January/February 2016

UPDATE FOR JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016
FROM WELWYN’S INDEPENDENT COUNCILLOR

LOCAL ELECTIONS: Will soon be upon us – in early May.  This year, due to the boundary changes, all councillors will be up for re-election.  You will be bombarded with leaflets and callers, and councillors who have rarely been seen in the community will suddenly appear, laying claim to past achievements and making promises for the future.

The most misleading perhaps will be the emails and letters from your local MP, asking you to support the local conservative councillors.  Many people, who are justifiably impressed by a personal message from an MP who is hard-working and popular, do not spot the very small print at the bottom – where you will see that the item is actually printed and promoted by the Welwyn Hatfield Conservative Agent. Those councillors are a cog in the bigger party machine, the form and format of what drops through your letterbox will have been compiled and adapted for use throughout the borough.

In May I will have served a full four years as a Welwyn councillor. Throughout that time I have worked hard supporting residents and local groups, and have striven to progress matters that are seen to have a detrimental effect on our wonderful village. During that time I have done my best to bring our community together and to stand up for residents as their voice in local government, bringing a smile and a personal touch to proceedings whenever I can.

I will be standing again on May 5th as an Independent, promising only that I will continue to do my utmost to serve the community and its needs and to help residents wherever I can.  I will not make promises that I cannot keep – but I will keep you informed of issues to the best of my ability and, if I can’t help, I will tell you why not.

Please take time to read between the lines and think back on whether or not you have had the support the councillors profess to have given over the past four years.

My track record is there for all to see – please read back through the four years of updates on this website to see what I have done and what I will be happy to continue doing for Welwyn West if I am given the opportunity. Local Councillors are not paid a wage, but we do get annual expenses and I feel it’s important that the people I serve can easily find out what I have been doing for them. This is why I’ve documented my work through this website. As far as I know I am the only councillor in the borough to have their own, regularly updated website. I also live in the area in which I serve so I know it very well, many other Welwyn Hatfield councillors live away from their ward constituencies.

As an Independent councillor, my activities and support will always be for Welwyn West and its residents and I consider myself fortunate to be free of party-line commitment when it comes to standing up for the community.

LOCAL ISSUE UPDATES:
SINGLERS MARSH:  Many will recall that I have been championing the issue of Singlers Marsh for almost two years.  My request to WHBC officers and Cabinet was for the needs and wishes of Welwyn residents to be taken into account with respect to cattle grazing and, more importantly, a proper strategy and plan for potential flooding problems arising from the cessation of abstraction from the River Mimram by Affinity Water in 2018.   I raised this issue again in November at a meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee but was told that I had no right to challenge a decision previously passed by Cabinet under WHBC Constitution!
Residents are understandably concerned about flooding and I have been in regular contact with Affinity Water, Herts County Council, the Environment Agency and WHBC to try to obtain as much information as possible.  The issue is very complex and the measures to be taken are a very long way from being decided, including whether or not abstraction will definitely cease.  Currently surveys and discussions are taking place and I am trying to ensure that all parties involved will communicate with one another to achieve the best possible outcome.
I notice that a recent issue of the Conservative Newsletter gives an update on Singlers Marsh which isn’t totally accurate at this stage of the proceedings.  I will liaise closely with those agencies concerned and will keep residents updated when there is anything significant to report.
In the meantime, I have been in regular liaison with WHBC officers and SERCO with regard to the grass cutting, nettle control and general maintenance.

Singlers Marsh flooding Singlers Marsh water level in March 2016.

Singlers Marsh after maintenance

Singlers Marsh – Looking good after maintenance work.

I think those of you who walk there will have noticed the improvements and I am currently optimistic!  There are also the amazing volunteers who work regularly on Singlers Marsh and do a fantastic job to help preserve what is a very special and beautiful public amenity.

