Campaigners shocked by developer’s heritage claims at BioPark inquiry

A CGI of the BioPark plans (Broadwater Gardens) submitted to Welwyn Hatfield BC

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council refused plans for 289 homes in six blocks last September. - Credit: HG Group/Alan Camp Architects

Campaigners have been left shocked developers claimed the BioPark plans would ‘benefit the heritage of Welwyn Garden City’ at a public inquiry last week.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council refused a planning application for 289 homes in six blocks of up to nine stories in Broadwater Road last September, but developer HG Group launched an appeal, leading to the eight-day inquiry.

Campaign groups Keep the G in WGC and the WGC Heritage Trust joined forces to appoint a planning consultant from DAC Planning to battle the plans, while the Welwyn Garden City Society appointed secured the services of William Walton and Dr Susan Parham.

Alongside these experts, the campaigners also supporting evidence from respected individuals, including Ursula Howard, great-grand-daughter of Welwyn Garden City founder Ebenezer Howard.

WGC Heritage Trust chair Tony Skottowe also gave evidence, and he was left shocked by claims made by HG Group.

“It was shocking to hear the developers claims that the heritage of the town would benefit from the scheme, when it is clear that the design of the proposed development has little in keeping with the character and setting of Welwyn Garden City and will do lasting harm to its historic standing as a garden city,” he said.

Kate Cowan, chair of Keep the G in WGC, supplied evidence of previous failings at other Welwyn Garden City developments, saying: “The applicants claimed that, ‘car ownership would not be necessary for residents to meet most of their needs’.

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“This is despite the detailed evidence we supplied about congestion on nearby developments due to insufficient parking and the inadequate bus services, particularly in the evenings and on Sundays.”

Evidence against the plans given by campaigners covered heritage, architecture, building design, parking, the lack of open space and housing choices, and the scale of the planned towers.

“The groups hope that their combined efforts are successful and the BioPark scheme is refused by the planning inspector,” concluded a joint statement from Keep the G in WGC and the WGC Heritage Trust.

The planning inspectors report is due to published in September, with the results revealed on the council’s website.