The Plans

Welwyn Hatfield Council will be holding a final consultation on the Draft Local Plan sometime in the summer of 2016 before it is submitted to the Government. This is the last chance to submit comments on the plans.


In their submission to the consultation, Mariposa included a scenario for fewer houses alongside a smaller airfield. They are not in favour of this option, but still submitted it to the consultation. The full document is HERE, but the key plan is shown below. It will take a lot of effort to get Mariposa to accept this option, but may represent a possible compromise.

The last draft was put out to consultation in Jan-Mar 2015 and received many responses regarding Panshanger. However, we do not know yet if it will change the councilís plans.

Despite hundreds of people objecting to the first consultation, including the LAA, GAAC and Sport England and a massive petition, the plan is little changed from then.  In the intervening years, the council have received various letters and reports from the GAAC, Sport England, the North London Flying school and Panshanger People, as well as hundreds of letters to councillors and officers requesting them to remove the site from the plan.   They can have been under no illusion that opposition to the plan was very strong and that a strong case for retaining the airfield for the benefit of the Borough existed.

In 2015 in a series of meetings of the Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel (all of which Panshanger People have attended), the council officers presented their information and conclusions. An extract from the document presented by them in October addressing the possible sites to be built on is here. In this document they announced that their assessed housing requirements in the borough had increased to 12,500 (from 7,200).  They then divided the sites outside urban areas as “more favourable”, “finely balanced” and “less favourable”.  Panshanger was deemed to be “finely balanced” in part due to all the local opposition. This document was largely accepted by the committee at the time.

 

Then on December 11th, the same committee were asked to recommend the documents to the Cabinet (another group of councillors that oversee the other committees) for final publication to go to public consultation.  Near the end of this meeting, it was announced by the chairman, that they would only be putting forward the “more favourable” sites  for consultation even though these sites would not be nearly enough to meet the 12,500 figure. He also announced that Panshanger was to be re-classified as “more favourable”. Both these decisions were made despite the officers recommendations and with no discussion from the committee.  The reasons given were that it was not greenbelt, but safeguarded lands and it was not an airfield.  This last point was quickly and roundly addressed in a letter from the GAAC, reminding them that they are wrong and that without a change in  planning permission, the airfield is still an airfield.  The changes were obviously decided by the majority Conservative councillors (lobbied by Mariposa) prior to the meeting– a trick they have used on several other occasions – and will lead to a consultation that is a waste of time, taxpayers money and should be found unsound by any planning  inspector.

On December 17th, the (all conservative) cabinet waived all these decisions through, although they met with very vocal and recriminatory responses from the audience present.

Here is the practical difference between the October plans and the new plans – a distribution which is very similar to what they consulted on two years ago, despite their assertions that they would spread the housing around the Borough more this time. They obviously haven’t listened at all.

Mariposa may also choose to submit a planning proposal to the council for housing on the site before the local plan is finalised (approx. mid 2016).  This planning permission would be separate from the local plan and could be determined before the local plan is finalised. 

The Draft Local plan and the potential planning application will have subtly different focus for our objections, as explained below:

 

Reasons to retain the aerodrome :


•The council have ignored the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guidelines that state that their plans should “take account of their [airfields] growth and role in serving business, leisure, training and emergency service needs”

•The flying club has remained profitable, even in the recession and the airfield could be still more profitable in the future. More jobs could be created, additional small businesses established and flying on the site could be expanded with more visionary owners. The airfield is a valuable sporting, leisure and economic facility in Welwyn Hatfield borough, which serves the population of North London and Hertfordshire and is an asset to the town.

•GA needs to retain local airfields to survive.  The future of the only other airfield in Hertfordshire, Elstree is not certain and it would leave a huge gap in the airfield network if both were to go (as well as the loss of  future pilots).

•Several local big businesses have stated that an air taxi service could provide an essential transport facility which they would be keen to use for business meetings.

 

 

The site specific objections are:

 

 

  • The Airfield is a haven for Barn Owls, Bats, Badgers, Pole cats, Red Kites, Sky Larks, Butterflies etc which live there, simply because the habitat is undisturbed and uncultivated.

  • Sewage facilities in this area are at capacity and expansion work is not being commissioned

  • Building on this site will impact on the historic, biodiversity rich designed landscape of Panshanger Park

  • Local schools are at capacity and the council have no land set aside to build more schools.
  • Run off could impact the Mimram river, very close to an SSSI and possibly flood downstream in Hertford.

  • The site is too far from the city centre shops and facilities, train station and employment sites, meaning that contrary to the councils  own sustainability aims, most people will still drive everywhere, causing  increases in congestion and CO2.