August has been quite busy considering that it is the heart of the holiday season! Most of my work has been home-based, involving a lot of emails and follow-up on various issues.
Thursday 1st: After a full day babysitting my grandson in London, I drove into the village at 11.30pm to check on a local pub, about which I had received several complaints. Last month it was pretty noisy at this time of night but this evening it was closing up, and fairly quietly.
Friday 2nd: A fair amount of paperwork and catching up today. I tried to track the progress of the outstanding bollards replacement in Welwyn High Street with Herts County Council, but this still doesn’t seem to be moving forward, despite my constant hassling of Cllr Richard Smith on the matter. At midnight, I went down to the village to check the noise levels from the pub. There were still people around, but no unreasonable noise.
Saturday 3rd: Took a day off from paperwork, but went down to the pub again at midnight. A bit noisy, but it was a Saturday night, and it did seem to be settling down.
Tuesday 6th: I received more complaints about Serco bin collections.
Wednesday 7th: I spoke to Planning Department at NHDC over the contentious planning application for the property spanning the two borders of NHDC and WHBC and partially my ward. No decision has yet been made, but residents are very concerned.
Saturday 10th: I attended the Mixed Group Cream Tea at Douglas Tilbe House for the elderly and lonely residents of the borough. As ever, Sean Cox MBE ran a highly successful event, with over 100 guests and the many volunteers ensured that the proceedings ran smoothly. The food, music and company were excellent and an added bonus was an impromptu performance by my partner, comedian and Water Rat, George Saunders. The Mixed Group operates on a tight budget and currently finds its activities in Douglas Tilbe House under threat due to increased facility charges. I hope that solutions to the current problems will be found and that the annual Christmas Lunch, which so many of the elderly look forward to and cherish each year, will be unaffected by restrictions or changes.
Sunday 11th: The North London Flying Club held a fabulous event for its members at Panshanger Aerodrome. The 1930’s Revival Day featured vintage aircraft, vintage cars and motorbikes, dance lessons (Lindy Hop and Swing), a traditional Jazz Band, vintage cinema with a military display, and an airfield history tour. There was a tasty BBQ, vintage sweets and cakes and a lovely lady singing old war songs to a piano accompaniment. Many people dressed up in 30’s costume and the atmosphere was a wonderful step back in time for all. I had great pleasure in attending this event as an Associate Member and to see my son-in-law take his first flying lesson. I feel very strongly that Panshanger is an important part of Welwyn Hatfield’s history, with its vital role as a decoy airport to lure German bombers during the Second World War. It was used by Royal Air Force units for training purposes and a large Bellman type hangar was erected to accommodate the based aircraft – a structure that still stands today. Many of Britain’s airfields date from World War II and played an important role in that conflict. Very few have survived through to the 21st century, but Panshanger Aerodrome has done so, thanks to the determined efforts of the current operator who renovated the derelict site to the thriving facility that it is today.
I sincerely hope that current proposals to build houses on the airfield site will not be carried out and that this delightful little piece of our history may remain to give pleasure to members and guests for many years to come.
Monday 12th: I was inundated with emails from very concerned residents about the application to build some rather inappropriately designed flats on the site of the former Clock Hotel; to be considered at the next Development Management Committee meeting on 15th August.
Tuesday 13th: Having received no response to my query following an email from a resident at the end of July, complaining about Serco leaving litter all over the road in Hawbush Rise, I again contacted the officer responsible for getting a report back on this. We are apparently awaiting response from Serco! I will not hold my breath! With another officer, I also chased up a complaint about lack of bin collections from another part of the village, which has been experiencing problems for some weeks. I also responded to some of the many emails concerning the proposed Clock site development. In the evening I attended a Workshop on development within the Green Belt at Campus West.
Wednesday 14th: Attended a meeting at 10:00am, together with Cllr Mandy Perkins, at the Parish Council Offices where we met representatives of Linden Homes who have successfully purchased the Frythe site from Lands Improvement. It was a useful and positive meeting at which residual matters were discussed. Slight alterations to original house building plans were explained and these were an improvement on what was already a very good design. We look forward to a further site visit in due course.
Thursday 15th: Many emails during the day concerning The Clock development application and contact from other councillors, who were concerned about the proposals but were prevented for individual reasons from speaking out or voting. Having read the proposals very thoroughly, I felt in favour of development of the site, but not of the proposed design or density of the application. I objected very strongly at the DMC meeting and at one point felt that other members would agree with me, the Head of Planning pointed out in no uncertain terms that the application was almost certain to succeed at Appeal and would involve WHBC in costs. After this, some members who had appeared likely to vote against the proposal, changed their minds! I found the whole process, yet again, lacking in democracy – when such a volume of public opinion was against the design in its current form, and it was totally at odds with the ethos of Welwyn Village. Even worse was the discovery that WHBC planners had actually suggested and encouraged the developers to produce a modern design and not to conform to the traditional style of the medieval village and nearby conservation area! I find this situation deeply frustrating and I do so hope that something can be done to moderate this travesty before it is built. I feel that I am constantly banging my head against a brick wall when trying to support the wishes of Welwyn residents against a council that so frequently ignores them.
Friday 16th – my birthday, but no day off! I received complaints about the poor standard of cutting the Singlers Marsh area by Serco operatives and went to check: pretty poor work in general and seemingly no-one in overall charge when I spoke to them. Lots of emails about the Clock site planning decision and sadly there was no more that I could do to help. At midnight I checked out one of the local pubs again and was glad to see that there was no unreasonable disturbance.
Saturday 17th: Surgery at St Mary’s Church at 10.00am. Following this, I went to a meeting with a resident of Mimram Road, together with Welwyn Parish Councillor Bill Morris, to discuss the parking problems in the road. After about an hour’s discussion, several useful ideas were put forward which will be tried out. A further meeting to look at the next stage of action will take place in October.
Following a family party on Sunday 18th, I took a few days away from the computer to take a relative visiting from New Zealand to Gloucestershire and Highgrove. We also visited Shaw’s Corner and The Brocket Arms, and Hatfield House will be on the agenda for September.
Friday 23rd: I returned home to dozens of emails and several letters, which took most of my time to sort out on Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th.
As a member of the Licensing Committee, I have been withdrawn from the hearing of a Welwyn pub licence review on 2nd September. This is because I am the ward councillor and also because I was approached by both licensee and residents to speak for them. It is a problem that I could see clearly from both sides and I am very glad that my orders are to remain firmly on the fence in this instance!
The summer is drawing to a close and I hope you have had an enjoyable one. The weather has been glorious for at least the last month or two and I hope we have an equally pleasant autumn.