LATE SUMMER/AUTUMN 2014 UPDATE
I am aware of Residents’ concerns over the WHBC proposed site developments in Welwyn in respect of the Local Plan. At the moment there is little to report, other than what is written under my report on the CHPP Meeting later in this Update. For those wishing to hear what was said at the meetings held on 15th and 23rd October, recordings are currently available on the following website: panshangerpeople.org.uk
Despite being a holiday period, I was kept very busy and I attended the following meetings and events:
4: Campus West Candle Lighting Ceremony to commemorate World War I
5: Cabinet Meeting at Salvation House
9: Mixed Group Tea Party at Douglas Tilbe House
13: Licensing Sub-Committee Hearing
14: Development Management Committee Meeting
16: Monthly Surgery at St Mary’s Church Welwyn (also my 70th birthday!)
26: Meeting with Ayot Green resident to assist with planning procedure advice
30: All day helping at Summer Fayre in support of the Welwyn Hatfield Women’s Refuge
03: Benslow ILS Governors Meeting in Hitchin
06: Development Management Committee site tour 9.30am-1.00pm
07: Mayor’s Quiz Evening
10: AGM of Welwyn Anglo-French Twinning Association
11: Development Management Committee Meeting
13-21: On holiday
26: Cross Party Accommodation Group Meeting
29: Full Council Meeting at Brookmans Park
04: 11:00am – 2:00pm Opening of 1st Welwyn Scout Group renovated building
06: Afternoon workshop for Media Training
09: Attended first part of the Partnership Accreditation for Landlords training session
09: Development Management Committee Meeting
10: Tour of Lafarge site and Panshanger Park 10:30am- 3:30pm
18: Councillor Surgery at St Mary’s, Welwyn
20: Friends of the Mimram Meeting at Welwyn Civic Centre
21: Public Lecture on Penal Affairs at University of Hertfordshire
23: Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel Meeting
24: Hatfield Constabulary – Priority Setting Forum
Interspersed with the set meetings, I had many meetings with WHBC officers and planners, as well as concerned residents, in connection with planning applications, parking problems and other matters.
The Candle Lighting Ceremony to commemorate the first World War was held on quite a chilly evening at the beginning of August. It was really well attended considering the hour of 10:00pm and was very moving emotionally.
The Summer Fayre at the end of August was the first one held in support of the Women’s Refuge. Despite the conflict of two other major events on the same day, it had a steady attendance and was opened by the Mayor and local actor Derek Martin (Eastenders). I had quite an exhausting day running the Tombola stall, but we did well and raised badly needed funds for a very important cause.
The Planning Department Tour to inspect sites of recently built developments in Welwyn Hatfield was extremely interesting, as was the contrast in building styles and amenities. Particularly impressive was the new development in Old Hatfield, where the Charrette proposals by Gascoyne Cecil Estates include both big and small schemes to rejuvenate the Old Town. The standard is very high and it was truly a delight to see new buildings that are totally complementary to the historic centre of Hatfield.
The Cross Party Accommodation Group Meetings have been very illuminating – highlighting the trials and tribulations of the construction of the new extension to the Council offices at Campus East. Work started slowly for a multitude of reasons, but is now progressing steadily. Plans for the new Reception Area and Council Chamber are in hand and the project has become an exciting and interesting one to be involved in.
The Official Opening of 1st Welwyn’s new Scout Hut was a huge success – despite the torrential rain! The building was packed to capacity with supporters and those who had been involved in the restoration of this centre, which is now totally fit for purpose and hopefully will house Scouts, Beavers and associated groups for many years to come. I was pleased to have been able to support this project with a donation of £1,600 from the Welwyn West Community Chest for 2013/14.
Media Training: WHBC offers training opportunities to its councillors in all areas of expertise needed to be effective in the role. I thought I knew all I needed to in this field, having worked at the BBC and in PR for many years. However, it was an illuminating and enlightening session and this old dog was certainly taught some new tricks!
Partnership Accreditation for Landlords: This was an opportunity for local landlords to become acquainted with new legal requirements at a paid-for workshop. WHBC is trying to encourage more landlords to join the scheme and to improve the standard of rental accommodation in the borough. Although I was only able to attend the first part of this, I was amazed at the intricacies of law now affecting both landlords and tenants. I learned a tremendous amount in the 2 hours of the first session, before I had to go on to a planning meeting!
Lafarge Site Tour: This took place on a glorious October day, attended by County and Borough Councillors, the Mayor, planners, top management of Lafarge and other interested parties connected with development and conservation. It was incredibly interesting, in particular the Lafarge proposals for a new garden city. This would fall mostly into another Borough, but at least 1,000 homes would come into the quota for Welwyn Hatfield – which would surely help the current house building targets if it came to fruition. The tour of the Lafarge site, taking in the stunningly beautiful Panshanger Park and the ancient oak tree, was amazing and I had hitherto known very little about this particular area or what went on there. It was also enlightening to learn the extent of the diversity of the Lafarge activities in the UK – from tarmacking the M25 and building Olympic stadia to providing Forest Schools and preserving beautiful parkland. I was much impressed!
