‘Character of Welwyn Garden City is in jeopardy’

ESCALATING numbers of driveways are threatening to jeopardise the historic landscape of WGC, according to an independent town body.

The WGC Society has responded with disappointment to a new report published by Welwyn Hatfield Council which, the society claims, relaxes the rules on erecting hardstandings within the town’s Estate Management Scheme (EMS).

At a meeting last Thursday, the council’s planning control committee heard how the rising number of unauthorised and authorised hardstandings, as well as the number of cars, was making it increasingly difficult for planning officers to enforce the EMS’s stringent rules.

That, combined with the fact there is no allocated budget for enforcement, has led the council to consider adopting a new approach which allows officers to assess planning applications based on existing amenities and values of a particular streetscene.

But the WGC Society has written to the council saying the proposal was “placing the entire scheme and the character of the town and hence values in jeopardy”.

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“If the committee agrees to the proposal as it stands, effectively the council is allowing the situation to become generally worse throughout the EMS area over time and the implications go much wider than this,” the letter reads.

“If this same logic is applied to other matters (for example, windows) then further substantial damage may ensue.”

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Following a council relaunch of the EMS last year, vice-chairman Malcolm Day said the WGC Society had been expecting a crackdown on the number of hardstandings being allowed.

“With the ESM, the town has been given extra powers to look after WGC,” Mr Day said.

“What’s become clear is that the council is finding it very difficult to use them.

“We expected the council to draw a line in the sand, to say to the good burghers of WGC ‘you got away with it in the past, but you won’t get away with it now’.

“There were promises and expectations, and now it’s all gone rather flat.”

The proposal was approved by the committee, but one councillor who voted against the report “on principle” was Liberal Democrat leader Tony Skottowe.

Cllr Skottowe said: “I’m really upset that we’re not in a position to push the EMS into a state where it will protect the town properly.

“I voted against the report on principle – I haven’t got a solution to this, but I have to say I’m not happy with what’s being proposed.”

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