News Archive: 2015

Boxing day trains

A call to have a train service on Boxing Day has come from LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan. 'Like thousands of local people, I wanted to go to London on Saturday. The sales were on, and there were major soccer matches at Tottenham and Chelsea and elsehwere. Although the Underground was working, alongside London buses, there was nothing to get me to the Underground, or elsewhere. It is high time there are Boxing Day services. In most of Europe, they have trains on Boxing Day, but we stand aloof, pushing more traffic onto the roads.

In fact, there were services on Thameslink, but nothing here in Times Territory, or indeed in most areas. In opposition, the Tories called for Boxing Day services, but like so many things, once in government, they forget their pledges.


Community Chest Funding

The Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council decided not to re - introduce the community chest funding, a scheme which has supported in the past many fantastic projects across the Borough.

In the past, each ward in the Borough has received £2,000 to support local community projects. The scheme overall cost was less than £40,000.

Michal Siewniak, local Liberal Democrat cllr said: "This funding is all about being well connected with the local community, delivering sustainable outcomes to your residents and empowering groups and individuals in your area. As a result of this funding, we have delivered (and in some cases still delivering) number of project which include: Peartree Health and Sports Day, cooking project with the local primary schools, Peartree Fun Day as well as ESOL classes for local migrants.


Cole Green letter

Dear Sir

Further to your report on the potential risk of a serious accident at the Cole Green tip, you recently published a letter from the executive county councillor for waste where he said his preferred option was not to open 7 days a week or add a waiting lane, but to look for a new site.

I decided to check on the likelihood of this with one of his most senior officers and was told I'm afraid no alternative to Cole Green is on the cards. We have been looking for years and continue to search but nothing has come along that is suitable or realistic.


Cole Green waste site may be closed

After LibDem county and borough councillor Malcolm Cowan started campaigning for improvements to the appalling danger of queuing on the A414 while waiting to enter the Cole Green waste site, the executive councillor at the county council wrote to the Welwyn and Hatfield Times recently, rejecting his call for either a waiting lane or reopening 7 days a week. His preference, he told us, was to get another site. Fine, but when Malcolm checked with a very senior officer at the county council, he was told there was no plan to get a new site. The actual response was I'm afraid no alternative to Cole Green on the cards. We have been looking, as you know, for years and continue to search but nothing has come along that is suitable or realistic.


Parliament Week in Welwyn Hatfield

Parliament Week is a programme of events and activities that connects people with Parliament and democracy in the UK.

More about the Parliament week -

Organisations across the UK run events and activities throughout Parliament Week which explore what parliamentary democracy means to them and their community. Parliament Week is coordinated by the House of Commons with support from the House of Lords.


'It rains, it floods'

'Yet again, last week's rainfall produced flooding on our roads. Yet again, we are supposed to put up with it' - Malcolm Cowan, Libdem county and borough council wants to know why this chain reaction can't be broken.

'Even when I went round, and made a list of all the flooded locations in Handside and Peartree in an attempt to help, the county council's main highways contractor, Ringway, told me it is 'low priority' - officialise for 'nothing will be done'.

We know that water penetrating the road's surface helps it break up quicker, leading to expensive repairs; surface water is always a hazard to motorists as well as passing pedestrians who can get soaked.


97% of buses axed for local villagers

Villagers in Tewin, Burnham Green and surrounding areas are suffering some of the worst cuts in service, following the Conservative decision to slash bus support in Hertfordshire.

LibDem county and borough councillor Malcolm Cowan has revealed that what was 6 services a day, 6 days a week from WGC to Hertford and back has become one a day, 3 days a week to WGC and 3 days to Hertford - 35 services a week to each town becomes 3.

'All sorts of journeys - to work, to hospital, to shops, are now impossible thanks to these cuts. And in Hertfordshire County Council's Year of Walking, a bus out to these villages for a walk is impossible for those of us who live in the towns. Some villagers will have become isolated, others will take to our already overcrowded roads.'


Shock county council admission of failure of its household waste policies

After all the self-promoting press releases from Herts County Council over many years, finally an admission of failure, over the queues and early closing of Household Waste sites ('the tips').

A report to a recent Resources and Performance Cabinet panel states: 'High levels of demand resulting in queuing at certain times and centres, with sites having to shut early or operate a reduced service. It appears that the reduction in opening days and hours may have exacerbated these issues at some of the busier centres, with a resulting increase in numbers of complaints'.


Not-so-Great Northern unaware of their lack of service

Local LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan has again had to point out the rail operator not knowing that they had withdrawn all services on Sunday.

'Before we went to the station, my wife checked for engineering works - none were shown. We were therefore astonished when we got to WGC station to find there were no trains. And Great Northern's website said it was a 'good service' as the attached screenshot shows. Yet enquire on next train time and it says there are none ! Which is it?

'We then drove to St Albans to find 50% of trains there had been cancelled due to staff shortage, on a weekend when thousands of extra passengers were trying to get to and from the Rugby World Cup.


