New plan for Shredded Wheat site cautiously welcomed by LibDems

Shredded Wheat Factory WGCThe new owners of the Shredded Wheat site in WGC unveiled plans to borough councillors last Monday. The plans increase the number of homes planned from 850 to 1471; this allows for 30% of all the homes to be social housing, working in partnership with a Housing Association, a key demand of the LibDems when the previous Spenhill plans were approved earlier in the year.

"This is a phenomenal number of homes, and we are concerned about the density and building heights proposed, but the very welcome increase in social housing proposed should allow for at least one Green Belt site to be removed from the Local Plan" said LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan.

"I was pleased to hear them say they have more ambitious plans to enhance the rusting rail footbridge. They also said they thought Spenhill had 'hoodwinked' the council over this, with around 6 times the amount of money needed than Spenhill and the council had agreed."

County councillor for the area, Nigel Quinton, said "Malcolm and I have already had a tour of the site with the developers, and they have done more in a week to safeguard the site than Spenhill did in all their time here. We will continue to critically review their plans bur are hopeful there will at last be a happy ending for WGC.

"I am especially pleased that this will allow a significant number of affordable homes to be built - one of the chief failings of the Local Plan currently under Inspection is that the Council only expects to build 160 'affordable' homes per year, whereas its own needs assessment says we need to build over 800 a year for the next five years to make up the current shortfall. Of course, we have to make sure these are affordable in practice, and a significant number must be for social rent. Hopefully Mrs May's announcement earlier this week of more money for Council houses might actually be delivered!"

06/10/2017


Wetherspoons goof again

22 ParkwayThe unauthorised and possibly illegal new sign advertising yet another planning application for a pub at 22 Parkway WGC is already drawing criticism.

Wetherspoons did themselves no favours with their 2 previous planning applications - they failed to engage in any way with the public and its representatives, failed to talk to the planners and put in applications so poor they were unanimously rejected both times.

"Have they learned? - it seems not" says Libdem councillor Malcolm Cowan. "Not only does the building look an eyesore under Wetherspoons management, they have plonked up a sign that itself appears to need planning permission and hasn't got it. And they didn't even bother to cut the very long grass surrounding the sign"

If I was Tim Martin - owner of Wetherspoons - I would be putting people out of the door for their incompetence. But the Tories running the council need to have along hard look at themselves - surely the state of the building demands action, not just a few words? Surely no private homeowner would be allowed to let their building become such as eyesore, situated in the heart of the Conservation Area?

02/10/2017


Government threatens even higher housing target for Welwyn Hatfield

Just as Welwyn Hatfield faces an Examination in Public into its flawed Local Plan, the government has now announced another vacuous target for house building. The Tories' previous stated aim was to see 200,000 homes built per year, they now want this to be 250,000. Last year (2016/17) only 147,000 were built.

The impact on Welwyn Hatfield is likely to be that instead of needing 800 homes per year across the Borough, we need 877 per year. This in an area where 79% of the land is Green Belt, which the government wants protected into the future. Yet next-door Hertsmere, which has exactly the same proportion of Green Belt land as Welwyn Hatfield, is given a 38% cut in its allocation.

The justification for the increase - compared to the massive cut in nearby Hertsmere - is the high house prices here. Malcolm Cowan, Welwyn Hatfield LibDem group leader says "But absolutely nothing is proposed to help build more affordable homes here - no extra powers, and no money. What we would get would be more 'luxury' homes dragging people in from other parts of the south-east, as more sprawl eats into our precious countryside."

County councillor Nigel Quinton says "We need a joined up approach to building the truly affordable homes we need, and building fully functioning communities, not just more and more executive homes and massive profits for the developers. We have long called for a new garden city in Hertfordshire rather than stretching our existing towns to breaking point. It is time our Council and the Tory government actually addressed the needs of our communities, and stopped pandering to the big developers."

20/09/2017


Police and Crime Commissioner's grab for fire service slammed from all sides

The attempt by Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd to also take over fire services in Herts has met all party opposition as Herts County Council voted unanimously against, despite David Lloyd having been the Conservative ruling group's deputy leader until recently.

Welwyn Hatfield council, also under Tory control, saw its cabinet vote against, as did the all-party Social Overview Committee.

"This is an unprecedented snub for the PCC. Clearly councillors have made a decision on the facts of the case, which was very weak, and I totally welcome that" said local LibDem leader Malcolm Cowan.

