Opposition is growing ahead of a public inquiry into plans to turn Welwyn Garden City's B&Q store into 151 new homes.

The proposal submitted by Thrive Homes was refused by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council back in 2021, but the application will now be heard by an inquiry starting on Tuesday, December 12.

The plans would see the current building in Swallowfields turned into three tower blocks, each up to five storeys tall and containing 151 dwellings.

Opposition to the application is growing, with Welwyn Hatfield's Conservative MP Grant Shapps joining the fight after a recent visit to the store.

"I've met with the managers and staff at the Welwyn Garden City B&Q to lend my support and express how I am completely opposed to the plan to close them down," he said.

"I’ve also met with would-be developers to make sure they understand how much Welwyn Garden City residents value the B&Q.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps showed his support for staff at B&Q.Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps showed his support for staff at B&Q. (Image: Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP)

"I know how important B&Q is to the local community and how much it means to the people who work at the site. As the local MP, I stand ready to assist in any way I can to help keep B&Q in Welwyn Garden City open."

Mr Shapps has also agreed to be represented at the public inquiry and vowed to "fight" the plans.

In fact, all three political parties have pledged their support for B&Q, with Labour parliamentary candidate Andrew Lewin saying: "The art of building a community is to find the right balance between homes, green space and employment land.

READ MORE: B&Q to object appeal for 151 homes in Welwyn Garden City

"I am opposed to the speculative application to demolish the site used by B&Q in Swallowfields and replace with it with flats, because it fails to maintain that balance.

"This is not an empty space or a vacant piece of land, it is home to B&Q and Dom's Snack Bar.

"I stand against the eviction of these two businesses and want to see these important local jobs protected."

Liberal Democrat ward councillor Russ Platt continued: "As ward councillor, I will be speaking at the public inquiry to represent the huge opposition felt by residents.

"The involvement of other politicians is welcomed to defend local jobs."

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Dom's Snacks is also under threat from the plans.Dom's Snacks is also under threat from the plans. (Image: John Fogarty)

When the plans were originally submitted, residents objected and launched a petition that received almost 1,000 signatures. Now, the petition has more than 2,100 signatures as the public inquiry looms.

Campaigners, including members of Together for WGC, will speak at the inquiry, as will the Welwyn Garden City Society, who organised a protest at Dom's Snacks, a fast food van that sits outside B&Q and is also under threat from the development.

"Local people want jobs as well as homes in Welwyn Garden City," said a Welwyn Garden City Society spokesman. 

"The Hemel-based developer’s proposals threaten all employment businesses if B&Q are evicted.

"The proposals are wrong on so many other levels as shown by the over 2,000 objections."

B&Q confirmed their lease on the store runs until October 2024, with a spokesperson confirming the DIY retailer remains "committed to a store in Welwyn Garden City".

"We are aware of the appeal against the planning application refusal for the Swallowfields site," read a statement.

"B&Q remains committed to a store in the Welwyn Garden City area and intends to object to the planning application.

"The lease on the store runs until October 2024 and the store will remain open as usual until at least then.

"As soon as we have any further details our colleagues will be the first to know."

Welwyn Hatfield Times: The public inquiry begins on December 12.The public inquiry begins on December 12. (Image: John Fogarty)