News Archive: 2014

Virgin take over of East Coast line criticised

Malcolm Cowan, LibDem councillor has criticised the decision to hand the franchise for the East Coast mainline to Scotland to Virgin/Stagecoach. 'Virgin already run the West Coast route, they are being given a monopoly of London to Scotland routes, with all that means for fares and competition. In fact, for the last few years, East Coast was being run by the public sector after previous private operators failed or pulled out. No-one has said it was being badly run, so why change?'

In fact, Virgin Stagecoach also run East Midland line and the Great Western, so all Inter-city services.


Letter to WHTimes about Grant Shapps favouring local

I well remember when this government proposed a couple of years ago that offices could be converted into homes without any need for planning permission, all 3 parties on the local council supported the objections made by the council's planning staff. We wrote to Grant, but he backed the government.

What has happened since? Well, hundreds of homes have been created (hurrah) but office space has been lost, most of the new homes lack the parking they need, no provision has been made for the additional school places needed, no social housing has been created, no contributions to infrastructure have been made and most of the homes are in unsuitable locations, such as on the Mundells one-way system in the middle of an industrial area, with no play space for the children. I know of no-one of any political persuasion who thinks this has been sensible.


Bus cuts to be even deeper

Despite over 12,000 signatures on petitions against the cuts to supporting bus services.

Despite the overwhelming response to the county councils own consultation - only 30 people supported the cuts out of 4,500 responding.

Despite almost every local council in Hertfordshire saying they were concerned.

Despite the NHS chiefs saying it was a stab in the back, and would make many of their plans unworkable.


Health chiefs blast county's bus reduction plans

Health chiefs of the East and North Herts NHS Trust and the E and N Herts Clinic Commissioning Group (representing GPs) have blasted the plans put forward by the ruling Conservative group on the county council to slash support for evening and Sunday buses.

In a strongly worded letter to the county council, they point out:

  • Many patients would not be able to access the later appointments increasingly being offered (78 surgeries already offer appointments after the planned 6.30 cut-off)
  • The council and the NHS are working together to use the government's Better Care Fund, a requirement of which is that there is 7 day working.


Welcome changes to household waste sites plans, following LibDem pressure

Today's Highways and Waste panel meeting today showed how residents' pressure, largely organised by the Liberal Democrats, have brought forward improvements to the previous plans. Liberal Democrats across the county brought forward 5 petitions, with thousands of signatures.

Changes agreed were:

  • No sites to close
  • Most sites to be open 10 am to 6 pm, instead of 8 am to 4 pm.
  • Waterdale (near Watford) and Stevenage to have 2 extra hours on Saturdays
  • Work to be carried out to reduce queuing on the A414 outside Cole Green

LibDem county councillor Malcolm Cowan who organised and presented one of the petitions, said 'While we are unhappy that sites will be only open 5 days a week instead of 7, at least the hours of opening will be much more helpful. I am also pleased the problems at Cole Green were recognised and work will be done to try to minimise queuing, where we know there has been at least one fatal accident. The extra hours at Stevenage will also be helpful to many WelHat residents.

'It is good to see the thousands of signatures we collected across the county had an effect. Let's hope we have similar success on the proposed bus cuts.


New rail operator starts with no trains, and no notice

Hundreds of intending rail users on Sunday turned up to find the new rail operator Great Northern were running no trains …… and there had been little notice.

Local councillor Malcolm Cowan was one of those affected. He says 'Firstly I was shocked there were no trains, but secondly at the attitude of the rail staff. One of them aggressively told me there had been notices up for 12 weeks and it was on the website. He also said it was in Metro, but how many weekend rail users read that? - a prominent advert in the Welwyn and Hatfield Times would have been far more use.


Veolia don't know when to stop digging

LibDem county councillor Malcolm Cowan has added his voice to the criticism of Veolia for trying to get a judicial review of the decision not to allow the incinerator at New Barnfield.

