'Ugly' new car park could open doors to housing development

How the new Campus West car park in Welwyn Garden City could look.

How the new Campus West car park in Welwyn Garden City could look. - Credit: Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council/Bourne Parking

Housing could be built on Campus East as part of plans to develop the car park on the Campus West site.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and Bourne Parking have brought forward plans to build an extra deck of car parking at Campus West, which could free up land near Campus East.

Ahead of the meeting on Thursday night (December 9), a report to councillors confirmed approval would allow Campus East to be considered for potential housing development.

The officer’s report said the extension “would consolidate and replace car parking from elsewhere in the town centre, with the aim of freeing up the Campus East site for residential development which would help towards addressing the borough’s shortfall in housing supply”.

A proposed development for the site was consulted upon in early 2020, but has not yet been brought forward for consideration by the council.

In response to the extension of the car park, the council received 61 objections from local residents. The concerns referred to the impact the extra deck would have on lighting, and concerns that the need for extra parking in the town had not been substantiated.

During a meeting of the borough council’s Development Management Committee, Bourne Parking said they had worked with the local council and Historic England to ensure the plans respected Welwyn Garden City’s conservation area. 

However, objector Karen Winbow noted that while neither Historic England or the borough council’s conservation officer submitted an objection, they both raised concerns that the car park would result in ‘less than substantial’ harm to the conservation area.

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Ms Winbow said that the car park wasn’t policy compliant as the town’s centre strategy said developments must improve the town centre’s vitality and viability, adding: “as the need for car parking has not proved, and its design is ugly, it does not comply”.

During the meeting, concerns were also raised about the need for the car park to be open 24/7, with concerns that the extra deck may attract anti-social behaviour and questioned whether the trees would effectively screen the car park during winter.

However, there was support for the scheme who said the council needed to ensure there was sufficient parking in the area.

Cllr Caron Juggins (Conservative, Hatfield East) said she thought it was “a lovely design” which she didn’t believe would be visible from most angles, while Cllr Drew Richardson (Conservative, Hatfield villages) said Welwyn Garden City could “suffer as a town” if there wasn’t enough parking provision to attract visitors.

Officers recommended that councillors back the plans, which were approved by 11-1, with one abstention. 

The planning permission also includes conditions to ensure there is additional planting on the northern and western boundaries, to protect the amenity of adjoining homes.

There is also a requirement of a landscaping plan to ensure that there is a biodiversity net gain following the development.

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