Symondshyde Green Belt a ‘lifeline’ during pandemic say campaigners

PUBLISHED: 13:20 27 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:20 27 October 2020

Aerial view of Symondshyde Green Belt land. Picture: Save Symondshyde

Aerial view of Symondshyde Green Belt land. Picture: Save Symondshyde

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A survey organised by campaign group Save Symondshyde has revealed that Green Belt land, earmarked for development in the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan, has helped residents’ mental health during the pandemic.

L: Inspector Melvyn Middleton at a Local Plan hearing in 2017. R: Symondshyde fields. Picture: WHBC/Save SymondshydeL: Inspector Melvyn Middleton at a Local Plan hearing in 2017. R: Symondshyde fields. Picture: WHBC/Save Symondshyde

The group received more than 300 responses from its supporters earlier this month when they asked them to provide feedback on how they use the space.

Judy Shardlow, a spokesperson for the group, said: “We have received heartfelt responses from people explaining how valuable this land is to them; the diversity of wildlife, how much they enjoy the peace and tranquillity it offers and how special it is as a wild place within this relatively built up part of Hertfordshire.”

The proposals to develop Symondshyde, put forward by Gascoyne Cecil Estates Ltd in 2016, have remained in the Local Plan despite objections from the public and a decision by the council that it should be removed from the plan.

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Though at the time Planning Inspector Melvyn Middleton said: “There is no provision in the legislation which allows the council to replace all or part of the submitted plan with revised proposals during the examination.”

One of the respondents to the survey explained their love of the area: “We live in Stanborough, we use this walk quite frequently and also lead the WGC U3A walking group around it once a year or so. We love it, it’s so close to us, yet really quiet, the bluebell woods are gorgeous and it’s a beautiful piece of English countryside.”

Campaigners have also been critical of the council’s evidence for assessing housing need for the future, Judy said: “Our own expert research indicates that less than 8,000 additional dwellings will be needed, rather than the 12,000 in the Draft Plan submitted for examination, and the 16,000 suggested by the inspector before the latest figures came out. There is a very real risk that by using inaccurate information, Welwyn Hatfield Council will needlessly sacrifice large areas of valued Green Belt land.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The government-appointed inspector is currently consulting on the updated evidence on housing need and will review the evidence once this has been concluded, including the views of Save Symondshyde, and will reach a decision. It is possible that the inspector will wish to have a further hearing session on this issue.”

More information about the campaign and the survey can be found at www.save-symondshyde.co.uk.


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