STOP PRESS – LONDON ROAD INFORMATION
Having been inundated with requests for information on the London Road situation, I was finally able to obtain information and to reply to residents. For those who don’t know what happened, I will try to explain:
The work being carried out at the property above the bank in London Road was to provide car parking facilities. However, this whole matter is very complicated.
The original planning application was submitted to WHBC and was dismissed as not their concern because the London Road roadside bank is Herts County Council property. The application was then submitted to Herts CC and permission was granted provided, though I understand with conditions there should be no impact by the proposal on the roadway!
Obviously, work did not go to plan: the bank subsided and a landslide blocked the road. Geological surveys were quickly carried out, together with work to reinforce the bank, with the plan to reopen the road as quickly as possible. I also understand that the amount of work that was carried out on the development appears to have exceeded what had been agreed by Herts County Council; but I am not privy to any documentation on this matter because I am with WHBC and not Herts CC.
It does seem to have been a catastrophic mess-up and no doubt the blame will eventually be laid at the correct door – once it is established exactly which one! I personally would like to know whether any geological survey on the bank structure was carried out prior to permission being granted or work commencing, and I am sure many others are of the same opinion.
The latest estimate is for a full re-opening of the road on Friday 8 November. Herewith the response from Herts CC: “There are problems maintaining the safety zones around the works due to the size of the machines on site. It will not therefore, be possible to reopen the road on Saturday 2nd November as programmed. It is HCC’s contractor Ringway’s intention to start building the new wall on Monday / Tuesday next week under the full road closure and they aim to reopen the road completely without signals on Friday 8th November. Please accept HCC’s apologies for the continued inconvenience to Welwyn residents and businesses.”
Cllr Richard Smith has been constantly involved with the debacle from the outset and has been instrumental in getting fast action to deal with the emergency. He has also asked for a full survey of both banks with a view to thinning out vegetation and trees to allow more light and to stabilise the east bank where required.
Welwyn Parish Council and I have asked for information about who will pay for this damage. I note from Herts CC’s response to Welwyn Parish Council that a full investigation is in process into exactly what took place and, subject to the outcome, Herts CC will consider enforcement action to recover the cost.
I sincerely apologise for the absence of updates to my Website for the past two months. I was on holiday during mid-September and, at the beginning of October, a hip and back problem that has lasted a month has made life in general, plus sitting at my computer for any length of time, both difficult and painful. I also had a short spell in hospital. Herewith, at last, my updates for September and October:
Monday 2nd: The Licensing Review Hearing was held for The Tavern public house in Welwyn Village and I was pleased to learn that the Panel recommended measures that should alleviate some of the problems that have arisen over the past year. I was also pleased that the Licensee is able to continue his business because he has revived what was a failing pub and put a huge effort into improving the appearance of the premises in general.
That evening I attended the PCSO Surgery in the Civic Centre and discussed in depth with Rob Taylor some of the recent issues that have been raised with me.
Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th were admin days and catching up outstanding matters in preparation for my absence on holiday.
Friday 6th: At 11.00am I went to the Open Day at Resolve. Based in Woodhall, WGC, it is an important resource not just for the local community but for the wider area, giving support to those with alcohol/substance misuse problems, and their families. It is in its sixth year and currently has support from Lottery funding. Resolve works with a wide range of professionals in health, education, local services, local authority, police and many others. I spent quite a long time there, talking to staff, professionals and members of the community who use the centre. I was deeply impressed both by the commitment of the group, the project itself and what it is achieving. Being a ward councillor for Welwyn West, I do not often come into personal contact with the issues covered by Resolve. They do exist here, but on a relatively small scale. It was humbling to talk to some of those who are benefitting from the help of the Resolve project and to learn of the circumstances that caused the problems they have. I am committed in my support for this project and hope WHBC will do all they can to assist as required.
You can find their website here: http://www.resolve-online.org/
[Saturday 7th – Tuesday 17th away on holiday in France]
Wednesday 18th: I spent the whole day ploughing through 200 emails that had built up during my absence! It was totally exhausting!
Thursday 19th: I attended the Mayor’s Charity Mediterranean Meze Evening in WGC. It was a very successful evening (though rather cold for September) and raised a respectable sum for his charities: Friendship House, Hatfield and Jubilee House Care Trust, WGC.
Friday 20th: A day of admin and follow up to emails, in particular issues on community housing, anti-social behaviour and parking.
Saturday 21st: In the morning, I held my monthly Surgery at St Mary’s and one of the issues raised was overhanging trees on the banks on London Road. I promised to raise this matter with Herts CC and to report back on progress.
That evening I attended a delightful concert: “The World of Gilbert & Sullivan” in aid of the Acorn Playgroup and Pre-School. It was very well supported and St Mary’s Church has wonderful acoustics for events of this kind.
Monday 23rd: I attended a Full Council Meeting, preceded by a Group Meeting and a Presentation. This meant a 6.15pm start at Campus West. The meeting was a lively and lengthy one with some strongly put issues from opposing councillors. On occasions like this, I am so happy to be Independent and free to follow my own views and to express them.
