Villagers hit back at promoted sites suggested for Welwyn Hatfield's Local Plan

PUBLISHED: 14:07 18 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:28 24 June 2019

One site being promoted is the fields behind Commonswood Nature Reserve in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Rowena Grace.

One site being promoted is the fields behind Commonswood Nature Reserve in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Rowena Grace.

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Welwyn Hatfield borough residents - paticularly from villages - have mainly objected to the 140 extra sites being promoted by landowners in response to a call by the council.

The promoted and allocated sites under the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's Local Plan. Picture: WHBC.The promoted and allocated sites under the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's Local Plan. Picture: WHBC.

Most of the arguments against housing that could be built - if the council includes the promoted sites in its draft Local Plan - hinge on the lack of local infrastructure.

Residents argue that they would be overwhelmed if more people were living in the area.

Many objections were lodged by the villages of Northaw and Cuffley at meetings attended by more than 200 people over the last month.

Lucy Holt, who runs the Northaw Action Group that helped organise a meeting, says if the plans go ahead it would mean 7,000 plus homes being built in the area.

Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group have started this petition to Welwyn Hatfield borough councillors. Picture: Welwyn Parish Council.Welwyn Planning and Amenity Group have started this petition to Welwyn Hatfield borough councillors. Picture: Welwyn Parish Council.

"As a village it appears to be doomed and will be confined to history unless we stand up and fight for it," said the former City of London worker who is now a stay at home mum.

A particular objection, for Mrs Holt, has been the effect that an increased population would have on the road that runs through the villages of Cuffley and Northaw - the B156.

The sentiment was also echoed by local parish councillor Andrea Allgood, who pointed out the road "cannot cope with the current levels of traffic", and "average traffic volumes are above 17,500 in Cuffley on weekdays".

A study on the village of Cuffley predicted air quality "would deteriorate further" - passed the already exceeded limit - if there was additional traffic in the area.

Northaw Road, known as the B156, in Cuffley. Picture: Google Street ViewNorthaw Road, known as the B156, in Cuffley. Picture: Google Street View

Though Mrs Holt said there was "some sites where it would be possible to build houses and strategic planning to go ahead," citing a promoted site with a capacity of up to 90 dwellings on Coopers Lane in Northaw.

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, Knebworth, Codicote, Datchworth and Aston, also hit back on the same lines in response to the promoted sites in northern Welwyn Hatfield areas of Welwyn and Woolmer Green.

The sites would have "a severe detrimental impact on the infrastructure, environment and characteristics of both Knebworth and Codicote, which are not in the boundary of WHBC," Mr McPartland wrote in an open letter to the council.

Welwyn residents, represented by Welwyn Parish Council in consultation with several local bodies and resident associations, said it does "not consider any of the proposed sites to be suitable for development".

The Link Skate Park, a site under the plan. Picture: DANNY LOOThe Link Skate Park, a site under the plan. Picture: DANNY LOO

The WPC statement said: "We are all aware that the feeder roads into the parish are already seriously congested and the scope to change this strictly limited.

"These developments and the local infrastructure changes that they would require would destroy both and are contrary to Green Belt philosophy."

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Phil Barden, who has lived in Welwyn since 2017, feels personally that the cemetery views would be "destroyed" if the promoted sites went ahead.

Dog training ground, 75 Hertford Rd, Welwyn. Picture: DANNY LOODog training ground, 75 Hertford Rd, Welwyn. Picture: DANNY LOO

"When we moved to Welwyn in 2017 we thought how lovely and peaceful the cemetery was," he said.

"We could imagine staying in our 'forever house' and having the tranquillity of that cemetery as our final resting places."

But there are some residents resigned to the fact that new houses need to be built to meet the expected demand by 2030 of 16,000 new homes.

"In relation the fields behind commonswood nature reserve I think it would be better to build around the outskirts of the fields near the A414 rather than in middle of the fields as this would protect more on the wildlife," said Welwyn Garden City resident Rowena Grace.

"I saw an owl there owl there yesterday evening. I can't bear to think of the amount of natural wildlife will be ruined once building starts."

However some in the borough like Hatfield resident Lisa Wren argue in the case of affordable accommodation that there is a need, provided it meets the following criteria:

"No more one or two-bed flats or cluster homes, [but] family homes with gardens and parking.

"Houses that do not cost £350k plus for 'first time buyers'.

"Houses that the average working family can own.

"Houses that aren't brought up by landlords then rented out for extortionate fees.

"If the proposal can offer that, then sign me up!"

Greg Ritson, in a response to a Welwyn Garden City site, put a lot of the objections lodged down to (Not In My Back Yard) NIMBYS.

"I wholehearted support these further developments.

"Please get building without further delay."

The consultation, which was originally suppossed to end today, has been moved to 9am on Monday.

The list of promoted sites can still be viewed online at welhat.gov.uk/promoted_sites_2019.

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