Friday, 21 November 2014

BPRA public meeting on WHBC Local Plan 27th November

The BPRA will be hosting our second information meeting on the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan on Thursday 27th November 7.00pm at the Brookmans Park United Reformed Church.

We are making a small charge of £1 per head to cover costs (we want to pay the church for the use of their hall), but current paid-up members of the BPRA will have free entry. There will be the opportunity to join the BPRA on the night.

Paul Zukowskyj is our guest speaker and he will give a briefing on the latest draft of the WHBC Local Plan together with a presentation on the current status of the proposed sites in and around Brookmans Park. Other guests expected to join us are Anawar Miah,  and Claire Taylor of North Mymms District Green Belt Society. Our MP Grant Shapps has been invited, but is unable to attend. Councillor John Dean may be able to attend.

WHBC's Local Plan will be published for public consultation in early January 2015. Currently it is expected that they will be committing to build 12,500 new homes across Welwyn Hatfield between 2011 and 2031. 9,000 homes will need to be built on Green Belt, 880 of those on Green Belt in North Mymms villages, over 330 of those in Brookmans Park.

The WHBC Cabinet for Housing and Planning Panel is due to present the draft Local Plan on 11th December, and is due to ratify the Local Plan on 17th December. The last analysis of BP sites is below:

Number of possible dwellings
Planners comment
BrP1- Bell Lane
Finely Balanced
BrP2- North east of the Great North Road


Less Favourable
BrP4- West of Brookmans Park
Finely Balanced
BrP6- Bluebridge Road
Finely Balanced
Brp9- Friday Grove
Less Favourable
BrP10- Raybrook Farm
Less Favourable
BrP12- Peplins Way
Finely Balanced
BrP13- West of Golf Club Road
Less Favourable
BrP14- East of golf Club Road
More Favourable


Monday, 17 November 2014

WHBC Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel meeting 13th November 2014

Members of the BPRA development sub-committee attended this meeting to hear the CHPP's report on Agenda item no 12:

 The Local Plan Update

"The report of the Director (Strategy and Development) informs members of the work which has been undertaken to date on transport impacts of developing the potential growth sites, on policy and site-specific viability and on updating the Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) to accompany the Local Plan Consultation document. Pages 63 to 72".

The detail contained in pages 63 - 72 of the Public Information Pack can be seen on this link;

It should be noted that this covers the whole of the Welwyn Hatfield district, not just the villages including Brookmans Park.

From the reports given at the meeting, we understand that a certain amount of 'modelling' has been undertaken - particularly with regard to Highways - but that full modelling cannot be completed and 'signed off' until the end of the Local Plan Consultation, when it will be clear which site(s) residents and 'other interested parties' have chosen for development.

So far:

The Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) for the Core Strategy is currently being updated for the higher housing targets as well as the location and distribution of growth.

Highways have reported that from their modelling to date, it is obvious that a number of roads and junctions across the district will need to be improved.

Education and Health, development of schools and health centres will be relative to quantum development, the work is ongoing and will not be completed until the sites are agreed.

Viability - work on strategic locations cannot be completed until the sites are chosen.

Comments made by councillors:

Stephen Boulton pointed out that all the above would mean going into the public consultation without all the answers on infrastructure.

Another councillor asked what mechanisms WHBC would put into place to ensure that the different departments 'delivered'.

Both of these comments/questions are still to be answered.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Welhat Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel (CHPP) meeting 23rd October 2014

Members of the BPRA development committee attended the Welhat Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel meeting last night to hear the CHPP examine and comment on the latest report on possible sites for development in and around the villages in Welwyn Hatfield. Many of the sites will be published in the Local Plan in early 2015 for public consultation.

