Year in Review: the biggest stories of July-September 2021

WGC Protest - Reject Welwyn Concrete City and High Rise Hell.
Picture: Karyn Haddon

Campaigners outside Campus West, protesting the plans to build high-rise flats in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: Karyn Haddon

The Euros, the Olympics, COVID-19 vaccines, the much-longed-for return to 'normality'. What a period summer 2021 was.

Over at the Welwyn Hatfield Times, we've loved keeping up with what's been happening in this ever-changing borough - and Potters Bar too.

With 2022 just around the corner (can you believe it?), we took a look back at our biggest stories from July to September this year.

July

Brookmans Park signed Bukayo Saka shirt

Brookmans Park Primary students Raphael Stephenson, Henry Neate, Hannah Johnson and Sienna Wright with the signed shirt the school received from Bukayo Saka. - Credit: Andrea Pollington

July proved to be an exciting and heavily anticipated month. 

While the nation eagerly awaited ‘Freedom Day’ on July 17, England missed out on the crown in the Euros 2021 final. Children from Brookmans Park school sent footballer Bukayo Saka letters of support after he was sent racist abuse for missing a penalty. In return, Saka gifted them a signed footie shirt. 

Also happening in the world of education, teachers, school staff and burnt-out parents breathed a sigh of relief as schools bounced back after a tumultuous year of lockdown and home-schooling. 

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We spoke to headteachers of Onslow St Audrey’s School and Stanborough School to learn what challenges they faced over 18 months of the pandemic. 

While Welwyn villagers were sad to learn that their only post office was set to close, over in Welwyn Garden City, work on redeveloping its Stonehills town centre began. Plus, the town’s cycling lane plans were drawn up. 

A visualisation of how the new Stonehills square will look once work is complete

A visualisation of how the new Stonehills square will look once work is complete - Credit: HCC

Debates over Welwyn Hatfield’s Local Plan continued, which sets out the number of affordable homes the council must build for its residents.

As we hoped to move away from the pandemic, and as ever more of the population became fully vaccinated, we also cast our minds back to the care home crisis. A report revealed that one Hatfield care home reported 28 COVID-related deaths.  

St Christopher's Care Home in Drakes Way, Hatfield.

St Christopher's Care Home in Drakes Way, Hatfield. - Credit: Danny Loo

August

Issues over the borough’s housing continued to dominate in August. Welwyn Garden City residents feared their town would be stripped of its Garden City status as nine-storey-high blocks of flats faced being approved on the former Shredded Wheat Factory site. 

A CGI visualisation of the proposals for BioPark

A CGI visualisation of the proposals for BioPark - Credit: HG Group

Many feared that Welwyn Garden City was on track to becoming a suburb of London. Given that more than half of the homes sold in Welwyn Hatfield during the first half of 2021 were to Londoners, it's easy to see why residents held those fears.

But Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps, controversially, weighed in on the debate. He said no planning application should be approved if the buildings are too tall. 

In the public housing sector, things weren't looking too cheery either. Locals were angered to learn that homes owned by the council had failed to meet statutory health and safety checks. There were calls for council leader Tony Kingsbury to quit over the failings but he refused.

Over in Hatfield, residents were concerned by a new multi-storey car park that replaced land previously earmarked for homes.

August was also the month of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Welwyn's very own cycling superstar, Laura Kenny, became Britain's most successful female Olympian after she won her fifth gold in the women's madison race. She will also become a 'Dame' in the Queen's New Year's Honours List. 

GB Olympic hero Laura Kenny acknowledges the fans. Byline: David Pearce

GB Olympic hero Laura Kenny acknowledges the fans. Byline: David Pearce - Credit: Archant

September

WGC Protest - Reject Welwyn Concrete City and High Rise Hell.
Picture: Karyn Haddon

The plans would have seen 289 homes, in blocks of up to nine storeys built at the former BioPark site. - Credit: Karyn Haddon

After months of grassroots campaigning and tense debates, councillors voted against the controversial proposal for a new high-rise residential building in Welwyn Garden City. Great relief was felt by all that opposed it, as well as a feeling of pride in those local protesting groups who together had made a difference. However, the company that wish to build on the site swiftly appealed the council's decision.

And over in Hertsmere, plans to build 6,000 homes on Green Belt land at Bowmans Cross, London Colney were also drawn up. 

Protesters from Insulate Britain with their hands glued to the road near to the South Mimms roundabo

Protesters from Insulate Britain with their hands glued to the road near to the South Mimms roundabout at the junction of the M25 and A1. - Credit: PA

The roads were also making the news this month as Insulate Britain set up camp on the M25 to protest for better insulation in homes. A fuel shortage kept Transport Secretary Grant Shapps gripped in the emergency, as local petrol stations were high in demand.

September proved to be another exciting month for sport. There were not one, not two but six athletes from our area competing in this year's Paralympics.

Chris Ryan in action for Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby team

Welwyn Garden City's Chris Ryan took part in Team GB's wheelchair rugby squad. - Credit: NATHANIEL HOLLAND

After the US and UK's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the nation looked towards how best to help Afghani refugees entering the country. Potters Bar rose to the challenge and an overwhelming number of clothes, books and toys were donated to local families living in temporary accommodation.

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