now retired in his 80’s) and the company had been “wound down” considerably.  The current owner still had responsibility for some of the land and kindly brought his documents showing clearly which parts were owned by him.  He took on board the complaints about poor maintenance of common green areas and dangerous/overgrown trees that were his responsibility and undertook to put matters in hand as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately, a “grey area” of responsibility still remains about a couple of huge trees – the ones that started off the whole enquiry!  So my work there is by no means finished yet!  We spent an hour surveying the problems and he promised to get back to me in the near future.  He explained that he lives mostly abroad but will keep in touch by email.

Two of the overgrown trees on "unadopted land" in Parkside, Welwyn village.
One of the overgrown trees on “unadopted land” in Parkside!
Two of the overgrown trees on "unadopted land" in Parkside!
One of the overgrown trees on “unadopted land” in Parkside!

After that meeting I went on to the Official Hearing at Campus West.  I arrived at 11.30am and was there until 4.00pm when the proceedings finally wound up.  We did break for 15mins at lunchtime!  I thought the Inspector was fair and accurate in his assessment and response to what was put before him and totally impartial.  My personal frustration is with WHBC.  Someone there must be responsible for the situation having gone so far; for the lack of provision of a travellers’ site, which led to the current problem.  It certainly isn’t the fault of Council officers/employees and I hope that serious questions will be raised with the member of the Cabinet whose responsibility it was to ensure that the relevant action required was taken in good time.  Instead, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has been laid open to enormous costs if the travellers’ Appeal succeeds – a bill that will of course be footed by all the residents in the end, apart from the travellers in the caravans – who don’t pay taxes!

Monday 27th:

Spent the day working on the Parkside report and letters to all residents who had raised issues there with me, updating them on findings and possible solutions.  At 4.00pm I had a meeting at Parkside with the resident who had started the ball rolling so to speak.  I also advised them to form a residents association, which would place them in a more powerful position for future negotiations over problems.

Wednesday 30th:

At 10.30am I donned wellington boots and rainwear and joined Cllr Carl Storer, Cllr Bill Morris, and Cllr Linda McClusky (Chair of Welwyn Parish Council) to walk through Mardleywood.   Cllr McClusky had instigated this survey following a total lack of understanding of requirements by WHBC.  All tour members immediately understood the difficulty of the sunken path and the relatively simple repair work that can be undertaken with the PP3 funding to make this area safer for all users.  It is sincerely hoped that the WPC application, submitted in April, will be accepted and that WHBC will allow this stretch of shoring-up work to proceed at the earliest opportunity, and before winter sets in.

At 3.30pm I attended a meeting concerning the proposed RPPS in Prospect Place was held in Mill Lane, attended by several local residents and Welwyn Parish Councillor Bill Morris.   A campaign plan was put together by the residents and councillors offered their assistance as required.

And so ends another month in the life of a councillor!

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