The current timeline that the CHPP is working to is as follows:

October 23 - 29    CHPP debate sites in the report
November 13       Consider further evidence
December 11        Present Draft Plan
December 17        Ratify Draft Plan
Early Jan 2015      Publish Local Plan for public consultation
Late 2015              Preparation of Final Plan

The latest report that CHPP is working on is here, with Brookmans Park on pages 85 - 96 and 122:

Thursday, 16 October 2014

BPRA calls for members to attend Welhat Cabinet meeting

The Welhat Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel meeting on Thursday 23rd October 7.30pm will be looking at the land proposed for development around the villages, including Brookmans Park.

This is included in agenda item 7:

The report of the Director (Strategy and Development) updates Members on the objective assessment of housing need for the borough, the review of urban capacity and windfall sites and the assessment of green belt sites that have been promoted for development around towns and villages, taking account of evidence in the Green Belt Study and the Landscape Capacity and Sensitivity. Pages 1 to End

All members who are able to attend should do so:

 Cypress Room, Salvation House, 2 Sterling Court, Mundells, Welwyn Garden City, AL7 1FT

If anyone wishes to download an agenda and public info pack (as well as looking at the list of panel members), here is the link:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

BPRA Development Committee

At the BPRA public meeting in August Councillor John Dean spoke about the local plan, and made a recommendation that we would be in a strong position to control development within Brookmans Park if we presented a united view on what we wanted.  To this end the BPRA has formed a Planning Committee with the following “two pronged” approach:
o   Plan A - Continue the fight against any building on Green Belt
o   Plan B- Review the sites outlined in the The Local Plan to assess their relative impacts and suitability with a view to providing guidance and recommendations to the village as a whole

We held our first meeting last week and from this we have commenced a number of actions to move these objectives forward.  We have good representation from areas around The Gardens and Peplins, and would welcome representatives from other parts of the village – particularly those close to sites outlined in the SHLAA. Anyone who brings planning expertise would be particularly welcome, but we cannot admit anyone with links to potential developers or owners of the sites.”
The Local Plan:
Appendix D: Site Assessment
Appendix E: Site Maps

Monday, 18 August 2014

Councillor John Dean's talk on WHBC Local Plan

Following our meeting last week, John Dean has kindly given the BPRA permission to reproduce his speech in full here:

"I have been asked to update and give some background regarding the current position of the Core Strategy or Local Plan as it will be now and this I am pleased to do. However before doing this I feel that it is important that I try and set the context within which local authorities such as our own now have to work and I want to start off by saying a few words about two matters known as the test of soundness and the duty to co operate. I will then talk a little about the housing challenges facing us and the finally where we go from here. In doing so I would stress that this part of the planning process is becoming increasingly complex and I am not an expert in such matters, that expertise is provided by our officers and in some instances by external specialists. My role is to discuss more generally the difficulties that I and my colleagues are faced with in resolving the future growth of our Borough and how we are going about that.

Starting with central government there is a clear expectation that local authorities should make provision to meet their housing needs. So what is our housing need? Well this has to take into account official population and housing projections. The last official government housing projections published last year suggest that over 870 new homes will be needed in Welwyn Hatfield each year (over a 20 year period, that’s 17,440 new dwellings). This is the third highest growth of any shire district in the country and is the number that the housebuilding industry expects us to meet and indeed will be the starting point from the government’s perspective. However the figures are only interim and more recent population figures published by ONS this year suggest that the need for new housing will be notably less than this. We are currently carrying out our own work to quantify this.

 I will return to the numbers later because I want to talk about the importance of our Local Plan being found sound.

I am advised that in the good old days if a local authority’s plan did not match expectations the Inspector (who examines the plan) would make a number of recommendations that the local authority would comply with. It was obviously convenient for councils as they could blame the government Inspector for the final plan having been at pains to stand up for the local community. Under the new system the Local Plan produced by the council has to meet the various legal tests when it is formally submitted as well as being based on the evidence. If it does not it will be completely rejected and the council will have to go back to the drawing board. So in the case of meeting our housing figures if we do not meet them and have no exceptional circumstances to justify a lower figure then our Plan will be found unsound. If this happens we can expect planning applications from developers in the green belt and without an up-to-date plan against which to make decisions there is a very real prospect that the government inspector will allow those appeals. This is not an idle comment as there is clear evidence across the country that this is happening. It is therefore incumbent upon us to produce a sound plan that will not be rejected at an early stage which takes me back to the housing numbers.

