Agenda item


Up to fifteen minutes will be made available for questions from members of the public on issues relating to the work of the Panel and to receive any petitions.


The Chairman reported that a petition had been received from residents of Marshmoor Crescent and Marshmoor Lane objecting to the proposed commercial and residential development of WeG4b.


The Chairman also reported that fourteen public questions had been received in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No. 31 and a number of others had been received after the deadline for submission. In accordance with Council Procedure Rules a period of fifteen minutes would be allowed and questions would be asked in the order notice was received of them. Any questions which could not be dealt with during public question time because of lack of time would be dealt with by a written answer.


1.    Question to the Chairman Councillor Stephen Boulton from Mr. N. Bennett


Why is it that in the Officer’s assessment of Cuf5 (and Cuf12), there is no mention whatsoever of the unique opportunity for the Borough to provide a zero carbon development through its linkage to the nearby Anaerobic Digestion Plant (at Cattlegate Farm within the same ownership), since this is of fundamental importance under ‘sustainability considerations’ and has been promoted accordingly as part of our ‘exceptional circumstances’ case?


The Chairman read the following answer to the question:


The Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment does reflect the fact that an opportunity exists to link development on Cuf5 to a nearby anaerobic digestion plant within the same ownership, connecting the two sites via an underground heat network to deliver renewable heat to all houses and non-domestic buildings on site to provide a ‘zero carbon’ development. Site Cuf12 is a smaller part of Cuf5.


The Sustainability Appraisal assesses all reasonable key sites being considered for inclusion in the Local Plan having regard to the location of development and the evidence available about the potential impact upon the environment.  It does not include potential energy schemes, as this is a detailed matter which will need to be considered at the planning application stage, when specific proposals are put forward.   


The Site Selection Background Paper does note that the Sustainability Appraisal assessed Cuf5 as having more than twice as many double positive scores than double negatives scores and is weighted as ‘moderate in favour’ in light of this. However, this is just one component of the overall balancing exercise when selecting sites.


2.    Question to the Chairman Councillor Stephen Boulton from Mr. A. Buckle


I note that the Director reports in paragraph 7.3 that there is a risk of the Local Plan being found unsound if it does not meet the OAN, despite reporting further increases in population forecasts and a large shortfall in the provision of affordable housing. In light of this, wouldn't you agree that the Panel must consider including more robustly deliverable sites such as those mentioned in paragraph 3.47 and cannot rule Hat2 out at this stage based on incorrect information on the provisions of the S106, which, for the record, was specifically drafted to make provision to enable future development should it be consented?"


The Chairman read the following answer to the question:


There has been a dialogue between officers and the landowner’s representatives concerning the effect of the existing Section 106 agreement for this land on the potential delivery of site Hat 2. The Council has also taken legal advice on this.


Although there are provisions in the Section 106 relating to a potential termination of any lease of the country park to a managing trust, in the event that planning permission for housing is obtained on some or all of the land, there is no provision in the Section 106 itself to permit housing development without a formal variation to that deed. The site could therefore only be made available for housing if there is agreement to a formal variation to the existing Section 106 in respect of the provisions for the delivery of Ellenbrook Park. That variation would need the agreement of the landowner and the local authority parties to the original Section 106, Hertfordshire County Council, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and St Albans District Council.


St Albans District Council has serious concerns about entering into a variation to the Section 106 without assurance that an area of satisfactory size and quality will be made available as a country park in place of the land which would be lost to the proposed housing development. In addition officers of this Council have set out concerns in the report before Panel tonight that the housing development would also be taking place in a context where minerals are being extracted over a long period on the remainder of the country park. Proposals have been made by the landowner to seek to address this but these do not make provision for an adequate alternative to the existing section 106 arrangements for the park, which has been open to the public since 2010. The report to this Panel is therefore not incorrect to refer to this difficulty.


3.    Question to the Chairman Councillor Stephen Boulton from Mr. M. Aylward


“We note that the HELAA is an evidence base document for the emerging Local Plan and that consultation opportunities will follow. We note that officers are supportive of the principle of allocating site Wel3 which is accessed off School Lane.  In terms of site Wel16 we have provided a feasibility scheme that shows that the identified impediment can be overcome, and will allow the Council to meet local housing needs and address existing highways issues on School Lane. We are willing to reconsider the quantum of development to more closely reflect the residual objectively assessed need for Welwyn.  We would respectfully request that Members to direct their officers to provide an opportunity to work positively in the coming weeks, so that they could reconsider their conclusions in respect of site Wel16.


The Chairman read the following answer to the question:


Site Wel16 is one of the few instances where Hertfordshire County Council, as the Highway Authority, has raised significant concerns. A scheme of around 250 dwellings has been promoted and the Highway Authority has highlighted the presence of a narrow pinch point within the highway, which lies close to the village centre where the highway boundary is significantly constrained with no opportunity for widening. The level of intensification that would arise through the provision of an additional 250 dwellings is likely to result in traffic backing up in both directions around the pinch point with a concern that a severe highway impact in the proximity of the junction with School Lane and the High Street would arise.


Wel3 is a previously developed site and the suggested allocation is limited to just 7 dwellings (net), which also reflects the Highway Authority’s concerns about School Lane.  