Local borough ward boundary changes 'Ridiculous'

The proposals put forward by the Boundary Commission were described as utterly daft by leading Lib Dem Tony Skottowe.

'Looking at all the reports I cannot find any support from local sources for these ideas' said Tony. 'In fact in the agreed proposals put forward by WHBC on the Commission's wish for all wards to have 3 members the report said "It appeared to be more of an administrative exercise with changes making little sense... Officers could not find a solution to accommodate 16 three member wards that was satisfactory in terms of community identity and effective and convenient local government.

'So what have the Commission proposed - Yes, 16 wards with 3 members! On this evidence it seems to me the Boundary Commission has no interest is preserving community identity, reflecting community interests or strong, easily identifiable boundaries, which it is supposed to do. The thing appears to be solely based on the need to balance numbers and with no interest in people', was Tony's reaction.


Cole Green Queue Danger Petition

LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan, carrying on his efforts to try to get the county council to do something about the dangerous queuing outside the waste site, has set up a petition to demanding Herts County Council take action. The petition is at and calls on HCC to either add a queuing lane or reopen the site 7 days a week, or both. 'Everyone concerned about these dangerous conditions needs to come together and add their name' he said.

Additionally Malcolm is demanding HCC send someone to see the queuing first hand. 'They were happy to claim they would do something when they reduced all sites to 5 days a week, but I cannot see any difference except now there are much longer queues almost every day, instead of mostly just at weekends. They have abandoned us to a potentially lethal accident. It is almost as if they are waiting for an accident before they take the action needed' he said.


Call for action at dangerous tip

LibDem county councillor Malcolm Cowan has called for immediate action over the queues on the high-speed A414 as people wait to get into the Cole Green waste and recycling centre.

'When Herts County Council decided to close all the tips 2 days per week, we specifically asked for Cole Green to be exempted because we could see the dangerous queuing on the A414, which I understand has already claimed one life, would get worse. What we got was a promise to reduce the queuing. Instead it had got worse - not just on weekends, but any day the tip is open.


Wetherspoons 22 Parkway license application withdrawn

Commenting, LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan said 'I do hope Wetherspoons follow this by withdrawing the planning application as well. They have caused a great deal of distress and worry, particularly to older people living nearby, and have totally failed to respond to concerns raised or engage with local people. They cannot just steamroller this through.'


Budget 2015: Osborne's 'Sheriff of Nottingham' budget

Hertfordshire Liberal Democrats are seriously worried about the fallout from the Conservative Government's budget 'for working people' that is clearly anything but.

Despite saying 'Britain deserves a pay rise', George Osborne has apparently decided this only applies if you work in the private sector, so if you're a teacher, fire-fighter, police officer or nurse you deserve to have your pay cut every year in real terms.


Local plan new sites

This appears to be a set of random and unrelated sites - it looks like an attack of chickenpox upon a map of the district. Very many people will be alarmed as they come within range of being blighted. It is very hard to see any logic in many of the proposals. Particularly worrying are the free-standing development at Simondshyde, the potential loss of yet more industrial employment land in WGC, removal of a lorry park in Welham Green and re-zoning of the land occupied by the fire stations in WGC and Hatfield.


Letter on 22 Parkway

Dear Sir

Last week's letters on 22 Parkway revealed rather more heat than light.

At the time of writing, I appear to be the only councillor so far to actually object to the application. The issue is not about whether we like Wetherspoons, which I do, but whether that site is a suitable one. That is what all planning is about - is it the right site?

To propose a pub that could hold up to 500 people is questionable. To build on almost all the garden, so any smokers area is right up against an elderly people's block isn't even questionable - it is an insult.


'Shocked' at Weatherspoon's plans for pub on Parkway

Local LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan has hit out at the plan for another pub on Parkway. The site, at 22 Parkway, backs onto Asquith House, an older people's block, and several other homes. It also plans to get rid of the car parking spaces in the back garden and replace them by a massive 2 storey extension and convert what is left into a beer garden.

'Abolition of the car parking spaces will push parking, and late night driving away, which is usually noisy, onto residential roads. I also have to question whether another pub is needed at all when there are two others within 50 yards.


Hustings details incorrect in Welwyn Hatfield Times

WHT says Amnesty event at Friends Meeting House is tonight (Wednesday 29th) and Churches Together at Salvation House is tomorrow (Thursday 30th).

This is incorrect.

Please let anyone you know who wants to attend that Churches Together is TONIGHT at 8pm (Wednesday 29th) and Amnesty is TOMORROW at 7pm for 7:30pm (Thursday 30th)


HCC's objections to WHBC's Local Plan 'still stands'

Despite 'discussions' between the Borough Council and Hertfordshire County Council, HCC have stated their objections to Hat1 and Hat2, between them intended for almost 2,500 homes in the green belt, will still stand.

As Minerals Planning Authority, HCC can seriously undermine the Local Plan and an objection, sustained up to the Examination by a Planning Inspector, is likely to result in removal of the sites, if not scrapping of the plan altogether.


