Lib Dems have discovered the Conservatives plan to keep secret the location of potential new housing developments until after the local elections.
Having been told their Local Plan is ‘unsound’ by an independent inspector, the Borough issued a new ‘call for sites’ – asking landowners whether they’d want to build houses on their land. The Borough were overwhelmed at the response – 65 completely new sites and 70+ sites that had previously been rejected that were put forward again.
Unable to turn around an assessment of so many locations in time, the Conservatives have decided to delay revealing the sites until after the May elections, despite the Local plan Inspector urging the council to speed up the process. The Borough know where all the sites are, and there is no legal reason they could not be made public, but in a clearly political decision the Conservatives have decided to keep them secret until after the election.
In a move that LibDem campaigner Jane Quinton described as “clearly premature and open to legal challenge” the Council’s planning committee voted to approve the outline planning application from landowner Mariposa and HCA – ignoring the repeated objections of hundreds of local residents over many years.
Conservative Panshanger Councillor Terry Mitchinson not only failed to stand up for Panshanger residents who have opposed the loss of the airfield, he even spoke in favour of the development.
After the meeting Jane had this to say:
“The Local Plan process has dragged on for many years now and it will be at least another year before the Inspector produces his final judgement. This development is being pushed by the owners with the Council’s blessing, based on a remark made by the Inspector at the end of one of his hearings. At that stage, he was misinformed about the planning status of the airfield, but a leading QC has subsequently briefed the Inspector and the Council, pointing out that the land remains designated as an Airfield even if non-operational. Despite this advice, the council have still decided to determine this planning decision on what must be shaky legal grounds.”
“The proposals in any case do not deliver on Garden City principles, with too dense a development and too few facilities, putting even more pressure on amenities such as Moors Walk and Moneyhole Park.”
Why are Govia Thameslink treating Welwyn Hatfield residents as second-class citizens?
The possible Community Toilet proposal outlined in last weeks’ WHTimes was killed off at a meeting of the Conservative-controlled Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee last week.
“It is shame many councillors would not even let council officers investigate possibilities to see if a scheme could work, but the real story is why the council is not taking a far firmer line with cafes who have no loos” said LibDem group leader Malcolm Cowan who had initiated the discussion.
“A number of councillors rightly believed it was the law that a café serving food and drink with seats provided had to have a loo for their customers. A recent test case backed this up. And it is not just a loo but also being able to wash your hands before you handle food that is important,” he added.
“Far from being a burden, a café providing a loo should gain custom as shoppers stop for a drink and bite to eat rather than going home with legs crossed” Malcolm said. “It would particularly be valued by expectant mothers, those with small children and many elderly shoppers. What a shame they are being ignored.”
Responding to the letter received by local Councils this week from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government calling for local authorities to prepare for a no deal Brexit, Liberal Democrat County Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for Welwyn Hatfield Barbara Gibson said:
“Asking cash-strapped councils to prepare for a no deal when it is in the Government’s gift to rule it out is nothing short of an insult to local services.
"With local government being eroded at every opportunity and councils struggling to even run just the most basic services, to add this burden for no reason other than to scaremonger support for the Prime Minister’s already defeated deal is utterly shameful."
In November last year LibDem County Councillor Nigel Quinton was very pleased when his motion asking the County Council to throw its weight behind calls for Central Government to confirm funding for Maintained Nursery Schools beyond March 2020 received unanimous support. But today it emerged that the Council has done nothing for two months, finally sending a letter to the Secretary of State only last week.
“What on earth were they doing?” Nigel asks. “As our debate in November made clear, our maintained nursery schools require urgent confirmation of continuing funding, or they face total uncertainty, potential loss of staff, and loss of places, possible closure. How can it take two months for the Council to compose a letter?”
On Christmas Eve 2018, Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), operators of the Gosling sports complex in Welwyn Garden City, quietly announced that a decision had been made to close the sports hall and associated facilities at Gosling Sports Park at the end of March.
Liberal Democrat Cllrs Nigel Quinton and Siobhan Elam, County and Borough Councillors respectively, are shocked and disappointed at the news. Nigel commented: “As Hertfordshire’s Year of Physical Activity draws to a close we learn that a sports hall that was only upgraded four years ago, and which is subject to development agreements of 15 years, will be closed without any consultation whatsoever. The operators GLL are letting down our community dreadfully. Gosling is a much loved facility that has served the people of WGC and more widely, for very many years. As owners of the facility, what are the Council doing? The heart of the town’s leisure provision is being ripped out without a word or a care.
News that rail fares will rise by 3% at local stations is massive blow to passengers, and also to the reputation of MP Grant Shapps who vowed to stop the rise. "Even a government without a majority feels able to snub the MP and other more vocal Herts MPs who wrote together to oppose any rise" says local LibDem council group leader Malcolm Cowan, who is also chair of the WGC rail user group. "The Department for Transport set the fares for rail operator Govia. Chris Grayling, as Transport Minister must have signed off these ludicrous fare rises. If Grant is serious, he must demand Grayling's resignation."
Figures just secured by the BBC show the local North and East Herts Hospitals Trust missing 2 out of its 3 main targets, and not even providing data for the third.
On seeing patients in A and E within 4 hours, it hasn't hit the target for over 3 years. For cancer care treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral, it is 8th worst in the UK out of 131 trusts, having not hit its target since April 2015. For planed operations and care, it has failed to provide any data, as was the case earlier in the year.
Yet nearby Luton and Dunstable, drawing its staff from a similar catchment area, results are very different: On A and E, it is top throughout the country (and well above targe), on cancer care it is well above average and above target, and on planned operations and care it is above average though slightly below target.
Last week Liberal Democrat Cllr Tamsin Jackson-Mynott won over the entire Borough Council who voted unanimously for her motion to put pressure on Grant Shapps MP to lobby the Govt to save funding for maintained nursery schools.
Speaking not only as a Councillor but as a parent using the wonderful facilities provided by maintained nursery schools for her daughter, Tamsin said, “The argument to save the funding for maintained nursery schools is not a cash saving exercise - it's about protecting a learning environment for young children that is rich with experience, support, knowledge sharing, cross school network learning, SEND support and teacher training. Nothing new is needed, just a maintenance of the status quo. But for that to happen we all need to work together to this common goal for all of our children”.