Lib Dems concerned more houses at Wheat Quarter would see Welwyn Garden City turn into ‘mini-Manhattan’
PUBLISHED: 09:57 06 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:02 06 October 2020
Welwyn Hatfield Lib Dem councillors are “utterly appalled” by the proposed increase in the number of flats to be built on a site in Welwyn Garden City.
There is currently an ongoing public consultation over plans that would increase the number of homes from 435 to 747 on the South Side of the Shredded Wheat Factory site.
“This cannot be thought of as what a Garden City is about – more like a ‘mini-Manhattan,” said group leader Malcolm Cowan.
“The supposed centrepiece of the development, our historic, and listed, grain silos, will be dwarfed and hidden from view. Not so much the Wheat Quarter as hidden history!
“The massive increase in the number of homes is still not delivering enough available at a social rent, even if it nominally meets the ‘affordable homes’ criteria.
“We all know how unaffordable these are to our young people who are being forced to move away. Parking provision is being cut and it is hard to know where people will get access to a GP surgery when the only one nearby is so under stress, or where children will get educated when the planned new three-form Peartree school already has its places taken by other developments nearby.
“Additionally, we are now seeing the height being used to try to justify more tall blocks nearby such as Bridge Road East. The council must turn round and say enough is enough.”
The increase in the number of homes will also increase the height of some of the buildings by several storeys.
The building on the site has already started in January and is due to be completed in 2030.
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County councillor Nigel Quinton sees more to this than just a developer seeking to maximise profits: “It seems to me, and this is backed up by various remarks from officers at discussions of the Local Plan, that the council may well have actively encouraged the developers to increase the number of homes they can cram onto this site and others in Peartree, so that they can get their ill-conceived Local Plan past the Government Inspector. Rather than entertaining additional homes here, they should be piling pressure on the developers to get on and build what was approved 18 months ago.”
Cllr Stephen Boulton, executive member for environment and planning, addressed some of the LibDem’s concerns and Cllr Quinton’s comments, he said: “This is an early stage consultation to gather views before the developer puts proposals forward for planning. The appropriate forum for councillors to consider these is at the development management committee.
“We want to make the most of housing sites in and around our town centres to protect the green belt, as our communities have asked us, but we also need to ensure development respects the character of our towns and quality of life for residents.
“Further, we strongly refute councillor Quinton’s comments and consider them unhelpful at this time; the council does not encourage developers to increase housing on any site.”
Cllr Nick Pace, executive member for housing and communities, said: “We’re working closely with Metropolitan to make sure the affordable homes that could be delivered through this development meet the needs of local people, including properties already underway for social rent and other options for young people and families that cannot afford market prices.”
A spokesperson for the developer, Metropolitan Thames Valley, said: “As a charitable housing association, we are committed to delivering a thriving, accessible and sustainable community at the former Shredded Wheat Factory site.
“At the heart of our proposals is the vision to deliver more homes, more affordable homes and affordable homes, which are more affordable. This will help to widen the range of people across different income levels who can access good quality new homes in this great location.
“We are already making good progress on construction of the first phase of the development, which will see 208 affordable homes built.
“We now want to hear from the community about our ideas for how the rest of the site can deliver more affordable homes, alongside great quality outside space, whilst continuing to respect the importance of the iconic grain silos and improving connections at the heart of Welwyn Garden City.”
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