Welwyn Garden City ethos 'Must be protected'

PUBLISHED: 11:46 06 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:20 26 October 2009

WGC should be a town designed for healthy living

WGC should be a town designed for healthy living

WHEN Ebenezer Howard founded the Garden City concept, it was with a vision. WGC, he said, should be a town designed for healthy living, a good place in which to live, work and raise a family. Rules since set in stone sought to underline that ethos, by ens

Dr Dennis Lewis

WHEN Ebenezer Howard founded the Garden City concept, it was with a vision.

WGC, he said, should be a town designed for healthy living, a good place in which to live, work and raise a family.

Rules since set in stone sought to underline that ethos, by ensuring high standards of design and development were maintained.

Homes which fell within the Estates Management Scheme (EMS) - which covers certain parts of WGC - were subject to more stringent planning requirements.

However, over recent times enforcement has, according to many, 'slipped by the wayside'.

But that is set to change thanks to a draft document produced by Welwyn Hatfield Council, which looks to take a tougher stance.

The news has been welcomed by town 'watchdog' the WGC Society.

Dr Dennis Lewis, of the society's executive committee, said the whole idea of EMS was to maintain high standards and a conservation area philosophy.

He said: "WGC is based on good design - from the way houses are set out to the brickwork on each house, the windows, porches and doors.

"There should be gardens in the front gardens, not car parks. It's called a Garden City, after all!"

Dr Lewis, a former borough councillor who sat on the working party set up three years ago to look at the future of EMS, added: "The thing was going down the pan due to a lack of understanding and a lack of enforcement.

"Over the years a number of people have moved into the conservation and estate management areas, and haven't realised they were subject to these conditions.

"The council hasn't really taken enforcement against these people."

In the society's official response to the council consultation, which ended on Thursday, secretary Shaun O'Reilly described it as "a welcome step in the right direction".

But he pointed out it was unclear what would happen with regards to changes already made, which would now not necessarily get approval

A council spokesman said: "The council member task group was set up to review the WGC Estate Management Scheme as a result of a number of difficulties which had been identified in connection with the scheme.

"These difficulties included the imprecise wording and the extent of the scheme, problems of enforcement, public expectation and geographical coverage.

"The detailed review resulted in a number of proposed actions including the development of policies to guide the consideration of applications, raising awareness, monitoring and enforcement.

"We will take all consultation comments into account.

"Depending on the level of detail of the responses, we hope this will take place in either August or September. The final policy document will be published later this year."

* A "STICK and carrot" approach should be taken by the council to help encourage homeowners to restore their properties to how they were intended, according to Dr Lewis.

He said: "The 'stick' would be the council enforcing the EMS rigorously having declared a moratorium, after which date everyone was notified that enforcement would follow any breach of the rules.

"The 'carrot' would be, for example, the council providing the plants and shrubs for residents to replace front hedges in the conservation and EMS areas.

"A new booklet should also be produced so we can all understand it, what is allowed, what isn't allowed.

"In that way everyone has the same understanding of the scheme and no-one can say they didn't know about it.

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