'There were very solid planning reasons why the incinerator was turned down, and this was supported by minister Eric Pickles. Do Veolia really think this can be overturned?' he asked.

'I also question whether the Tory-run county council is really not behind this. It is hard to believe Veolia are doing this entirely on their own, without encouragement from HCC, when they are in a contract with them.


Letter regarding bus service cuts false 'facts'

Dear Sir

Many readers will have been annoyed at the planned deep cuts to evening and Sunday bus services planned by the Tory-run Herts County Council, which will significantly affect WGC. What is even more disturbing however, is that most of the 'facts' on which these cuts were based, have turned out to be false.

Firstly, Lib Dem questioning revealed that the saving will not be the £700,000 in the papers sent to councillors, but £875,000. Then we found out that the number of passenger journeys per year affected by the proposed cuts, is not the 200,000 trumpeted, but 807,000 - over 4 times as many.


Plan to reduce waste sites hours are 'rubbish' say LibDems

Local LibDems have criticised the plans of Tory-run Herts County Council to drastically cut back on hours of opening of household waste sites ('tips'). 'We knew they would be proposing bad news when they announced that the plans would be revealed after the elections' says Handside and Peartree county councillor Malcolm Cowan. 'And we worried even more when they said the new contractor would put forward the plans, having already signed the contract, before anyone knew what was being proposed'

'And we were right to be worried - 2 sites to close, and the rest to have hours of opening cut by 43%, shutting by 4pm, and with 2 whole days per week closed. We already have major problems at Cole Green with congestion, and cars queuing out onto the high-speed A414. This plan is likely to increase the frequency of queues extending onto the road and thus the chance of a major collision.


Waste management motion for HCC

Following the successful campaign to block the planning permission for the New Barnfield Incinerator, the following motion has been proposed for debate at the Hertfordshire County Council's (HCC) full council meeting:

"This council notes the Planning inspector's and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government's decisions to refuse planning permission for the "Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility" at New Barnfield.

This council resolves to request that cabinet:

1. Accepts the decision and institutes a fundamental review of waste management in Hertfordshire to reassess the most appropriate current approach and locations for waste management in the county, properly consulting the residents of Hertfordshire about how their waste should be dealt with.


Festival threat averted as County Councillor steps in

The summer festival (28th and 29th June) at St Mary's Church, North Mymms, open to all as a community fun day, was recently under threat because of health and safety concerns over the access road to the church.

The road, a 'patchwork quilt' of repairs, potholes and ruts, was concerning organisers as a serious trip hazard for people attending the festival, especially the elderly, who would have to use the road to walk between the church and other festival events.

St Mary's Churchwardens approached Hertfordshire County Council's Highways officers to see if they could get the road fixed, only to be told that the road wasn't 'adopted' and therefore wasn't the Council's responsibility. The Church would have to find the funds themselves to repair the road if they wanted it to be made safe.


Cllr Cowan's media response to Govia franchise award

Most of the headline news released by Govia about new trains is already known, and was announced by First Capital Connect and Network Rail months ago.

Rail users will want to see what is in the detail, for their station and their trains - when will we see an end to off-peak overcrowding for example? Are there any plans to reduce the cripplingly high level of fares by more imaginative ticketing? Can they reduce the proportion of delays that are down to Network Rail? Do we have to wait for the new cross-London services in 2017 before we see improvements?


Ringway operatives don't know where they're working shock

Local residents were up in arms when they saw highways contractor Ringway fixing footpath faults in Youngs Rise WGC by using tarmac, instead of putting paving slabs in. When the residents complained to LibDem county and borough councillor Malcolm Cowan, he was at first told by Ringway 'they didn't have enough slabs on the lorry'.

A resident then reported to Malcolm that one of the Ringway staff had said they aimed to replace all the slabs in the road by tarmac. Malcolm complained again, and was told, as can be seen in the extract from an email below, they didn't know they were working in a Conservation Area.


