'Not in Ebenezer's name!' - campaign group fight high-rise development

Campaigners in Ebenezer Howard masks protesting the BioPark development.

Campaigners in Ebenezer Howard masks protesting the BioPark development. - Credit: John J Fogarty

Campaigners fighting against high-rise developments which could change the face of Welwyn Garden City forever took to the streets in protest on Saturday.

The town centre was packed with people wearing masks of Ebenezer Howard, the visionary founder of the garden city movement.

The Ebenezers were invited by the Welwyn Garden City Society to begin a week of protest dubbed 'Operation Ben' opposing high rise developments in Broadwater Road.

Tomorrow (Thursday) Welwyn Hatfield councillors will determine whether 289 homes, in blocks of up to nine storeys, should be built on the former BioPark site.

It is feared the decision will set a precedent for two other applications on the same road, the former Shredded Wheat Factory and South Side of the Shredded Wheat Factory

The Ebenezer clones gathered around the new statue of the town's founder in Howardsgate to register their dismay at what they perceive to be the proposed desecration of his vision.

"There is no high rise on the WGC flag!" said WGC Society secretary Stephen Bensley.

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Campaigner John J Fogarty told the WHT: "It is important that you publicise the strength of feeling that there is against what is proposed for Broadwater Road."

The WGC Society claim Saturday's demonstration is only the advance party of the protest, with the main event on Thursday from 6.30pm at the Campus West building.

It is there that the council's planning committee will consider whether or not to allow the BioPark redevelopment proposal to go ahead, and the society is expecting a large turnout of their members alongside supporters of the WGC Heritage Trust and the Keep the G in WGC group.

Martin Norman, founder of Keep the G in WGC, added: "The Garden City concept relies heavily on community spirit which is incredibly strong here. High-rise high density flats will have a hugely detrimental impact on a living, breathing town; not just on residents but all aspects of our infrastructure. We will not be allowing this to happen.

"A sense of teamwork, friendship and collaboration has been growing steadily between all three groups and it is our intention to continue holding out a collective olive branch to WHBC so that between all organisations we can work proactively together in the spirit of continuous improvement, ensuring Ebenezer Howard's vision and ethos remain protected not just for us but for generations to come."

He added: “Our members are not just against development, but the people of the town know that over-development without infrastructure will be detrimental to our wonderful town.

The community sees this, the healthcare, education and transport people we speak to see this, it’s staring us all in the face.

"I hope that the members of the planning committee will also see this and that they reject the proposal in its current form.”
Peartree ward councillor Russ Platt said: “I don’t believe that anybody is against the BioPark being sympathetically developed.

"It’s a big, ugly, industrial building, and most people would hate to see just sit there and go derelict, so my neighbours and constituents are really not against it being replaced with something suitable.

"However, the Broadwater Gardens application as it stands falls short on a huge number of planning and design reasons, reasons that will be detrimental to the town, and reasons that have been highlighted to the planners and the developer.

"I hope that the committee will be brave and have confidence in knowing that the council’s own policies are robust enough to allow them to roundly reject this proposal.”

A hearse has been hired for the evening as a warning of the effect on the town if the proposal goes ahead.

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