Notwithstanding the government’s numbers we are required to calculate our own housing numbers and this work is currently taking place. I think it is fair to say that whilst I would hope that the figures are less than those suggested by the government officers have advised that it could still be significant and certainly substantially more than the 7,200 dwellings that we consulted on last year.

As you are all aware outside of the two main towns and the main villages like Brookmans Park the remainder of our borough is green belt. Given that the amount of housing that could come forward on brownfield sites within the towns and villages is likely to be in the region of 3,500 dwellings then any other housing can only come from land currently designated as green belt or safeguarded land.

This gives us an enormous challenge as although I am adamant that we are not going to embark upon a programme of widespread destruction of the green belt we cannot just shut up shop and not try to meet our housing needs. Local Authorities who do this will fail to have their plans accepted. So the question is whether it is possible to achieve a level of development that will make our plan sound but at the same time not destroy the character of our borough. I do not have an answer for this tonight but this is the challenge that we will be wrestling with over the forthcoming months.

It would be bad enough if it stopped there but sadly it does not as if we cannot provide for our entire housing number (which is likely) we still need to identify how the shortfall is met. That is by redistributing them them to other local authorities with their agreement – this is known as the duty to cooperate. Of course those local authorities are unlikely to accept our shortfall because in turn they will be expecting us to meet theirs. At this stage I believe that the planning system is beginning to collapse. However these are the rules so not only are we struggling to meet our needs we will also be defending land from developers and other local authorities. This is why getting it right is so important.

Just stepping back form Welwyn Hatfield for a minute it seems as hardly a week passes by where another local authority’s plan is found to be unsound. Inspectors are clearly taking a tough line particularly as to the extent that local authorities have gone to meet their housing numbers. In one case the local authority could not meet its housing numbers and the adjoining local authorities would not cooperate in finding land for its surplus. In that case the plan was still found unsound and one has to ask oneself what more could the council have done.

Back to Welwyn Hatfield the planning department are receiving requests from developers to enter into pre-application discussions on green belt sites in advance of our Plan being published and considered. Unfortunately under the current planning system we cannot refuse to undertake those discussions even though the site might be one that we have no intention of bringing forward through the plan. This is exceedingly difficult for the council to manage even with all the necessary caveats and of course it is completely mystifying to the local community. By way of example we have one such site at Northaw Road East in Cuffley where the developer has recently submitted an application of around 500 dwellings and 100 retirement units in the green belt. My view is this matter should ideally be considered as part of the Local Plan process and not pre-empted in this way. However that is not the current planning system. I mention this as although it would not be correct to discuss specific cases within Brookmans Park you will be aware of developer interest around the village.

So where do we go from here?

We consulted upon our first set of draft proposals between November 2012 and December 2013 and understandably received substantial objections from all of the communities who lived adjoining or close to the proposed development. Since then we have had the new housing figures which has raised the numbers and as I mentioned earlier we are currently assessing our own requirement and the infrastructure that might be needed to meet it or part of it. I would expect to publish proposals for housing sites for the borough for consultation at the end of the year.

Whatever it says it will not be popular as it will have to involve the release of some green belt land but I and my fellow councillors cannot duck the responsibility as much as it would be tempting to do so. To get to those proposals we will be re-examining every piece of land in the borough that has been put forward for consideration including green belt around the villages. This is important as even if we are not allowing green belt land to be developed upon we have to have good evidence as to why not, particularly if we cannot meet our housing figures.

