'Plans for 2,550 homes in Welwyn Garden City should be dropped amid new evidence'

PUBLISHED: 13:31 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:46 02 November 2017

Land off Birchall Lane allocated for Birchall Garden Suburb. Picture credit Peter Oakenfull.

Land off Birchall Lane allocated for Birchall Garden Suburb. Picture credit Peter Oakenfull.

Archant

The WGC Society has said plans for 2,550 homes on the outskirts of town should be abandoned after it claimed to have discovered evidence of mineral extraction.

Will Davis.Will Davis.

Landowner Tarmac submitted its Birchall Garden Suburb proposals claiming the housing would not be built on the former dumping site, rather on land near it that had never been excavated.

Welwyn Hatfield Council subsequently included the proposals in its Local Plan.

However, the WGC Society last week published a glut of documents, which it said proves the proposed housing area had excavation work completed and was not “virgin land” as suggested to the council.

WGC Society chairman Will Davis claimed the evidence included previous council documents approving planning permission for mineral extraction, a resident’s testimony, aerial photographs and work specifications.

He said that, as a result, the council’s decision to include the proposals was misinformed, and the scheme should subsequently be dropped.

“We are surprised the council has persisted with its proposal for Birchall Garden Suburb when, so far as we are aware, it has failed to look into the site properly,” Mr Davis added.

But a Tarmac spokesman said that although permission was granted for mineral extraction to take place post-war, it was not completed on all parts of the site.

He claimed that some areas, such as north of the A414, were used to provide material for construction – broadly considered “virgin land” in engineering terms – but there are no economic issues with building on it directly.

The key point, the spokesman stressed, was that Tarmac has undertaken extensive tests to ensure housing would not be built on landfill.

“The new community has been proposed only on areas of land which are suitable for construction,” he added.

“Extensive independent analysis – which has been shared with Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and the Environment Agency – shows that none of the proposed housing will be in previously landfilled areas.”

A borough council spokeswoman said: “We will continue to review all evidence for the proposed development at Birchall Garden Suburb and any issues with the land at the site will be fully considered by the Inspector during a future hearing session.”

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