Green light for 1,500-home mixed-use scheme on Herts factory site

Plans for a mixed-use scheme including almost 1,500 new homes on a former factory site in Welwyn Garden City have been given the green light, despite concerns about parking provision.

A visualisation of the Wheat Quarter development. Pic: The Wheat Quarter Ltd
A visualisation of the Wheat Quarter development. Pic: The Wheat Quarter Ltd

The outline application, approved yesterday by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's planning committee, was submitted by The Wheat Quarter Ltd, a partnership between developer ZM Land & Capital and Metropolitan housing association.

The application proposes a mixed-use development totalling 1,454 homes built in three phases on the industrial site, which includes the Hertfordshire town's former Shredded Wheat Factory.

According to the officers' report for the meeting, 1,340 flats would be in ten blocks ranging from five to nine storeys. There would also be an extra care facility providing 114 homes.

In addition, the plan proposes 14,500 square metres of commercial and community floorspace, 1,200 square metres of office space, and 650 square metres of retail.

The existing parts of the former Shredded Wheat Factory - the silos, grain hall and production hall, which are Grade II Listed - would be retained as part of the new development.

These buildings would include 5,000 square metres of flexible business floorspace and an "international art centre".

The site is allocated for industrial use in the original garden city plan and in the 2005 district plan, the report says.

Last November, the council approved plans from the same developer for a smaller scheme involving 850 new homes and only four per cent affordable housing.

According to the planning report, the present application proposes a taller and "much denser" scheme. 

The applicant proposes that 414 - or 31 per cent - of the homes would be affordable, with 258 intermediate, 106 affordable rent and 50 for social rent. Local plan policies sets an affordable housing requirement of 30 per cent or more.

The report added that the new scheme could create the full time equivalent of 625 jobs.

Some residents expressed concerns about parking provision, which, at a total of 1,028, averages at less than one per home.

But officers said the scheme's parking provision "has been devised on the basis this is a highly accessible location", adding: "It is clear that residents would benefit from access to facilities and transport on their doorstep and are therefore less reliant on a car."

Officers said they considered it "a well-designed development that puts place-making at its heart, optimises the site’s attributes and makes very effective use of the land". 

The residential net density at 201 units per hectare is "high", planners said, but "not out of place being one of the most accessible parts of the borough". 

They concluded: "The scheme represents a comprehensive redevelopment of a key regeneration site in the borough. 

"It would secure the restoration of iconic listed buildings whilst facilitating a much needed boost to the borough’s housing supply."

According to the report, the council cannot currently demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

The report added that the Shredded Wheat factory opened in 1926 "becoming a major employer and breakfast cereal manufacturer until its closure in 2008 when production was moved to a new location in Wiltshire". 

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