I can assure you all that I am fully aware that the release of any green belt land is extremely sensitive and unpopular, but I believe that it is better to be in control at a local level than have it imposed by government. This is the reason why I will be saying to everyone that we need to work together to try to minimise the amount of green belt we use, and that just saying no everywhere is not the answer – this will probably lead to more loss of green belt due to speculative bids by developers, many of whom are currently watching and waiting.  What I will want from you all is some open thinking and calm debate about how everyone can help by taking a share of the developments needed. I don’t want to see a single scrap of green belt used any more than we absolutely have to, but my thinking is that it must surely be more equitable for all communities if each agrees to take a small share of the requirement, thus easing the burden all round? This is the main thought that I want to leave you with. These are not easy decisions that we are being asked to make, but we have to make them, and I reiterate that it is better for us to keep control of our own environments rather than the alternative which would be to lose control to the developers, Government and remote Inspectors. "

Monday, 11 August 2014

Development meeting Thursday 14th August

This month's meeting will be on Thursday 14th August 7.45pm at Brookmans Park United Reformed Church. Our speaker will be Councillor John Dean who will be coming to talk about Welwyn Hatfield Borough's Local Plan, which is due to be put out to consultation this Autumn, and scheduled to be published Spring 2015.

The Local Plan is WHBC's plan for the growth and development of Welwyn Hatfield district, including the villages of North Mymms of which Brookmans Park is one. The growth and development being planned for will be substantial, in line with Government policy. Although the Local Plan will cover all areas of growth - such as local businesses and local jobs - the main concern for village residents will be the required targets in housing development, estimated to be 16,000 in WHBC's area alone, with space for only 3,000 of that figure to be built on brownfield land.

Landowners in and around Brookmans Park have already responded to Welhat's emerging Core Strategy (the forerunner to the Local Plan) and offered their land up for development. Most if not all is currently Green Belt.

Cllr Dean will not be able to give definitive figures on Thursday, but will be able to explain how the Local Plan has been arrived at, what research underpins the Local Plan, and hopefully, what influence we might have as a community.

We need to know figures for attendance please, and ideally written questions in advance for Cllr Dean.

Please email

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Meeting Thursday 10th July re parking in BP - sample questions for Ms Hatfield

Residents have been emailing their questions for Vikki Hatfield to answer tonight. Here is a sample:

1. What are the results of the latest re-consultation of Bradmore Way and Peplins Way.
2. Why is parking in the village not being addressed holistically. Parking restrictions street by street simply displaces the commuters to other streets.
3. In the various consultations for Parking in Bradmore Way and Peplins Way, why were all viable options not clearly explained. What is the council policy for full disclosure.
If all viable options had been clearly and fully explained, then the residents could have made an informed choice from the beginning. In particular, this refers to Residential Zoning Parking Permits requiring no road marking, for which Bradmore Way and Peplins Way are eligible. It should not rely upon individual residents to inform all residents of the legal options available.
4. What is the council policy for consulting with other government organisations ie schools which would be impacted by parking restrictions. Restrictions will have an impact upon the Brookmans Park school’s daily running. There has been no consultation to date even though it has been requested.
5. What dispensation plans have been made for school teacher /visitor parking and parent parking on school events days.

6. Why are there no disabled parking bays in the village?

7. What can be done about preventing parking on the pavements, so that the elderly and disabled can get past on mobility scooters and the parents can get past with pushchairs?

8. We have heard that some roads in Brookmans Park (eg Brookmans Avenue) have been 'bought' by a company, which may intend to restrict parking and charge for it. Is this true?

9. Could the widest parts of the pavements in the village centre be utilised for herringbone parking?

10. The main problems started when the car park was no longer free. What can be done about reversing this and letting all the commuters park for free again?

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A victory for People Power - no Hatfield incinerator!

Grant Shapps has announced today in a letter to his Welwyn Hatfield constituents that "we've won the battle to stop the incinerator in South Hatfield".

