Supplementary memorandum by Welwyn Hatfield
Council (NT 23(a))
Welwyn Garden City
Howard's concept of a garden city was developed
in the early part of the 20th Century and is accepted as the original
model of development of sustainable living. A key element was
the bringing together the best elements of living in a town and
the country, and this carefully approached was a fore-runner to
the development of the new town concept.
Hatfield developed as a direct consequence of
the employment needs of the aircraft industry which dominated
the town until the closure of the British Aerospace site. At its
peak some 11,000 persons were directly employed on the site.
Welwyn Garden City
The legacy of Howard's vision remains in the
overall quality of environment that is present throughout the
town. However the improvement in the mobility of the individual
and the proximity to London has resulted in considerable number
of the working population commuting out of the town to work. Having
said this the town has a healthy economy and the daily outward
migration of employment is matched by an equivalent inward migration.
In terms of the quality of the environment throughout the town
this has generally been maintained as it has expanded.
The original objective of providing homes for
those working in the aircraft industry was achieved. Following
the closure of aircraft works (British Aerospace) in 1992 the
redevelopment of the 400 acre site for mixed use development is
Both towns have modest populations (Welwyn Garden
City 41,000, Hatfield 25,000) and are tightly constrained by green
belt, being typical of towns in Hertfordshire. It is therefore
difficult to ascribe a role to either town in a regional or sub-regional
context. In the context of Hertfordshire the towns contribute
significantly to the employment needs of the County particularly
following the redevelopment of the former aerodrome site. In addition
the general expansion of the University of Hertfordshire and its
consolidation into a single location in Hatfield will continue
to change the economic and social structure of the town. Hatfield
will become the focus of higher education in the County and beyond.
Neither of the original masterplans are used
for the guiding of development although the principles of design
and layout upon which Welwyn Garden City was established still
guide development albeit with the recognition of modern living
requirements. The development of the former aerodrome site lies
outside of the original masterplan area for Hatfield.
Generally, new development in both towns has
integrated well. However the expansion of Welwyn Garden City to
the north east has been somewhat remote from the town centre and
whilst its proximity to the employment areas is beneficial this
large residential area is somewhat divorced from the main amenities.
There is a specific need to improve cycle and passenger transport
The old, historic town of Hatfield was devastated
by 1960's development and is now divorced from the rest of the
new town. There is no potential for further development and thus
efforts are being made to improve pedestrian and passenger transport
linkages to the town centre.
This has been achieved.
Information not available.
The demand for commercial land remains robust
but the level of demand is now being influenced by the lack of
a local supply of labour. The high cost of housing is resulting
in serious recruitment difficulties which in turn is increasing
the cost of labour. This is potentially the single most important
factor which could have an adverse impact upon the economy of
central Hertfordshire. Commercial values are generally less than
the larger towns of Watford and St Albans.
This question is largely irrelevant as development
is not influenced by sub regional policies but generally by the
County Structure Plan and more specifically by the district plan.
Hatfield Town Centre was mainly completed in
the 1960s and whilst its role was very much as a local centre
it did provide the full range of amenities and shops.
Over the last 15 years it has seriously declined
and is now in need of urgent regeneration. Its decline has been
due to a number of factors which include competition from out
of town retail parks, the closure of the British Aerospace factory
an ageing built environment requiring investment, fragmented land
ownership and shop units of the wrong size.
The Council has produced a development brief
which will involve the demolition of over half of the town centre
and its replacement with an increase in retail floorspace together
with residential and community facilities. The Council has entered
into partnership with English Partnerships although the future
is uncertain due to the current government review of EP. The Council
is also prepared to use its compulsory powers to achieve the redevelopment
and the partnership is currently undertaking a short listing process
which by the end of the year will result in a developer achieving
In Welwyn Garden City the role of the town centre
is somewhat different. A combination of the quality of the environment
of the town and the existence of a John Lewis department store
and an 180,000 square foot shopping centre (the Howard Centre)
makes it a significant sub-regional attractor. However the town
centre faces increased competition from other towns in Hertfordshire
and shopping centre located around the M25. As a consequence,
in the current review of the District Plan the Council proposes
to increase the retail floorspace within the town centre. The
District Plan will be subject to a public inquiry next year.
QUESTIONS 11 AND
The 1983 transfer from the Commission for New
Towns included Category 2 clawback land, where the clawback started
at 100 per cent and reduces by two per cent per annum. Such an
arrangement is bad estate management practice. There is no incentive
for the landowner to dispose or develop such land for its best
and most effective use and effectively the land is sterilised
for many years.
Restrictive covenants have a similar effect,
although the compensation is negotiable and not fixed as in Category
It is difficult to give examples of things that
have not happened due to the above as there can be many reasons
why land or property remains undeveloped. But the following is
a small example of difficulties caused by the clawback provision.
For example, recently an application was received
for a small section of amenity land from an adjoining resident,
which in principle would be acceptable. However this is Category
2 land and the repayment for the clawback, and the added complications
involved, make it difficult to justify proceeding with such a
The transfer of assets from the Commission for
New Towns in Welwyn Garden City included large areas of amenity
land, open space and private footpaths, service roads etc. The
budget requirement for ground maintenance for the District is
£1.3 million, the majority of which is for former CNT land.