PARKING:  I stood for election as an Independent Councillor 4 years ago, primarily because of WHBC’s proposals on parking for Welwyn.  Thanks to the backing of Welwyn residents, I was elected and worked closely with Welwyn Parish Council and local businesses with the outcome that Welwyn’s parking remained free.  I also pushed for and obtained the increase from 60 to 90 minutes’ on-street parking – which has proved to be a huge success and businesses are thriving due to the convenient facility that we now have.  WHBC at the time wanted to put in residents parking bays and to charge for car parking in the central car park.  There was strong objection from the community and local Councillor and Cabinet Member Mandy Perkins felt unable to give her support to residents as she felt her loyalty had to be with the WHBC Cabinet.  I feel it is vitally important that Welwyn West retains an Indpendent Councillor to prioritise the needs of the village against the pecuniary interests of WHBC as, without doubt, there will be a future attempt by the Borough Council to introduce residents parking bays and reduced on street parking times.

High Street Parking

At last enough time to eat, get your hair done, and go to the doctor/dentist!

WHITEHILL CAR PARK: Liaising with Welwyn Parish Council and the Linden Homes, the development company of the new Wilshere Park site (formerly The Frythe), I negotiated the complete resurfacing of the Whitehill car park to be provided in full by Linden Homes.  Cllr Richard Smith paid for the relining of the facility out of his budget and Welwyn Parish Council have provided CCTV security and lighting.  The village now has an excellent car park, only a few minutes’ walk from the centre.  The leaflet which has just been distributed locally by the Conservative Association gives the misleading impression that this has been provided by the Borough Council and it is only fair to all concerned to point out the inaccuracy.

Whitehill car park

The new resurfaced parking facility in Welwyn.

THE CLOCK ROUNDABOUT:  I wish I could be positive about the development at the Clock roundabout – I have received so many complaints about the unattractiveness of the design and that this is the first thing people see when they visit the village.  Many residents will recall how strongly I objected to the plans on the grounds of inappropriate design when the proposal came before Planning Committee; sadly to no avail.  I can report that Herts County Council are looking at the traffic problems at the roundabout and from the A1(M) junction. No doubt their findings/proposals will be published in the local press and I will also put any information I obtain on this website.

TRAVELLERS’ SITE: There have been lots of complaints, particularly on Streetlife, about the about increase in the size of the Four Oaks Travellers Site situated just beyond the A1(M) bridge.  Of particular concern is the constant burning of bonfires and acrid black smoke drifting over the roads and motorway which could be dangerous for motorists.  At the present time, this area is in Welwyn East ward and I have suggested to residents that they contact the Welwyn East Councillors to try to get some response to their complaints from WHBC.
After the May elections, the area will become Welwyn West and different councillors will be confronted with what seem to be ongoing problems.  If re-elected, I will most certainly do all I can to raise awareness of the residents’ concerns with the Planning and Environment Departments and will press for whatever action can be taken if the law is being broken.

LOCAL PLAN:  I am deeply concerned about the building programme that is being pushed ahead to meet Government requirements for more houses. It seems that the objective of meeting the specified quota outweighs the fact that villages like Welwyn do not have the schools, medical facilities, or infrastructure – especially the link roads to the A1(M), to cope with the large increases that are being proposed.

In the last quarter of 2015 an updated list of potential housing sites were published by WHBC, in addition to those previously brought forward for consideration, these are:

Wel11 Extension – The Vineyards – 50 dwellings
We14 – Linces Farm – 120 dwellings
Wel1 – Fulling Mill Lane North – 220 dwellings (correction from previous submission)
Wel15 – Fulling Mill Lane South – 60 dwellings
Wel16 – South of School Lane – 315 dwellings (increased from 190 in Oct 2015)

WHBC are currently working on the next draft of the Local Plan and this should be available for comment at the end of the summer. I note that the Conservative Team for Welwyn West has promised that the sites selected will be sustainable – but the reality is that these are promises they will find it almost impossible to keep!

You can find details of all the proposed sites by clicking here for the new and amended sites document from WHBC, released in September 2015.