"I imagine councillors were also worried about the same cuts being visited on the fire service that the police have suffered. I know David wanted to close down both WGC and Hatfield fire stations; thankfully that threat has subsided as Welwyn Hatfield council voted to stop the sites being zoned for housing.

"What is important now is for the government to respect and act upon the clearly expressed views of local representatives, rather than the county's MPs, who couldn't wait to rubber-stamp David Lloyd's power grab."

Barbara Gibson, County Councillor for Haldens Division, and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Community Safety, commented: "In spite of the unsupported claims of David Lloyd, the evidence does not show that moving the fire service would result in ANY benefits, financial or otherwise. In my view this proposal is not in the interests of public safety."

11/09/2017


3.6% fare rise gets short shrift

The planned 3.6% rise in fares next January has got a strong reaction from local Liberal Democrats.

LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan says:

"Here in Welwyn Hatfield, we will be paying more for less. This line has always featured as one of the most expensive in Britain, a country which has among the highest fares in the world. Currently the operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is being rated the worst in Britain, and from next year, our service is going to get slower, will be less frequent from some stations (Brookmans Park and Welham Green, less convenient (ending of trains to Peterborough) and in many cases the trains will have fewer seats than now.

"Meanwhile the motorway is almost at a standstill every day, just a mile from a rail line that could and should be carrying many of the commuters if the service was better and cheaper.

"Frankly, we should be getting a reduction, not an increase, at least until a proper service is restored.

I am launching a petition against these raises and poorer service, at stop the rail fare rise."

Stop the Rail Fare Rises

We, as citizens of Welwyn Hatfield, are opposed to yet another fare rise in 2018, against a background of poor service and a worse future timetable.

We call on HM government to exempt users of Great Northern from the rise because of the low levels of punctuality and customer satisfaction compared with other lines.

We call on GTR to reverse its planned cuts to local services, reinstate trains to Peterborough, and increase train frequency.

Sign the petition NOW, at stoptherailfarerise.org.uk

23/08/2017


History repeats itself, first time as tragedy, second time as farce

History is repeating itself very quickly as yet again, many of the district's recycling bins are overflowing. Only a couple of weeks after LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan highlighted the problem, both through the WHT and at a council meeting, the council's promises to fix the issue have turned to dust.

As of last week, almost every paper bin was full or overflowing, and also many of the plastics bins.

"If Serco can't manage emptying them, it's time the job was taken away and given to someone else" said Malcolm. "It a pretty basic service, but yet again they have been found wanting. We know the contract the Tories signed up to doesn't allow for any penalties, which is bonkers, at least we should take the work away. And are the Tories still sure they are worth the 66% pay raise they gave themselves earlier in the year?"

Someone famously said "History repeats itself, first time as tragedy, second time as farce". Maybe they foresaw Welwyn Hatfield council's failures.

Overflowing Recycling Bins: Hilltop [Aug 2017]Hilltop
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Waitrose [Aug 2017]Waitrose
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Church Road [Aug 2017]Church Road
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Woodhall [Aug 2017]Woodhall

20/08/2017


Welhat waste and litter problems escalate

Local Liberal Democrats are angry about the local council's failure to empty recycling banks and are demanding improvements.

The large paper, plastic, glass and can banks have been full and overflowing for around a fortnight and are not being emptied. The council have admitted the company they use has just one lorry which is off the road. "It is astonishing that the council is dependent on such a small operation - did they know about this when the contract was signed, and why is there no backup?" asked LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan. "This seems to be taking cost-cutting to ludicrous lengths. The photos attached show the situation at several bins across WGC.

There was a similar situation of all the paper banks being full across the district 2 years ago - I hoped the council had learned the lessons - clearly not."

Malcolm surveyed most of the recycling locations in WGC last Thursday following complaints and the results are "truly shocking" he says, with most having a lot of litter around as well:

  • Moors Walk (Panshanger) - all 8 bins full and overflowing
  • Morrisons (Blackfan Rd) - all 8 bins full and overflowing
  • Woodhall - all 7 bins full and overflowing, with dozens of bottles lying round
  • Church Rd - both paper bins, glass overflowing, and much broken glass lying round
  • Haldens - brown and clear glass overflowing
  • Shoplands - plastics overflowing
  • Hall Grove - plastics and paper overflowing
  • Hollybush - paper bank overflowing
Overflowing Recycling Bins: WoodhallWoodhall
Overflowing Recycling Bins: ShoplandsShoplands
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Blackfan RoadBlackfan Road
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Moors WalkMoors Walk
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Church RoadChurch Road

20/07/2017


No progress on Splashlands as meeting is ended after 14 minutes

The empty and barely-used High Ropes course at Stanborough ParkLiberal Democrats are frustrated at the lack of progress on a new Splashlands after a long-awaited meeting was ended after 14 minutes with no report to consider.