He goes on to say that "planning permission previously granted has today been overturned by the Planning Inspector acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles", and "this is the end of the road for this misguided incinerator plan".

This is a fantastic victory for all of those who have campaigned tirelessly against the incinerator, particularly Cathy, and we in the Brookmans Park Residents Association are proud to have been associated with that campaign. Well done to all our volunteers who knocked on doors, delivered leaflets, drafted and delivered template letters of objection, helped to man stands, attended demonstrations and delivered letters personally to the Inspectorate in Bristol.

Grant's letter to his constituents can be found at:

Monday, 23 June 2014

Meeting on Thursday 10th July

The next meeting will be on Thursday 10th July 8.00pm at the BP URC.

This will be attended by Vikki Hatfield, Parking Services Team Leader at Welhat, who is coming to talk about parking issues in Brookmans Park and possible solutions.

Ms Hatfield is keenly aware that different areas/roads in Brookmans Park have different problems and therefore are in need of different solutions, so is keen to get the views of as many residents as possible at this meeting. To facilitate this, Ms Hatfield has asked if she could have any questions in advance so that she can be as fully prepared as possible. 

Please email your questions for Ms Hatfield to

Village Day 2014

A wonderful afternoon in the sun, meeting our members and signing up new ones. Good to be next to the North Mymms Green Belt Society with their maps showing all the land in North Mymms which has been suggested for development.

As well as a newsletter with info on our activities over the last 11 months and joining forms, we had boxes of books to give away in return for a donation to the defibrillator fund. We will be donating £50 to the defibrillator fund.

From talking to our members, BP residents' main concerns are still: possible loss of Green Belt to inappropriate development, bad parking, potholes, speeding along village roads, and of course the proposed Hatfield incinerator.

Monthly meeting Thursday 12th June

The Brookmans Park School PTA have very kindly allowed us to have a stand at Village Day again this year, on Saturday 21st June. We will give out an update on our activities during the last year and info on how to join the BPRA.

Invitations have been issued to various people to come and address BPRA meetings:

Vikki Hatfield, Parking Services Team Leader at Welhat - possible date 10th July.

Councillor John Dean - to follow up from his talk at NMPC Annual Meeting

Trevor Saunders, new Head of Planning Policy at Welhat - joining June.

We are going to get quotes for BPRA badged stickers for residents' doors/windows "No Cold Callers", and possibly new magnetic calendars with local shops and services.

Results of Public Enquiry into the Hatfield super-incinerator due 26th June.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Report on John Dean's talk at the NMPC Annual Parish meeting

Members of the Brookmans Park Residents Association attended the North Mymms Parish Council Annual Parish meeting on Thursday 9th April, to hear Councillor John Dean speak about Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's Core Strategy, due to be published for public consultation early autumn 2014.

Attendees heard that central Government has given WHBC a non-negotiable target of 16,000 new homes to be built in the district by 2029. This target has been increased from the 7,000 originally envisaged a year ago, and also from the 10,000 - 12,000 that WHBC thought was the final figure only a few weeks ago. WHBC has managed to identify brownfield and infill land enough for 3,000 new homes, leaving the balance of 13,000 to be built on Green Belt land across the district.

The Government target for Hertfordshire is now the third-highest of all the shire counties in the country.

John Dean added that when Welhat submit their plans to Government Inspectors, they must conform to 1) a test of 'soundness' (ie they must show 16,000 new homes planned for and land identified)
2) a duty to co-operate (with other districts and boroughs)

If a council's plan is found 'unsound' by Government Inspectors, the Inspectors will invite developers to approach Eric Pickles office direct with their plans, which will be given immediate approval. Therefore it is in the councils' and their residents' best interests to produce a 'sound' plan, which will at least keep a measure of control. John Dean added that in Welhat it would be advisable to designate a small amount around each community with community agreement, then with a sustainable and sound plan accepted, the developers could be kept at bay.