Much development in the New Towns was designed
on the basis that the commercial owner would receive income from
the properties and retain responsibility for common areas, service
roads, yards etc. Unfortunately the commercial properties have
been sold privately, and the liabilities have passed to the local
authority. We are therefore left with the task of maintaining
and policing common areas to industrial and commercial estates
over which we have no landlord control and no income to offset
the extraordinary revenue costs.
For this authority we are left in the difficult
position of having additional revenue costs arising from the degree
of environmental maintenance required in both towns and no means
of generating income even if the remaining EP assets were transferred
to the Council because they are so minimal. Indeed such transference
could result in additional financial burden due to the nature
of the assets the majority of which are in community use.
It is our understanding that English Partnerships
have little assets left within either Hatfield or Welwyn Garden
City and the financial liabilities far outweigh their current
market value. They own two buildings which have been boarded up
or derelict for many years, and subject to much vandalism, and
several community buildings in various states of repair.
Until recently EP has played no role in the
regeneration of either of the towns. However this Council has
recently formed a strategic partnership with EP to take forward
the redevelopment of a significant part of Hatfield Town Centre.
This has now reached the developer selection stage and English
Partnerships continuation in this project is now uncertain pending
the outcome of the stage two review. This uncertainty will undermine
the Council's ability to deliver the redevelopment having raised
considerable expectations of the public and the development industry.
The Council's Chief Executive has urged the
Chairman of English Partnerships for an early decision and whilst
her response has been extremely encouraging it is the Council's
understanding that the final decision rests with the government
rather than EP.
See answer to Q13.
It has not affected our ability to prepare a
housing strategy but clearly the predominance of three bedroom
family housing means that the Council finds it difficult to meet
the needs of specific sectors of the population that requires
smaller properties eg the elderly and the young.
The issue is generally less about the original
design of the dwellings or the materials used but the fact that
with two first generation New Towns this District is faced with
a large housing stock that is of the same era which means that
large sectors of the housing stock require maintenance at the
same time. The Council runs a programme of planned maintenance
and improvement a major portion of which has been a window replacement
programme, many of the windows having been metal framed. Other
significant costs have included those relating to the removal
of asbestos from the stock.
Sadly many of the qualities that enrich townscapes
are at odds with minimising opportunities for crime. But there's
little about Welwyn Garden City or Hatfield that is especially
problematic. The quality of the truly planned parts of town are
a good basis for the kind of high quality environment and sense
of ownership that help with informal social suppression of misbehaviour.
Undoubtedly nuisance can take place in the public
open spaces, and a profusion of convenient pedestrian ways are
seen by some residents as making it easy to commit and escape
from criminal offences. The demands of widespread motor car ownership,
unforeseen when the towns were designed, can also lead to conflict.
Things which might ideally have been handled/designed/managed/controlled
It's harder to maintain the degree
of control when the ownership is fragmentedand the uniformity
of the planned environment somehow makes it easier for local people
to expect the Council to act.
Low density (and general prosperity)
undermine the prospects for good and well-used public transport.
More residential space in town centres
would help to keep them well-used and therefore safer. Conversely
it adds to the number of people prone to complain about other
lively town centre activities.
It's generally acknowledged that
the layout of Welwyn Garden City centre and continued access by
road makes for a real and perceived safer environment than the
pedestrianisation in Hatfield.
Layouts that separate car parking
from the owners' homes do leave vehicles vulnerable.
We'd have fewer complaints about young people
if there were more space for recreation convenient to, but not
adjoining, homes and shops. And very specifically, we could avoid
leaving flank walls of houses for kids to entertain themselves
(or alternatively afford to landscape and/or fence those that
Welwyn Hatfield Council supports and contributes
to the Hertfordshire County Council's Local Transport Plan. This
plan sets out policies, which are aimed at encouraging and raising
awareness of alternative modes of transport, as well as reducing
the need for the movement of people and goods through integrated
land use planning.
The Council is actively involved in the development
of the Mid Herts Package, where the objectives will be in line
with the policies set out in the Local Transport Plan. In addition
to this, the Council also supports unremunerative bus services,
by paying 25 per cent of the net cost of operating Contract Services
in the District.
The Council has also adopted a Parking Strategy,
which includes the commitment to introduce parking charges in
all its car parks within five years and supports the principles
set out in the County Council document "Car Parking Management
in Hertfordshire", ie as a general principle car parking
at shopping centres should not be free, and that the pricing structure
should be set to discourage long stay and encourage short stay
parking, with long stay charges being set to be unattractive in
relation to bus and train fares.
The Council has for some time provided free
advisory parking spaces for disabled people on the highway close
to their residence. The Council also contributes to HCC Safer
Routes to School schemes aimed at increasing the number of children
who walk and cycle to school. The Council provides free parking
for blue badge holders in the Council's shoppers' car parks, in
Welwyn Garden City, and discounted travel for the elderly through
concessionary bus fares. The Council has also supported the Welwyn
Hatfield Access Group in the production of a guide to retail premises,
and worked with them in the provision of parking spaces for the
disabled in the Council's car parks.