Letter to the Welwyn and Hatfield Times from Dennis Lewis

Printed in the August 20th Edition.


Having been present at the fiasco that was the so-called public meeting convened by the Borough Council and Finesse Leisure last Thursday evening, attended by about 40 concerned residents and Councillors, I have a few comments to make.
The subject was the Council's alleged proposal to fell nearly 700 Lombardy poplars at the two car parks at Stanborough lakes, in September.
The object of the meeting was to inform and educate us about this alleged proposal and to "explain the background".  We were even invited by the Finesse official who tried (unsuccessfully) to chair the meeting, to proceed to the south car park and see what the trees looked like ! We were also shown "Exhibit A" - a chunk of wood which was found in the car park - but no-one could tell me if there had been a single claim arising from contact between a similar piece of poplar and anyone's head.
The Welwyn Garden Society will be following up on this issue, and already we understand that the six ward Councillors (Handside and Hatfield Central wards) have been invited to a meeting with the Council's planners on August 29th - to be "informed" and "updated". Public consultation will follow that in September, and then I assume the Environment Committee will do its stuff and eventually the Cabinet of 7 good Councillors and true will make a decision......a truly democratic process singularly lacking from what has gone before, on this issue.
However, my concern and my purpose in writing is to ask that the public consultation in September will deal not just with the Lombardy poplars in the Stanborough Park car parks, but also those which are located in WGC town centre and in other key places in the town's Conservation Areas e.g. Parkway Close and Parkway (South).
The Lombardy poplars in Howardsgate and in Parkway are an essential element of the beauty of our town centre. Their removal will tear the heart out of our Garden City and would constitute an act of extreme civic vandalism. The Council has stated (Welwyn Times 6 Aug 2008, page 15) that "there are no plans to remove them during this three-year cycle". But I ask - where are we in that cycle, and what plans are being hatched for the years after that ?
I urge the Handside and Hatfield Central ward Councillors and the Environment Committee to insist that ALL our Lombardy poplars are included in a new, wide-ranging survey by a truly independent specialist, and that their remit should be to come up with a plan that will meet public approval, as well as being technically sound.
Yours truly
Dr Dennis Lewis
The Links
PS  Did any of your readers notice that the photograph of "poplars" on p 15 of last week's issue of the Welwyn Times was actually a photo of whitebeams in Parkway ???  Tsk tsk - another example of not being able to see the wood for the trees ?