AS AN INDEPENDENT COUNCILLOR, I am promising only that I will continue to do my utmost to serve the community and its needs and to help residents wherever I can.  I will not make promises that I cannot keep – but I will keep you informed of issues to the best of my ability and, if I can’t help, I will tell you why not.

My track record is there for all to see – please read back through the four years of updates on my website to see what I have done and what I will be happy to continue doing for Welwyn West if I am given the opportunity.

RECENT COUNCILLOR ACTIVITIES:
January:
05:  Press coverage by the Welwyn Hatfield Times to announce the formation of the Independent Group, set up by Councillor Caron Juggins and myself at the end of December.  This has ensured that we will both serve on WHBC committees until the May elections.
07:  Attended Development Management Committee meeting.
08:  Visited a new villa built by Netherdown in Knebworth.  This was a fine example of great design, architecture and good workmanship.  Netherdown has been very supportive of Welwyn village and have built several homes here, all of which are so much in keeping with the local street scene.
11:  Attended Full Council Meeting
12:  Meeting with WHBC senior risk officer to discuss flood management with regard to Singlers Marsh.
14:  Attended Cross Party Accommodation Group Meeting.
16:  Councillor Surgery at St Mary’s Church House, Welwyn.
19:  Meeting with Pam Kettle to discuss the WHBC 2016/17 Budget.
[23 January – 07 February:  Away on holiday – during which I responded to emails daily and took appropriate action of matters raised where necessary]

February:
09:  AM – Attended Cross Party Accommodation Group Meeting.
09:  PM – Attended Development Management Policies Session for Members.
16:  AM – Meeting with local resident to discuss Singlers Marsh potential flooding issues.
16:  PM – Visited residents in Wilshere Road following up on requests for repairs to the service road.  Despite sending an email Cllr Perkins about this in April 2015, they received no reply.  I raised the issue with the Community Housing Trust and met with officers.  I also followed up on this whilst away on holiday and am pleased to report that action is now being taken and that estimates for the repairs are being obtained.  I will remain vigilant on the issue and keep residents updated on WHBC proposed action.
20:  Councillors Surgery at St Mary’s Church Hall, Welwyn.
22:  I attended a meeting of the Welwyn Anglo-French Twinning Association Conversation Group.  The Group meets regularly and members practice French in readiness for the exchange visits with Champagne-sur-Oise members.  There are interesting activities run by the Association throughout the year and I recommend joining to Welwyn residents if you would like to enjoy the “entente cordiale” that exists between the two villages.
24:  I visited the Citizens Advice Bureau in Hatfield, following a long-standing invitation to do so from Director, Debbie Rixon.  I was impressed to learn of the many services provided to residents of the Borough and saw at first-hand how people are helped to cope with the many difficulties that can present themselves during hard times.  The CAB does a great job and, like many similar organisations, are suffering from cuts in funding to their core services at the present time.  I hope to assist them in any way I can on future occasions.
25:  I attended an evening workshop on Migration at Salvation House, WGC.  This was a stimulating and interesting session, with group participation, covering all areas of migration from Asylum seekers, to EU members, non EU migrants and Refugees.  There was much to learn and many “myths” were explained.  I felt the event to be beneficial, providing me with facts, many of which I had not known beforehand.
28:  At 9:30am on a cold, but sunny, Sunday morning, I attended a site visit by members of the Development Management Committee to a property in Brookmans Park.  It is always useful to see the actual site of an application as drawings on paper or on the computer so not reflect the street scene properly and this makes a tremendous difference when considering whether a plan would appropriate and in keeping with its surroundings.

I NEED AND WOULD WELCOME YOUR SUPPORT:  I will be campaigning for re-election throughout April and hope to meet as many residents as possible during this time.  If anyone would like to help me with leaflet distribution, or canvassing, I would be absolutely delighted as, with the new boundaries, this presents quite a daunting task – though one that I appreciate and enjoy.
It is an honour and a privilege to serve the community and I enjoy meeting my fellow inhabitants of the lovely area in which we live.

You can email me on: sandra.kyriakides@welhat.gov.uk or text/phone me on 07802 725423.

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