Town founder's great grand-daughter is special guest at Welwyn Garden City protest march
- Credit: John Reddington and Alan Staples at Firefly
The great grand-daughter of Welwyn Garden City founder Ebenezer Howard has spoken out about the importance of protecting the town vision in the face of future growth.
Ursula Howard was a surprise guest speaker at a family-friendly protest march on Saturday which saw between 700-800 residents marching through the heart of WGC.
Marchers heard from a range of other speakers including Cllr Russ Platt, Tony Skottowe of Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust, and the founder of campaign group Keep the G in WGC, Martin Norman.
The organisers have written an open letter to Welwyn Hatfield council leaders asking that decision makers show they understand and respect the unique heritage of the town.
They claim WGC is under overwhelming pressure from development proposals which are not in keeping with its heritage, and are asking for a radical shift in the council's approach before its iconic status and heritage are lost forever.
Chair Keep the G in WGC, Kate Cowan said: “This protest came about when the various town groups were discussing the number of dwellings being approved and planned in Welwyn Garden City.
"We had a vision of the town centre, filled with smiling residents, voicing their concerns. To be honest, never did I expect the event to take on such a life of its own.
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"People tell us all the time that they are grateful to be represented by the organising groups, we have managed to keep politics to one side and focus on the town and its people – I think that this is one of the things that made the event so inclusive.
"It’s amazing to think that this all started 10 months ago when six or seven residents sat on a bench in the town centre and wondered what could be done to protest the town.
"Fast-forward to April 23 and we saw an event with a huge number of residents, and our vision actually came true!”
Cllr Russ Platt added: "The march was a resounding success - it was peaceful, fun and family orientated, but at the same time managed to give a clear and strong message to everyone that was either there or watching from afar, that the people of WGC love their town and they will come together to protect its past, its present and its future.
"Having Ebenezer Howard’s great granddaughter, Ursula speaking next to me made it truly special for myself and everyone at the event.”
A spokesperson for WHBC said afterwards: "We understand the concerns some people have about development and its impact on our towns and villages, about affordable homes, and the infrastructure future generations will need.
"That’s why the process of setting a Local Plan, the blueprint for growth in the borough, is such an important one.
“That Local Plan process has rightly been the subject of more scrutiny, debate, and public consultation than any other document produced by the council.
"Communities and their elected representatives have engaged with us throughout, and council officers have worked tirelessly to find the right balance between protecting the Green Belt as far as possible, while planning for the homes and infrastructure needed. Ensuring the unique character of Welwyn Garden City is protected for future generations to enjoy is hugely important to us.
“Many people have a stake in the future of WGC town centre, whether that be residents, businesses, numerous landowners, us and the BID, or other partners. Right now, we are leading on an important piece of work to bring many of these stakeholders together and set a new action plan for the town centre.
"This is in addition to the sites already marked for redevelopment in the WGC 2120 plans, including the work at Campus West car park, which unlocks the Campus East site for regeneration, and the work underway at Anniversary Gardens between John Lewis and the Howard Centre’s northern entrance.
“Council officers continue to work with developers and housing providers to ensure the delivery of affordable and social housing in the borough."