The following is the the letter from the Chairman, taken from the first issue of the GVPS newsletter.
Welcome to the first GVPS newsletter.
The idea behind this newsletter is to keep residents of the Garden Village informed of the committee’s activities and their ongoing fight to stop the council’s planning proposal to build 2000 houses on our fields.
Our initial main focus was getting as many objections as possible registered on the council’s website before the end of January. We’re pleased to say that the response has been fantastic. The number of registered objections has gone from approximately 160 to over 1500 … and not all comments have been registered yet.
In our open letter to the council leader dated 22nd January (to which I received a fairly useless response), we mentioned a possible alternative site to the south east of Welwyn Garden City (WGC5) (see Figure 1) – an area that could accommodate approximately 2500 homes. This area was brought to our attention by Grant Shapps MP during our meeting with him in January. The committee thought this sounded great – but then we found out that Mr Shapps had previously campaigned against an earlier proposal for this same site! However, according to the Welwyn Hatfield Times, it looks as though this might now be seen as a serious alternative. The council would have to start the consultation process again and I’m sure the local residents would have something to say, but it’s not on green belt land and the plans look very much in keeping with the Garden City concept.
A number of the GVPS committee members had the “pleasure” of attending a Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel meeting earlier this month. We were there to see how things worked and hear responses to answers put forward by the Panshanger residents group (Panshanger People). Each question had been put forward some weeks earlier and the chair of the meeting read out the prepared responses. None of the questions was really answered, with an awful lot of “please refer to such-and-such a document which we’ve cleverly hidden away in an obscure corner of the council’s website”. The answers were obviously not prepared by the panel and we were not allowed to ask further questions in relation to their responses. A fantastic lesson in the art of obfuscation and another reason why so many people are apathetic towards politics – you never get a straight answer and it takes forever to get things changed.
As an aside… For those of you with a particular interest in local politics: during a very important council planning meeting, the borough planning officers (i.e. the specialists, not the councillors) strongly recommended that the locals villages (e.g. Brookmans Park, Welham Green, etc) be included in the council’s plans for expansion. At this meeting, Councillor Mandy Perkins referred to this suggestion as “perverse”, citing a previous consultation in which over 800 members of an interest group from South Mimms suggested that HAT1 (that’s us!) would be the best spot for the expansion, and therefore the villages should not be included in the proposal. That 800 accounted for approximately 80% of the total respondents and took the form of a petition (we were told ours was irrelevant!). On the basis of this petition, the borough councillors decided not to include the villages in the planning proposal. It’s interesting the way the borough council based such an important decision on feedback of less than 1% of the Welwyn Hatfield Borough population. It’s also worth noting their apparent flexibility when it comes to using or not using certain statistics. Anyway, that ill-considered outburst by Cllr Perkins is now officially known as “Perversegate”…
The GVPS committee meets every four to six weeks and consists of thirteen members. We are currently in the process of formalising a constitution for the GVPS and, as a part of that, we are looking at how to manage the membership of the society. The easiest way to do this is to invite all residents of Hatfield Garden Village to join without a subscription fee. We can do this, but only if our fundraising events and activities are well supported. With the exception of the protest signs and some of the printing, everything so far has been funded by the committee members. We have collected some funds through donations and hope to get a grant from Hatfield council. But to maintain communication and fund specialist skills/knowledge, we will need further funding in the future.
Over the coming months we will be looking at a number of areas to assist in our campaign. These will include: updating and improving the website; legal advice; data collation (we have lots!); fundraising and the expansion of the youth campaign. If you can help with any of these, or have any ideas that might help us out, please get in touch.
Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you at one of our events later in the year.
Paul Ward (on behalf of the GVPS Committee)