"We have waited years for something to replace the long-lost swimming pool at Stanborough and we keep getting promises" said group leader, councillor Malcolm Cowan. "It is 2 years since I went to a meeting to narrow down future features to accompany the childrens' splash area, but it appears no progress has been made. Last week, the Splashlands Procurement Board met, but the meeting was ended without a report to consider; it is now postponed, probably to late September.

"To call this progess snail-like is an insult to snails. The council seems to lack any appetite to actually deliver anything, not even a better cafe. Maybe the fact that the High Ropes, long touted as the way to make money to fund the splash area is actually forecast to make a loss, has shaken them so much that no-one is willing to put their name to anything. It is desperately disappointing. Another promising summer will drift pass with nothing to show. A lady told me recently there is nothing to make her bring her family to Stanborough - how sad is that? We remember when it was heaving with visitors from a wide area" he added.

03/07/2017

Take the first step

Nigel Quinton backs Welwyn and Hatfield's community pharmacies

Nigela Quinton and Pharmacist Sarah GaynorNigel Quinton, the Liberal Democrats candidate for Welwyn and Hatfield, pledged his support for Johns and Kelynack Pharmacy and other pharmacies in Welwyn and Hatfield following an election campaign visit.

Nigel met pharmacist Sarah Gaynor and her team to see how community pharmacies are easing the pressure on the NHS by freeing up time for GPs and Accident and Emergency departments. Johns and Kelynack Pharmacy provides advice and support for local patients to help them to get the most benefit from their medicines and to lead healthy lives. It also offers services for people with long-term conditions, including ordering repeat prescriptions, medication reviews and free medicine deliveries.

Nigel said: "I'm proud to be backing pharmacies like Johns and Kelynack in this election. The people of Welwyn and Hatfield deserve the best NHS healthcare and we can only fix the problems we face with the pressure on the NHS by making the most of community pharmacy. Our manifesto says that we will ensure that any changes to the way pharmacies are funded do not leave local areas without reasonable access to a community pharmacist."

Sarah said: "Community pharmacy is a great and accessible way to find healthcare advice and support. We are the experts on the use of medicines and should be the first port of call if you are feeling unwell."

Local pharmacists and their teams are a key part of your neighbourhood health service. Community pharmacies provide a range of NHS services, ensure people can get face-to-face care without an appointment and take pressure off GPs and hospitals.

With consistent support from government, community pharmacists can do much more to:

  • Take pressure off GPs and hospitals
  • Make access to NHS care more convenient
  • Help people with long-term conditions
  • Promote public health services
  • Get better value from medicines
  • Save the NHS money

That is why we are asking candidates in the coming General Election to show their support for pharmacy.

#pharmacy17

07/06/2017


£56 million investment in Hertfordshire schools

The Liberal Democrats have announced they will invest £55.8 million more in schools and colleges in Hertfordshire over the next parliament as local schools face serious cuts under Conservative plans.

The funding would reverse cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protect per pupil funding in real terms and ensure no school loses out from changes to funding arrangements.

£6.3 million of the £56 million funding would be spent on protecting the Pupil Premium, introduced by the Liberal Democrats to help the most disadvantaged children.

Nigel Quinton, LibDem Parliamentary Candidate in Welwyn Hatfield, said:

"In what is fast becoming a local and indeed national scandal, Headteachers across our area are being driven to write to parents alerting them to the state of school funding.

"We have seen letters from at least four of our local secondary schools pointing out that they simply won't be able to continue to offer the level of support for pupils that they would like. They report a 35-45% cut per pupil since 2012, despite costs rising due to unwanted changes in the courses for GCSE and A-levels forced on them by Mr Gove.

"Under the Conservatives, funding per pupil is set to see the biggest cuts in a generation, while billions of pounds are being spent on divisive plans to expand grammars and free schools.

"This extra £56M of funding in Hertfordshire would ensure no school and no child loses out."

Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:

"A landslide for the Conservatives would allow Theresa May to take parents across the country for granted and cut our schools to the bone.

"We will reverse crippling Conservative cuts to school budgets and invest to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.

"Vote for the Liberal Democrats and you can change Britain's future."

10/05/2017


Lib Dems penny for NHS would raise £126.6million extra for Hertfordshire

The Liberal Democrats have announced they would plug funding gaps for the NHS and social care by putting a penny on income tax, in their first major manifesto commitment of the election campaign.

