December Update

Happy New Year to all Welwyn residents!

I hope all the readers of my website had a lovely Christmas and I take this opportunity to send my best wishes for health and happiness in 2013.

December was a crazy month!  Not only because it was the start of the “silly season”, but also because I finalised a project that had taken six months work to bring to a satisfactory conclusion.  (see Parkside below).  There are more gaps in my activity than usual, due to some serious family health issues, and most of my catching up with emails this month was done in the wee small hours!

Tuesday 4th:  Spent the whole day on paperwork and phone calls.  Chased an outstanding Planning Application; discussed another planning problem in Parkside with officers and members of the Parish Council; addressed concerns over parking issues in Elmoor Avenue.  Also felt quite sorry for myself with yet another throat infection and cough!

Wednesday 5th:  As busy as yesterday with a lot of follow up correspondence.  Made a site visit to Elmoor Avenue to check on parked vehicles.

Thursday 6th:  Went to Parkside to deliver letters to several residents.  I was unable to attend the Planning Committee Meeting that evening and Cllr Malcolm Cowan kindly substituted for me.  This was the first meeting I have missed since becoming a Councillor and I felt very guilty at having to do so.

Friday 7th:  Made another site visit to Elmoor Avenue and discussed my findings with PC Ben Satchfield.

Monday 10th:  Met the Community Housing Trust Inspector at Hawbush Rise for a site visit to a property there.  The residents had contacted me over their dissatisfaction with WHBC’s response, following an inspection, to their problems with leaking roof and damp.  I raised the matter with the CHT and asked for another inspection in my presence.   I looked over the premises with the Inspector and discussed possibilities with him.  We spent a good hour at the premises and the residents appeared reasonably happy with the outcome.  I asked for a letter to be sent to the residents, giving details of works to be carried out, with a copy to me.  I shall follow up later I January to see whether the work has been done.  I was very impressed with the response and co-operation that I received from the CHT officer, and the friendliness and empathy of the Inspector.

Tuesday 11th:  Still coughing badly, so did not attend the scheduled Scrutiny Committee Meeting that evening at Campus West.

Wednesday 12th:  Attended a Christmas Lunch given by a local membership group, followed by St Mary’s Book Group tea.

Monday 17th:  I made another site visit to Elmoor Avenue.   There was also at last a response to my complaint on behalf of a resident to Herts CC about the total lack of road markings at the Fulling Mill Lane Junction with Kimpton Road.   In the evening I attended the Parish Council Christmas Reception at Welwyn Civic Centre.  This was very dangerous and I had raised the matter several weeks ago.  I also had the support of PC Ben Satchfield and Cllr Richard Smith, and at last something is going to be done.

Tuesday 18th/Wednesday 19th: PARKSIDE – SUCCESS AT LAST!

Those of you who have been following my monthly reports may remember that I spent most of the month of July working on issues in Parkside.  For anyone new to the site, I will recap:

In early July, I received a request from a resident of Parkside to help with a challenging problem that had been going on for some years.  The site was purchased and developed by a private contractor and the properties were sold and were subsequently outside the control or interest of WHBC, apart from the fact that most of the trees on the site are covered by a TPO (Tree Protection Order) Parkside has not been satisfactorily maintained; many trees were drastically overgrown and were infringing on property both in respect of light and safety.  The residents had tried unsuccessfully to trace the owner of the land; and the council records were not up to date in this respect.

I spent three days tracing the developer of Parkside and eventually tracked him down.  He agreed to meet me, which he did, and provided details of his land ownership, as he understood that some of the problem trees were on “unregistered land” and therefore not his responsibility!   He agreed to work on the trees on land still owned by him and two very large and diseased chestnut trees were removed, to the delight of the nearby residents.  However, the problem of several other trees remained.  I subsequently enlisted the help and advice of Herts County Councillor for Welwyn, Richard Smith, who was extremely supportive.  He visited the site with me and we checked to see whether any of the land came under the ownership of the County Council.  Some did, but not the major problem area!  Cllr Smith then offered financial assistance from his Locality Budget, provided the residents could raise 51% of the balance between them.  We approached them and they were delighted by the suggestion.  We then approached a recommended tree surgeon to see what amount of work could be done on the trees and the largest one was found to be diseased, so removal was recommended – a prospect which thrilled the residents whose homes had been blighted by the tree for years.

An application was submitted to WHBC and we all waited on tenterhooks for permission to be granted for the works to proceed.  Procedures were followed to the letter, and it was a long wait!

However, the go-ahead was received and work commenced on 18th December.  Trees were pruned, the diseased tree was felled, and a new Himalayan Birch was planted.  Everyone was delighted with the outcome and the only thing left for me to follow up on now is the outstanding general grounds maintenance!  Photos are below.

A letter was sent in from Parkside residents, which went out as a Press Release from Herts CC.  I thought you might like to read it:

“STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF PARKSIDE RESIDENTS

Residents of several properties in Parkside have been suffering considerable light loss and inconvenience for many years from hugely overgrown sycamore trees in front of our homes.  Branches and leaves significantly block out light and pathway lighting. The trees, right opposite our front doors, are oppressive and the possibility that their roots are extending beneath buildings has been of serious concern.

The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that we could not find out who owned the trees to ask for them to be pruned.  After trying to do this for some time and failing, this summer I contacted my local Borough Councillor, Sandra Kyriakides. She was immediately responsive – an absolute breath of fresh air – and she spent two months trying to trace and establish the ownership of the trees and other common land in Parkside. This proved very difficult and although she was successful in finding the owner of the land, it transpired that the offending trees were not actually his property and were unregistered.  Cllr Kyriakides then asked County Councillor Richard Smith for his assistance. He came down to inspect the situation and was extremely helpful in every respect. His advice that the residents should share cost of work on the trees, together with an offer of assistance in the form of a grant from his Locality Budget, was a ray of sunshine on what had for some time been a rather bleak horizon.  Cllr Kyriakides then continued to keep a close eye on the application to WHBC for planning permission to fell one diseased tree and to prune the others, and has helped us to co-ordinate this project throughout.

It has been absolutely wonderful to have such terrific support from a County Councillor and Borough Councillor, working in unison for the benefit of the residents, and we are extremely grateful.”

Christmas Eve:   I broke away from my Christmas cooking and preparations to join the Christmas Buffet lunch, hosted by the Mayor and Executive Board of WHBC, for Staff and Members at 12:00 noon.  This was a very pleasant occasion and a nice opportunity to wish a Happy Christmas to fellow councillors and WHBC staff who had been so helpful to me over the past few months.

 

 

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