The remaining week of September was taken up with outstanding local issues, parking matters, and general correspondence.
Tuesday 1st: I made another of several previous visits to Elmoor Avenue to check on the parking problems there. The situation does vary but, in general, parking is a serious problem for the residents of this road and a solution must be found. I will be discussing this and other parking issues, in particular Mimram Road, with the Parish Council and Herts County Councillor Richard Smith to try to brainstorm a solution.
Wednesday 2nd: Another visit to Elmoor Avenue and an afternoon of admin due to several local issues, raised with me by telephone and email. I had planned to attend the Community Housing Trust Open Evening at 6:30pm but at the last minute started to feel ill and did not go.
Thursday 3rd: Pain levels in my hip and back increased, so again was unable to attend my planned visit to WGC’s new venture – The Hub. This is a new community centre providing a range of services and support.
Friday 4th – Wednesday 9thwere days taken up with visits to doctors, hospital, and so much pain that I was given pills which literally put me to sleep for almost 48 hours! I am afraid all council work remained unattended during this time.
Thursday 10th: I managed to hobble into the Development Management Committee Meeting that evening, and hopefully made an adequate contribution to the proceedings, despite my medication!
Friday 11th: A landslide of the bank on London Road caused it to be closed. Building work taking place at a property above the bank appeared to have been the cause and I made enquiries immediately.
Monday 14th: I attended the Licensing Committee Meeting at Campus East. Still on crutches for the time being! For the rest of the week, I remained unable to work or drive and could not attend several appointments, including the Highways Liaison Meeting on Thursday 17th.
Friday 18th: Having contacted BT on behalf of a local elderly resident who had been without a working phone line for several days, and was therefore not covered by MedAlert, I liaised with the team who came to Welwyn to repair the line. The fault was on poles in the Codicote Road but the traffic was speeding past so quickly that the BT engineer felt it was unsafe to climb the pole! I therefore requested Police assistance, which came very quickly, and the problem was solved. My thanks go to Herts Police for their prompt help. This highlights yet another instance of the traffic speed problems on the Codicote Road.
Saturday 19th: I held my Surgery with Cllr Perkins at St Mary’s. We had no queries this week and used the time to update and discuss outstanding action for Welwyn West ward.
Tuesday 22nd: The fiasco at London Road continued, with some confusion as to what would happen and when the road would be able to reopen. Meanwhile this closure was affecting village shops and trading. At 11:00 am I was interviewed for Jack Radio and spoke frankly about my concern that permission was given for work on the roadside bank.
At 7:30pm I attended the Priority Setting Forum at Hatfield Police Station as the representative for Welwyn West. Following discussion of requirements in policing for the ward, I raised the matter of lack of “day to day” policing and the fact that our “village bobby” has not been visible for several months.
Sgt. Malcolm Dey chaired the Forum and explained the new structure of the Safer Neighbourhood Team for Welwyn Hatfield. Welwyn/Hatfield North neighbourhood team covers Welwyn Garden City (excluding Hollybush and Howlands), Welwyn village, Woolmer Green and the Ayots. It is currently comprised of five Police officers which will increase to six. The officers no longer have responsibility of individual wards and are now tasked by the Sgt in order to make better use of their warranted powers. Each ward does however retain a PCSO; for Welwyn West ward this is Rob Taylor. Street patrols are carried out by PCSOs and, in the event of crime, PCs will be called in from the area team. It was reported that actual crime levels are down and that the system seems to be working well. However, the police are aware that local areas still have issues and members of the Forum were invited to prioritise 3 matters.
For Welwyn West, I prioritised (a) Speeding on the Codicote Road (outside rush hour traffic times!), and (b) anti-social behaviour in the High Street on Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of 22:00 and 01:00. Both issues will be monitored by the police and I will have feedback when the Forum meets again in February.
Monday 28th: The short-lived hurricane of only an hour’s duration still managed to bring down or damage several trees in the village area, in particular one in St Mary’s Churchyard, which fell through the railings and across Church Street. Teams were out very quickly to clear the streets and ensure traffic hold ups were kept to a minimum and they are to be congratulated on their speed and efficiency.
At 6:00pm I attended training at WGC Police Station with the group of volunteers for the Community Drivesafe Scheme for the Codicote Road. We were trained how to set up and operate the equipment and then went to the approved site on Codicote Road for a practical training session. This was after 7:00pm on a chilly evening and, during only 30 minutes, it was interesting to note that approximately 85% of the passing vehicles exceeded the speed limit! With 2 police officers present, it added weight to our case that measures to control speeding on this road are definitely required.
Tuesday 29th: See STOP PRESS LONDON ROAD.
Wednesday 30th: Had an afternoon meeting with Welwyn Parish Councillor Bill Morris to discuss the parking problems in two areas of the village: School Lane/Elmoor Avenue and Mimram Road. Several ideas were put on the table and these will all be influenced by factors developing over the next few weeks in relation to Welwyn Civic Centre. The delay in the opening of the Whitehill Car Park was also discussed and the reasons for this. Hopefully I will have more information to impart next month.