4.    Question to the Chairman Councillor Stephen Boulton from Mr. A. Denoronha


Please could this question be asked at the meeting of the planning committee on Monday 13th June 2016 at 7:30pm We know there is a rich and diverse wildlife population in the proposed hat15 site including badger sets bees newts owls and many others please can you tell me how they will be protected and which of the local wildlife trusts and groups have you spoke to about this issue and what has been there reaction?


The Chairman read the following answer to the question:


Hertfordshire Ecology, our regular advisers on such matters, has confirmed that there are no recognised ecology sites within the boundaries of Hat 15 but that the presence of bats has previously been recorded and the site is also attractive to a variety of nesting birds and other species.. There are three local wildlife sites adjacent to Hat 15, including Symondshyde Great Wood. This all forms part of the assessment in the HELAA.


If the site is to be developed, a preliminary ecological appraisal of habitats will need to be carried out to assess ecological value.  The site is large and should offer opportunities for biodiversity enhancements and the dwelling capacity of the site reflects the need to provide adequate buffer zones to the adjoining woodland. Existing mature trees and hedgerow would be preserved wherever possible. Any works likely to affect protected species will need to be covered by the terms of an appropriate licence from Natural England.


5.    Question to the Chairman Councillor Stephen Boulton from Mr. P. Miller 


In the HELAA June 2016 Appendix G Brookmans Park, the surrounding land uses and character for Site BrP4 is described as “Railway to the east with Brookmans Park beyond; woodland to the west with open fields and Water End beyond; open fields to the north with Welham Green beyond and River and open fields to the south”. Please note that there is no mention of the Royal Veterinary College Major Developed Site a short distance beyond the river to the south.


The RVC has recently unveiled their intended masterplan to substantially increase the size of the existing site.


Site BrP6 has been afforded significant weight against the site because new Green Belt boundaries would significantly physically and visually shorten the fragile gap between Brookmans Park and Potters Bar.


BrP6 and the RVC share the same alignment and are the same distance from Potters Bar.


Can the Panel please consider the fact that even allowing for the extremely narrow and incredibly fragile proposed gap between BrP4 and the RVC to the south, the new Green Belt boundaries for BrP4 would also significantly physically and visually shorten the fragile gap between Brookmans Park and Potters Bar when combined with the RVC MDS boundaries and the net result would be virtually the same as the new Green Belt boundaries for BrP6.


BrP4 should therefore also be similarly afforded significant weight against for Green Belt boundary.


The Chairman read the following answer to the question:


The contribution that site BrP4 makes to the purposes of including land in the Green Belt is acknowledged. However, the site itself does not project beyond the southern settlement edge of Brookmans Park and does not physically shorten the gap between the existing urban boundaries of Potters Bar and Brookmans Park.


BrP6 however would physically reduce the gap between the existing urban boundaries of Potters Bar and Brookmans Park by around 40%. This is a significant reduction, which has been afforded significant weight against site BrP6.


6.    Question to the Chairman Councillor Stephen Boulton from Mr. W. Davis


We are soon to go into this council's fourth consultation asking us where new homes should go. The council had a lot of feedback in the last three consultations asking for more balance in the distribution of homes. However, yet again things are heavily focused on WGC and Hatfield, with Welwyn Garden being 'objectively assessed' as needing almost 45% of all new homes until 2032. Although your current distribution proposals don't manage that 45% what is clear is that other parts of the borough fail to meet their even there much lower percentage contribution by a massive margin.
Cuffley for example is deemed to require only 4% of all new homes, and yet the new proposals show that only about a fifth of that 4% is currently projected. Brookmans Park is similar with a contribution of only 3% required, but these proposals show only about a tenth of that amount is currently projected.

Yet again I strongly question whether a fair and balanced approach is achieved in the plans you will be discussing tonight and Wednesday. Does this panel agree that even at the fourth iteration of the local plan process, a fair balance across the borough is still not evident?


The Chairman read the following answer to the question:


The Housing Background Paper to this report explains that the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development and Local Plans must respond to the different opportunities for achieving sustainable development in different areas.

A proportionate distribution of growth across the borough is a mathematical starting point.  Assessments are then carried out to inform the plan making process. If insufficient suitable, available and achievable sites are promoted in and around the boroughs’ settlements or if infrastructure constraints limit the scale of growth, then a proportionate distribution of growth will not be possible or necessarily represent the most appropriate distribution pattern.

7.    Question to the Chairman Councillor Stephen Boulton from Mr. J. Gardener


Given the late addition of Hat15 and now also, GTLAA09, to the previously proposed Hat1, Hat2 & Hat13. What protection will be provided to prevent the emergent urban sprawl joining Hatfield Garden Village and Hatfield Business Park to Stanborough, Lemsford and on towards Wheathampsted, and the associated destruction of the green belt and the Hertfordshire Green Corridor?


The Chairman read the following answer to the question:


Should these sites come forward a strategic green corridor as indicated in the Local Plan Consultation Document can be delivered in conjunction with the delivery of strategic sites. The Green Belt boundary would be redrawn to exclude these sites whilst the land in between would still lie in the Green Belt which would continue its role of preventing the coalescence of towns.


(Fifteen minutes having elapsed since its commencement, Public Question Time ended at this juncture those questions which had not been reached would be dealt with by written answers).