To add a bit of the location detail that wasn’t clear in the Lafarge sketch, below are some maps of the proposed area with the approximate location of the housing sites overlaid in blue. The maps also show:
1) Location of The Commons Local Nature Reserve in red.
2) New roads as blue lines.
3) New “local centre” at Birchall in red.
4) New proposed plots in blue.
Proposed plots to the north:
Why? Over the last few years the government office for the East of England has been developing its plans for growing economic capacity in the area following direction from central government. This controversial exercise means expanding infrastructure such as transport hubs (airports) and the road networks which link them. This goal of economic growth requires people to fuel it, so it will of course mean a population increase in the region. So more housing, and related services and infrastructure to support that housing and its occupants. We are told that the UK will fall behind its E.U. competitors if this growth is not planned and executed over the next 20 or so years. In liberal economic theory standing still is not an option, we must continually grow or die, if we are to keep our position of 6th largest economy in the world. These houses are not being built as a response to the long standing lack of affordable housing problem, but for macroeconomic reasons. You have to wonder about that in the current economic climate, where even the Hatfield town centre redevelopment has stalled.
What does that mean for us? As we are an area with plenty of green space we are an ideal candidate for some of this housing growth. The Garden City ethos and the Green Belt which have protected our environs since the 1940’s are being sacrificed for the holy grail of economic growth. Our area is being forced by a government body to plan for and build over ten thousand new homes by 2021. See this campaign web site for the background on that: www.nowayto10k.com.
More affordable housing would be welcomed, but is that what’s being planned here? Potentially it could increase the local population by about 20% - That would put great pressure on our natural environment, services, and infrastructure.
A map of the Green Belt surrounding London,
this obviously includes much of Welwyn Hatfield
In October 2008 Lafarge, the French world leader in cement and other building materials put forward a proposal along with a planning consultancy for how several large chunks of green belt land, over 260 acres worth, could be developed for housing, 4260 new homes to be precise. Lafarge has controversial history in the area and has worked several local sites for aggregates for some years, and has applied for new sites very close to residential areas, these applications have often been declined.
The map images above are courtesy of Google maps. As can be seen this constitutes a very sizeable addition to WGC. Although the new home creation is mandated by government, the location of those homes must be considered very carefully. Opponents would point to the fact that the responses to the public consultation on the East of England plan published last year show that a huge majority oppose the further loss and green belt, they also objected because of environmental and infrastructure concerns, see page 5 on the GO-East report below. This web page exists to give a clearer view of where the new housing is being proposed for. Knowledge is power, even though the East of England’s public consultation showed huge opposition to it’s plans, they hold the balance of power and are seemingly unwilling to acknowledge that opposition. If we as residents are knowledgeable about the details and consequences of the Lafarge proposal, we have a better chance of redressing the power imbalance through our collective voice - whether it be against of for the plan.
A few useful links:
This web page will be updated as things develop, you can email HERE if you have information to contribute. This site is not aiming to spearhead an opposition to the Lafarge proposal, but is trying to make sure a debate about the merits and drawbacks of such a scheme are help up for public debate, and most importantly that local views, whatever they are, are taken in to account.
There is concern that the biodiversity of The Commons Local Nature Reserve will be affected. Find out a bit more about the reserve by clicking here!
The Commons Local
Latest News: The Commonswood Nature watch meeting was very successful and had a very good turnout. Indication of the strength of feeling on the issue. It was a very informative event and it was evident that there are a many valuable and rare aspects to the reserve which combine to make preserving it essential. All local political parties were present and agreed on that point. The next steps of this consultation process will be scrutinised very carefully.
BBC London TV News featured an article about the reserve on the Feb 19th. This informative short piece can be watched below:
CPRE quote: "No presumption in favour of economic development: Legislation for major infrastructure should promote sustainable development
and allow local communities an effective voice"
Proposed plots to the north:
Lafarge released a fairly vague sketch map outlining their proposal.
This can be download HERE.
These grey areas referred to as “parkland”, some of it
former landfill. What the land use/access will be is unclear.