Threat to close WGC and Hatfield fire stations

The response to WelHat council's Local Plan from HCC Property has revealed that Herts Fire and Rescue have ideas to close both WGC and Hatfield fire stations and replace them by one combined station on the A1000.

'This was the first I or I suspect anyone else knew about this - a couple of paragraphs in a response to the district council's consultation' said LibDem county and district councillor Malcolm Cowan. I am asking serious questions about why this is being done and what effect it will have on the service, and ability to respond. To move the WGC station from a central position in the town and close to the industrial area seems perverse. I know local people are not likely to take this lying down; the fire service is highly valued and this will take them away from people and property.


WGC facing double Tory blow

WGC is facing a double blow from the Tory run Herts County Council - not only loss of its fire station, but having a new Household Waste Site (also known as the dump) imposed, off Chequers, between Burrowfields and Eddington Crescent.

The same property report to WelHat council, in response to the local plan, which showed the fire stations plan, also show the HWRC threat (note to editors: relevant section from property report attached).


LibDems call for smaller, cheaper council

Local Liberal Democrats are calling for Welwyn Hatfield council to be trimmed, as part of the redrawing of ward boundaries, currently being carried by the Boundaries Commission - a government body.

Malcolm Cowan, leader of the group, told this week's council meeting that they would be campaigning to slim the number of councillors by having 2 per ward instead of the current 3. This would reduce the number of councillors from 48 to around 34. 'It is hard to see why 48 councillors, with all the allowances and expenses, are needed, when just 7 councillors represent the whole of the borough on the county council , which has a far higher per head budget, and where 'councillors are expected to act as unpaid highways inspectors' as Malcolm said to the meeting.


Hertfordshire Conservatives' Council Tax Hike

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have been shocked by local Tories' plans to hike council tax by 1.99% this year, the maximum they can without taking it to a county-wide referendum.

In a highly controversial budget Hertfordshire Conservatives have proposed swingeing cuts to buses and library services. Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group, Stephen Giles-Medhurst commented: "I am appalled. The County Council clearly has to be careful and look after taxpayers' money properly, but right now putting up Council Tax by almost 2 percent and also hitting services to the elderly and vulnerable leave a bad taste in the mouth. We all know times are tough, but the Liberal Democrat Group have looked long and hard at the options available to us and will be proposing an alternative budget that ring-fences essential services and freezes Council Tax"


Office to housing conversion analysis makes for worrying reading

An analysis of office to housing conversions not needing planning permission undertaken by WHBC's planners makes for worrying reading. In just 18 months, over 18,000 square metres of office space has been lost - around 1800 job spaces. Add in the planned Xerox site and it becomes 35,000 square metres - around 3500 jobs. All in just 18 months.

'Of course many of these might have been granted permission, but that permission would have been accompanied by checking there was adequate parking, amenity space for families, and some contribution towards school places and infrastructure ' said LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan.


Annand calls for clampdown on tax dodging

Local Liberal Democrat parliamentary hopeful Hugh Annand has called on the government to do more to ensure that wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share of tax.

'At a time when public services are being cut, people are being asked to make sacrifices and the Conservative Party is announcing ever more draconian measures against sick and disabled people, the latest revelations once again show that there are rich, powerful people who think they are above the law,' he told the Welwyn and Hatfield Times.


Woodhall Library Success

County councillors Malcolm Cowan (Handside and Peartree) and Lynn Chesterman (WGC South) have welcomed news that Woodhall library will not now lose all its paid staff. They had campaigned together to retain some permanent library staff in the face of a libraries consultation that proposed relying entirely on volunteers. 'It is not yet clear how much time they would spend there, but is a good step forward, particularly when other local Tier 3 libraries such as Welwyn and Brookmans Park will not share this improvement'.

Lynn said ' I was pleased with how many local library users objected - one of the highest proportions in the county. It shows how our campaign, highlighted in the WHT, hit home'.

Malcolm said 'We still have fight to save the mobile library service; there are some rather vague ideas to either send out transport to take elderly people to libraries, or take books to them individually - it is far from clear that either is cheaper, and it fails to help other vulnerable users'.


Hugh Annand Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for May elections

Hugh was born in Welwyn Garden City. His parents, Carolyn and Michael, were and still are long-established residents of the town. Following his primary education at St John's, Lemsford and Applecroft School, he went on to Haileybury, Hertford. Having discovered a talent for languages at an early age, he then spent a year in France and Germany before studying Modern European Studies at Loughborough University. After graduating in 1996, he spent a year in Yakustk, Eastern Siberia, teaching English at the university and working for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He then returned to Welwyn Garden City and spent several months temping at Serono Laboratories, Roche and Schering Plough, before being offered a job with a scientific instrument company in Hemel Hempstead. Since then, he has had put his languages - he now speaks six - to good use professionally, in a career spanning the private, voluntary and public sectors.