There is also a friends group for the park which was initiated by local residents, it has a committee made up of people from a wide range of local civic groups. Amongst other things they have recently set up a weekly run in the park as part of national network of weekly park runs. You can find out more about the history of the park and see more pictures here: friendsofpanshangerpark.co.uk
Friends of the Mimram/Singlers Marsh Volunteers:
My public outcry through the Welwyn Hatfield Times at WHBC’s lack of co-operation with volunteers, and lack of forward planning in respect of Singlers Marsh and possible future flooding, has resulted in a “mission accomplished”. The Council officers are now holding meetings with all concerned parties and official monitoring by Affinity of the reduction in water abstraction is taking place. With regard to cattle grazing, the bullocks have gone for the winter – which will be of great relief to dog walkers and those who enjoy walking on the Marsh.
The update on the River Mimram is really encouraging: The water flow has increased; the quality continues to improve, bringing positive benefits to natural habitats and wildlife. I saw a kingfisher this summer – the first one for years. The ducks have returned and there have been sightings of water voles and fish.
Public Lecture on Penal Affairs: This interesting presentation brought home to me the importance of supporting young people who find themselves in penal institutions. Many have backgrounds and circumstances which have brought them to the situation of confinement through total lack of family, community, or in some cases, medical support. It is a sad reflection of failures in parenting, education and social services that so many youngsters offend and re-offend. There is no one solution to the problem, which is nationwide, and at a time of austerity and cuts, financial support for schemes is very limited.
CHPP MEETING ON 23rd OCTOBER – LOCAL PLAN
This meeting was held to give local councillors the opportunity to speak about the proposals that have been put forward for building and development on village sites. For Welwyn West, the proposed is to build 365 homes over 5 sites adjacent to the village, plus equally large developments in Oaklands, Mardley Heath, Woolmer Green and Digswell. I spoke at length about the need for infrastructure and facilities to support any additional development, and stressed the existing problems on all access roads to the A1(M) and the lack of adequate transport and parking. The onus is now upon local Councillors, Parish Councillors and residents to produce irrefutable proof of constraints that would prevent building on certain sites. This will not be easy. Some building, quite a lot, will be inevitable because of the Government edict, with which Councils must comply. Residents should make sure they are well informed of all the proposals and put forward any strong and legitimate objections they have when the proposals go to consultation.
Priority Setting Forum: These meetings are held quarterly with the Hatfield Constabulary to enable Councillors to put forward matters of priority requiring police action or attention within their area. With regard to Welwyn, the issues I raised were:
- Anti-social behaviour in the High Street and damage to business premises
- Illegal parking on zebra crossing and zig-zags
- Lack of police presence in the village
- Complaints from residents concerning approachability to PCSO
- Difficulties in using police computer system for residents who have volunteered to participate in the DriveSafe Scheme.
- I was advised that regular patrols are taking place and that CCTV has been installed in parts of the village in order to assist with identification in incidents of ASB.
- Residents are encouraged to photograph vehicles parked illegally and to forward these to DEY@herts.pnn.police.uk stating time and date. Remember this information is time-sensitive and should be sent as quickly as possible in order for the police to follow up the offence within their timescale limitations. Officers do visit the village, on occasion, at which time illegally parked vehicles are dealt with.
- I was assured that patrols take place, but police numbers have been considerably reduced. I was also advised that police patrols are to be reduced during the Christmas period due to the anticipated increased need for policing in the areas near to the University of Hatfield.
- Was assured that PCSO is doing an excellent job as a team member and that there has been no evidence of dissatisfaction.
- Arrangements are being made for the police to handle the input of information on car registration and vehicle speeds into their computer system. The date when this will happen has yet to be established. Meanwhile, the volunteers will resume their invaluable work for the community.
Abandoned Vehicle: At the beginning of October, I was pleased to be able to assist with a request from the Parish Council concerning a vehicle which had been left and for whom neither the police, WHBC nor the CHT would take responsibility. After a few emails, I managed to established under whose department this issue fell and the vehicle was subsequently removed.
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: Thanks to ‘Elf n Safety regulations, the local Firemen (who used to put up the lights) are no longer allowed to do so. Last year, the lights were put up and sponsored by a company who were doing some work for St Mary’s Church. The cost is in the region of £2,500.
The Parish Council have all the Christmas lights, but not the budget to put them up. This is because they pay a huge amount to rent and maintain free car parks in the village. As it is the Welwyn businesses benefit from the free parking – and the village is thriving, especially the restaurants which are busy lunchtime and evenings, it was therefore considered to be quite reasonable to approach the businesses to pay for the cost of putting up the lights.
The Parish Council wrote to all businesses in August and again in September, asking for contributions. The response has been very poor and not enough money has been pledged to put up lights – so unless a Good Fairy or Guardian Angel appears, Welwyn may well be without festive street lighting this year!
My next Update will be before Christmas! I continue to work conscientiously for the good of Welwyn West Ward and apologise for not posting as regularly as I would wish. This really is due to pressure of work and the time taken up in reading documents and dealing with emails, which is phenomenal!
Many thanks for your patience and please keep logging on to my website!