DRA Annual Report 2023 – Planning and Development


Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan (2016-2036)

Welwyn Hatfield Council recently received the Planning Inspector’s final report on the Local Plan and the Plan was formally adopted at the Council meeting on 12 October. The Inspector insisted on a number of Main Modifications which were the subject of consultation during the year. One of these is a requirement for an almost immediate review of the Plan to be submitted for examination within 3 years. This will need to identify further sites to be developed from 2033. While in the current plan there are no allocated development sites in Digswell, the Inspector’s final report comments on the comparatively low level of development proposed in some villages, particularly in the parish of Welwyn. He recommends a prompt review to establish where some of the development required beyond 2033 is to be located. “This provides the opportunity to analyse further the opportunities for development, particularly in the parish of Welwyn, but also at Cuffley and Welham Green”. Thus clearly it will not be long before a debate about allocated sites, particularly in our area, will be back on the agenda.


Welwyn Neighbourhood Plan

Welwyn Parish Council is currently finalising a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish and DRA members have been involved in its evolution. It will need, however, to take into account the final version of the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan.


Planning applications

During the year the DRA has objected to several contentious planning applications in Digswell.

Station Road
The application for the demolition of the two shops in Station Road and the erection of two apartments with a retail unit together with four semi-detached houses on the site behind the shops has been a continuing saga. Apart from the density of the proposal, the main concern is the lack of car parking and thus its effect on the viability of the shops in Woodside Road. The applicant appealed against the non-determination of the application. The appeal process started in May and attracted many further objections. The outcome has yet to be decided.
New Road    
There have been several further applications in New Road to replace existing houses with blocks of flats. The DRA asked local Councillors to ‘call in’ these applications so that they have to be determined by the Development Management Committee (DMC) of the Council. It has also submitted its own objections.
•    55 New Road (6/2022/1997/MAJ) - Erection of a 3 storey, 10 x dwelling, apartment building following demolition of existing dwelling. This application has now been withdraw
•    57 New Road (6/2022/0163/FULL) - Proposed part demolition of existing property and erection of 5 four bedroom houses with associated internal access roads, parking and refuse / recycling collection. This application has now been withdrawn and a new application on this site has just been submitted. (6/2023/2093/MAJ) - Erection of two new residential apartment buildings to provide 12 x 2-bedroom and 5 x 3-bedroom apartments, construction of access, landscape planting and ancillary development following the demolition of existing house and outbuildings.      
•    59 New Road (6/2023/0907/FULL) - Erection of a detached two storey building with accommodation at lower ground level comprising 9 apartments following demolition of existing property with associated bin and cycle storage and car parking provision. This application was called in and has yet to be determined by the DMC at a future meeting.
Harmer Green Lane
There is a recent application (6/2023/1898/FULL) for the demolition and replacement of  ‘Wildings’ at 58 Harmer Green Lane, the house built in 1908 for George Soper, a famous horse artist, and his family. His daughters, Eva and Eileen Soper, continued to live in the house until their deaths in 1990. Eileen was also a notable artist and naturalist. The house and gardens were left to the RSPB, but the house and immediate garden were subsequently sold on and are the subject of this application. The adjacent Wildings wildlife sanctuary has been retained by the RSPB.
The application has been ‘called in’ and will therefore go to the DMC for determination.  Historic England states that an application has been made to add Wildings to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, which they are currently assessing. There are many objections, including from the Soper Trust. The garden has already been cleared of all vegetation. The proposed house is very much larger than Wildings and of a totally different architectural style. The DRA has submitted a strong objection.

Paul Turner
29 October 2023