Welwyn Hatfield Times - Supporters of the Welwyn Garden City Centenary Celebrations

Ebenezer Howard’s unique vision must be protected

Welwyn Garden City Centenary Foundation
Letter from Dr Dennis Lewis, WGC Centenary Foundation to Welwyn Hatfield Times

SIR — I note that the [borough] council’s Estate Management Scheme (EMS) has been the subject of letters in the Welwyn Hatfield Times in the past few weeks and I would like to enter the lists with a contribution of my own.

This contribution is based on my experience as a district/ borough councillor for 39 years, representing the Handside ward of WGC and also a member of the working party which reviewed the EMS in 2005 or thereabouts.

First, let me state the obvious. The complexities and intricacies of our planning laws and regulations to do little to help to sustain the garden city ideals, as laid down by Ebenezer Howard and his colleagues and put into practice in the development of the town over a period of 30 years from its foundation in 1920.

Therefore, fortunately, it was eventually realised, in 1973, 25 years after the setting up of the WGC & Hatfield Development corporation in 1948/9 and our designation as a ‘New Town’ that some additional, supplementary form of control was necessary in order to maintain garden city standards; this took the form of the Estate Management Scheme (EMS) — a quite unique arrangement, since the scheme was to be managed and enforced for the very first time by a local authority — the WGC Urban District Council.

So much for history — but even though (most of) WGC has a garden environment and is a great place to live, work and play, those high ideals have been eroded over the years – by lack of the political will to enforce, and a lack of understanding by a significant proportion of those people living in the EMS area, of the significance of the scheme.

I count myself in that sector for when I arrived in 1956 I knew little of the history of the town, and it was not until 1970/1 that the debate that raged about the passage of the EMS through Parliament raised its profile temporarily.

The EMS should not be a (party) political issue.

As residents, whether as tenants or as owner-occupiers, we all aspire to live in pleasant surroundings, enjoying smoothly running services, all the way from verge and grass cutting maintenance to the provision of schools, colleges, health and welfare services, roads, transport, etc etc etc — preferably at an affordable cost!

The joy of living in this garden city is that, in general, high standards have been demanded, have been set and (with a continuing struggle) have broadly been met.

*Dr Dennis Lewis: ‘Party politics should not detract from town’s interests’
But, like liberty, the price of maintaining the standards we require is eternal vigilance. And that vigilance means that those residents who would be party-poopers should be acutely aware that if they transgress, thereby threatening to undermine the quality of the environment that we all wish to maintain and enjoy, then action will be taken against them by our watchdog, i.e. the borough council.

Our elected members should be keen to enforce the standards that we demand, not in engaging in party political spats which the public find tiresome, and which do nothing to maintain the quality of our environment.

Recent correspondence in the WHT has cast doubt on the present administration’s will to maintain the EMS, and it has even been suggested that the current council leadership is looking for ways of getting rid of it.
The recently elected Conservative councillor for Handside , Graham Dowler, has stated he would not support such a move.

I endorsed Mr. Dowler’s candidature in the recent election, not just because he was a Conservative, but because he obviously cares about our town, as we do.

But now that he has been elected, although he is the new kid on the block, I would expect him, together with the other Handside councillors — Cllrs Helen Bromley and Fiona Thomson — and others, to fight like hell (as I would do if I were still a councillor) to ensure any review of the EMS will result in a more effective — and more effectively and rigorously enforced — Estate Management Scheme.

A final word.

Like the rest of the population of Welwyn garden City, I am not in the least interested in party political squabbles that deflect our elected representatives from their main purpose — to make good decisions and to make their decisions good, on our behalf.

In those wards in WGS which are covered by the EMS I would like to see an unequivocal and strongly-worded statement from those ward councillors, supporting the principle of a fully effective, fully enforced EMS seeking to pressure the leadership to ensure that the necessary resources are made available.

WGC is a unique, living tribute to an amazingly gifted and prescient man, Ebenezer Howard.

But more than that, it is internationally renowned as embodying a set of principles which dozens of countries have tried to emulate. We should consider ourselves to be very fortunate to live in this place.

And in a few short years to celebrate our centenary in 2020.

We can look back on 100 years of achievement and progress.

Let’s not spoil it in the future for the lack of the proverbial ha’porth of tar!

Dr Dennis Lewis
The Links, WGC.

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