The tax would raise an additional £126.6million for Hertforedshire, with £82million for the NHS and £44.6million for social care each year.

This is the party's flagship spending commitment and its first major policy announcement for the election. The Liberal Democrats manifesto will also set out a 'five-point recovery plan' for NHS and social care services in their manifesto.

At least 70% of Brits would happily pay an extra 1p in every pound if that money was guaranteed to go to the NHS, an ITV poll found last October (link).

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Welwyn Hatfield Nigel Quinton said:

"Having attended today my first briefing as a new County Councillor it is clear just how much the additional funding for social care especially is needed. Right now in Hertfordshire we are seeing urgent operations being cancelled and the elderly being denied the care they need, and beds being blocked due to the lack of community and social care available.

"The Liberal Democrats are prepared to be honest with people and say that to secure the future of the NHS we will all, especially those who can afford it most, need to chip in a little more.

"A penny in the pound would allow us to invest in improving local NHS services and ensuring the elderly receive the care they deserve.

"This Conservative government has left our health and care services chronically underfunded - and while the crisis gets worse they just don't seem to care.

"We cannot continue asking the system to deliver more and more, without giving it the resources to do so."

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson and former health minister Norman Lamb said:

"The NHS was once the envy of the world and this pledge is the first step in restoring it to where it should be.

"A penny in the pound to save the NHS is money well spent in our view.

"But simply providing more money on its own is not enough and that's why this is just the first step in our plan to protect health and care services in the long-term."

08/05/2017


Lib Dems to give £770 boost to 17,170 pensioners in Welwyn Hatfield

17,170 pensioners living in Welwyn Hatfield will receive at least an extra £772 per year under Liberal Democrat manifesto plans to protect the 'triple lock' for state pensions.

Thanks to the triple lock guarantee, secured by the Liberal Democrats when they were in government, the basic state pension has risen in each year by whichever is the higher of earnings, prices or a rate of 2.5%. However, the Conservatives have refused to guarantee whether the triple lock will continue, raising fears it could be scrapped.

The Liberal Democrats have committed today to keeping the triple lock, meaning the state pension would be worth at least £137.15 a week by 2021, up from £122.30 in 2017, or an extra £772 a year.

This would be paid for in part by restricting perks such as the winter fuel allowance so they are no longer paid to the wealthiest pensioners.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Nigel Quinton said:

"Protecting the triple lock will mean an extra £772 a year by 2021 for the 17,170 people receiving the state pension in this constituency.

"The Liberal Democrats are making a clear commitment to older people in Welwyn Hatfield, unlike the Conservatives who have repeatedly refused to give this guarantee.

"The triple lock has succeeded in lifting thousands of pensioners out of poverty, but many are still struggling to get by.

"An important test of a civilised society is the way in which it cares for the elderly. This commitment will ensure older people are able to meet their basic needs and that their living standards will be protected, especially with prices set to rise in the coming years."

08/05/2017


Great result for Welwyn Hatfield Lib Dems

Another fantastic Election Day for Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats saw them gain a third County seat, come within 50 votes of smashing the Conservative grip on Panshanger Ward in the By-Election, and beat Labour into third place overall, both in number of seats and in the popular vote.

Victorious Hertfordshire County Council Lib Dems Barbara Gibson, Paul Zukowskyj and Nigel Quinton

05/05/2017


Another office to become housing - without planning consent

54 flats are to be created from an office building in the middle of the Peartree industrial area under the government's controversial policy of allowing conversion of offices without consent. Meanwhile the council does nothing to stop it.

Lib Dem councillor Rachel Basch, who sits on the council's Development Management committee objects.

"WGC of all places is supposed to be planned, with different zones for housing, offices, industrial etc. This flies in the face of that. I am not able to see the detail such as what it will look like, because it is thought to have deemed consent to convert. Nor am I or any other councillor allowed to comment, such as only planning 21 parking spaces for 54 flats. It is a totally unsuitable place for families, next to a warehouse and a plant hire company, for example, with no play or amenity space.

"And there will be no money towards education, traffic infrastructure, leisure or anything else. A licence to print money. And if it keeps going on, the council will have to create new employment areas in the Green Belt to make up for those lost in the town - what a nonsense" she says.

Yet the council could pass what is called an "Article 4" direction so that in future, consent would be needed from the council. "Yet again, they talk but don't act. The idea has been kicking around for several years - what we need is action now" says Rachel.

05/05/2017

Take the first step