Anger as Tesco training academy approved - with 19th century hotel set to be knocked down

AN angry protestor had to be led out of a tense planning meeting as plans to knock down a 19th century hotel to make way for a Tesco training centre were approved.

The audience member was ejected for shouting as plans for a much-opposed Tesco academy in Newgate Street Village were passed by Welwyn Hatfield Council last week.

The bid, which would see the Ponsbourne Park estate demolished, attracted more than 80 letters of opposition.

A public meeting will now be held by the Newgate Street Society in the Village Hall tonight (Wednesday) at 8.30pm, to discuss the possibility of referring the decision to the Secretary of State.

Liberal Democrat councillor Malcolm Cowan called the plans “absolute nonsense” and said he didn’t understand why the academy was not nearer Tesco headquarters in WGC.

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He said: “Its absolute nonsense, it should be in Welwyn Garden City – it should be in Broadwater Road.”

Cllr Steven Markiewicz supported the plans, but hoped that Tesco would now drop the Broadwater development plans.

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He said: “It will be a facility that, I think, will attract the rest of the world, it will be a marker for Welwyn Hatfield.

“I hope Tesco will recognise that we are prepared to work with them and I hope Tesco will leave the Broadwater development alone and leave it for us.”

Neighbours opposed the plans, saying the centre would be too big and an increase in traffic would put schoolchildren in danger.

Opposition is also strong against the demolition of Ponsbourne Park Hotel, which was originally built in the 19th century but is not a listed building.

Geoff Wiltshire, representing Hatfield Town Council, pointed out that the new building is 3,450 square metres – an increase of 310 per cent on the old hotel, which measured just 1,040 square metres.

Mr Wiltshire said: “The plan has been made for the applicant not for the community.

“Building by 310 per cent will harm the openness of the Green Belt.”

In the planning application Tesco will also knock down old farm buildings on the site, but will not replace them – which is how they can increase the size of the academy.

Michael Hissman, community director for Tesco, called the training centre a “world class educational environment” and said that the world’s eyes would be on Hatfield if plans were passed.

Mr Hissman said Tesco wanted to change the hotel into a training centre because “the facilities are not right for us and the future.”

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