New crossing over Parkway

malcolm-cowan-with-happy-residents-on-the-new-crossing-in-parkway.pngParents have welcomed the new crossing over Parkway at its junction with Rooks Hill. A petition requesting such a crossing was submitted around 3 years ago, and since then, local county councillor Malcolm Cowan has worked with highways officials to develop and deliver such a crossing.

"Anyone who knows Parkway will know it is a difficult road to cross in the single carriageway section. My suggestion on where to put it was taken up, and I was able to get access to some money that was set aside when the Parkway school site was redeveloped. Looks like a win-win all round"

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Uncertain future for vital footbridge

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

07/04/2017

Dear Sir

In your report of the planning meeting about the Spenhill site last week, you did not cover the point I made that the planned footbridge upgrade - basically a repaint and a new surface underfoot - is far from guaranteed as the council has not managed to engage with Network Rail who own the bridge. It is they who would carry out the work, not Spenhill or their successors. Nor is there any certainty that the money put down by Spenhill for this work - £150,000 - is accepted by Network Rail as adequate.

Given the saga has been going on for 10 years, it is deeply disappointing that there is no guarantee that any or all of the work needed will take place, or when. Given how quickly I managed to get Network Rail to put in proper lighting on the bridge a few years back, it is very surprising. However that is where we are at present. Let us hope wise counsels prevail.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Cowan

LibDem councillor


Pressure from Libdems leads to increase Affordable Homes on Shredded Wheat site

Libdems vow to hold the Council and Spenhill to account on Phase 2

nigel-quinton-and-malcolm-cowan-in-front-of-shredded-wheat-development-site.pngLast Thursday, 30th April, Welwyn Hatfield Council gave approval to Spenhill (the property arm of Tesco) to develop the old Shredded Wheat site next to the train station. In many ways this is a cause for celebration - the scheme is for high quality urban architecture in a strategic position in the town centre that will provide 850 new homes and will extend the retail and evening economies into Peartree Ward. The developer will also fund £4M of highways work and £3.5M towards educational needs, mostly towards a new, larger, Peartree School, which we very much welcome.

However, in one very important respect the scheme is hopelessly deficient. Only 50 of the 850 homes (less than 6%) are to be affordable homes, despite the Council's own policy that at least 30% of homes in this development should be affordable. That it was as many as 50 is only because pressure in the past week from our comments in the press has forced the issue. Only in the eleventh hour, on the day before approval, was the number of affordable homes increased from 35 to 50.

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Terms of Shredded Wheat site deal come under fire

shredded-wheat-factory-wgc.pngLeading Liberal Democrats are asking whether our Council was lost in action during the negotiations of the "deal" to develop the Shredded Wheat site.

Shockingly, despite a projected £86M profit, developers Spenhill are being told they only have to provide 35 units of affordable housing - just 4% of the total 850 being built. It is the stated policy of the Council that 30% of all new homes should be affordable. And the profits could well be much higher as the Council has failed to scrutinise the cost estimates.

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Humphrey's special fudge?

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

26/02/2017

Dear Sir

After my revelation that Humphreys, the Campus West café, is set to lose almost £200,000 in the forthcoming year, following a similar loss in the current year, I expected to read of the council's plans to rectify this appalling situation.

Maybe a better food offer. Maybe a change in the discounts and pricing. Maybe a change in staffing levels.

Instead I read in last week's Welwyn Hatfield Times, in a letter from the finance lead councillor, that the embarrassing issue is to be solved by reallocating the costs in Campus West, I presume so the loss is hidden. Well, there also is an underlying cost to the council for Campus West of almost £1.5 million, outside the various attractions - cinema, roller city, soft play etc. Looks like a lot of reallocating will be needed.

Then I read in the current WH Life, the council publication on page 15, that they claim it actually returns a profit.

So the Tory approach is to fudge round the loss and then deny it exists. No wonder they need £35 from us to empty the brown bins, to cover these losses.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Cowan

LibDem councillor


Highways spending plummets to lowest figure for five years

verge-at-junction-of-downs-avenue-and-lark-rise.pngLocal councillors have seized on figures from Herts County Council, showing spending on road and pavement maintenance and improvements have reduced every year over the past four years.

Spending on highways has plummeted from £39.2 million in 2013-14 to £30.1 million this year. This is despite inflation meaning that less can be done for the same amount of money, and the ever-deteriorating state of local roads and pavements.

Cllr Malcolm Cowan, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at County Hall said, "The Conservatives are continually telling residents that spending on roads is going up. These figures, provided by independent and council officers, show that in fact this vital spending has fallen every year for four years".

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Crash site abandoned before work is started

The scene of an accident just before Xmas outside John Lewis has been abandoned with no further work planned, even before any restoration work is done.

LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan reported the damage on 23 December. Loose parts that came off the vehicle that crashed were removed, but that is all. Now Malcolm has received a report saying nothing remains to be done - no repair of the broken cycle racks, no repair to the smashed paving, no removal of the temporary protective fencing. It is both potentially dangerous, as well as an eyesore.

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Summary response to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Budget for 2017/2018

We asked the council to focus on reducing the following items:

1. £200k predicted loss at Humphrey's cafe at Campus West.

Unbelievable. This is open up to 12 hours a day and should be a license to print money, not to lose it. Copious amounts of wine are purchased by customers for some of the film nights.

2. 150k to resurface the Campus West car park.

Sounds like a gold-plated job. Have they had alternate quotes?

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Boundary House: "The worst of Victorian era housing in a mid-20th century building"

Many TV viewers will have been shocked to see the conditions being endured by single-person households at Boundary House WGC, exposed in a Newsnight feature last week on Britain's housing crisis.

What was shown were several examples of a single room - a "studio flat" in estate agent language - being home to a mother and two children - a room being kitchen, living room and bedroom to 3 people! The entire block is privately owned but the families have been moved there from the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

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On the verge of disintegration

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

22/01/2017

Dear Sir

One of your correspondents last week complained about the state of the grass verges in our towns and the lack of action by the councils to reduce the damage done. I totally agree; the verges are part of the planned landscape, part of what makes WGC and Hatfield so different from most other towns.

Other Councils in Hertfordshire are far better at this than our own. Stevenage are gradually extending bans on verge and footpath parking across the town, and ticketing offenders; St Albans have notices up in nearby Colney Heath about this. If they can do it, why not here?

The current by-law in Welwyn Hatfield about verge parking is unenforceable. Requests by several county councillors, including myself, for the Borough Council to draw up an effective policy have been rebuffed, except for an order for a small part of Handside, which will come into effect in a few weeks time.

There are certainly some roads where a complete ban would be too much, given the lack of parking, and these could be exempted, until the council provides more parking.

The point made by your correspondent about forcing pedestrians to walk in the road is correct. I have twice recently had replies from WHBC officers saying they would not take action over vehicles causing this and pedestrian should walk in the road; thankfully, the police take a firmer view.

Finally, I have used part of my locality budget to restore some verges and protect some more, but it cannot be down to individual Councillors to act alone. We need a town-wide approach.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Cowan

LibDem county and borough councillor


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