Clegg: The fight is on

Today, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched the Liberal Democrats' 2014 European election campaign. The launch took place in Colchester at a rally with activists and supporters, followed by a public town hall-style Q&A session hosted by Heart FM.

Speaking at the launch event, Nick Clegg said:

"The election on the 22 May is about one thing: do you think Britain is better off in the EU, or do you think we should be out? Finally the big question at the heart of the European debate is being addressed. At long last someone is taking on the Eurosceptic establishment - and it's us.


QE2 and Labour - Cllr Cowan suggests an apology is due

I note that new Labour parliamentary candidate, in his statement to to Labour members, refers to the state of QE2 as 'a scar of Tory Treachery'.

Everyone who lived in Welwyn Hatfield in 2006-7 will remember how it was the Labour government which turned its back on its pre-election promise of a new hospital at Hatfield and told us we had to put up with QE2, except that, as a final insult, it would be downgraded.

All major parties had worked together for a new hospital. Just one party stabbed us in the back.


Bowls club swings back to success

It's good to see Parkside Bowls club, based in KGV playing fields in WGC, is back with a bang, says councillor Malcolm Cowan.

Gone are the dark days when it was about to close and members were looking to play elsewhere. The club is gearing up for the 2014 season and is hoping to encourage more new members with a Play Bowls Day on May 10th when members of the public will be able to come and give "bowls" a try with free tuition

For further details, contact secretary Elsie Anderson on 01707 896489


'Flooding - we will ignore it'

Malcolm Cowan, LibDem county councillor for Handside and Peartree is highlighting the highways contractor Ringway's seeming indifference to faults, including reports of flooding - but claiming to have fixed them.

'On 14 February, I reported the flooding in the country part of Brockswood Lane, by the golf course. There is a dip and nowhere for the water to go. I told them they needed to cut a small channel, known as a 'grip', through the earth bank to let the water away - a few minutes work.


MANORIAL RIGHTS - The response from WHBC

Following the recent letter sent to residents of Handside in WGC Cllr. Tony Skottowe, who has been urging the council to offer support to affected residents, commented

  • The council clearly cannot give legal advice to individuals and thus the letter is 'cautious'.
  • Although not explicitly mentioned the only Lord of the Manor here has to be Lord Salisbury. Perhaps an explicit mention would have been helpful


'No we don't want lower costs' says county council

Liberal Democrat county councillors were baffled to learn that the county council is turning its back on potentially lower costs from contractors for some of its work.

Member of a recent scrutiny of loosening the rules for 20 mph zones, were shocked to see how expensive some of the measures to reduce speeds are.

After the scrutiny committee recommended the costs were looked at to try to reduce them, the answer came back -they are fixed in the highways contracts so will not be reviewed.


Campaign to get rid of Manorial Rights

Whether you are a resident of Welwyn Garden City or not please help the campaign to get rid of the antiquated Manorial Rights which have no place in a modern democracy. You can help by signing the e-petition being promoted by local residents using the link -

For further information and to follow the campaign see


Manorial Rights - An open letter to the leadership of WHBC

Shortly you will be considering what actions to take based on the legal advice on Manorial Rights received by the council a short while ago. You will, of course, be concerned to protect the interests of the council but I urge to not restrict yourselves just to that, but to try to also defend the interests of the residents affected.

The issue of manorial rights is a matter of great concern for a significant number of residents in my ward of Handside. It is therefore vital that the council is as open and inclusive as possible.


Floods ignored by county council highways

The county council's treatment of flooding has been lashed by LibDem county councillor Malcolm Cowan.

'Just before the New Year, I reported floods in Peartree Lane and Handside Lane. In each case, they refused to carry out any work - the reply came back 'This site has been inspected and we do not consider any action is required'.

Readers will see the extent of the flood in Handside Lane from the photo. Just how bad does it have to be for the drains to be cleared?