The following 4 options were presented as alternative approaches to the existing Estate Management Scheme.
Option 1: Find another body to administer the Scheme
This option set out that the Scheme could be transferred to another body. This would involve finding a willing organisation to formally constitute and be funded. The Council would also have to transfer both the administration of the Scheme and the lease covenants in order for it to be effected. To date, no other bodies have been found.
Option 2: Terminate the Scheme without any alternative controls
This option set out that terminating the Scheme without alternative controls would remove a perceived barrier for some homeowners and tenants, and prevent confusion amongst residents living in properties that are currently subject to different controls. It would also release Council resources to process planning applications, helping to build a strong local economy. However, this could harm the reputation of both the town and the Council. Termination of the Scheme could also impact the distinctive character of Welwyn Garden City. The increased liberalisation of the national planning system can have serious consequences for towns like Welwyn Garden City. The Scheme currently helps protect against ‘permitted development rights’ legislation which enables large additions and significant alterations to be made without planning permission or neighbour consultation. These are extensive, and increasing. If the Scheme was removed, the restrictive covenants contained in sale documents would come into effect. Planning permission would still be required and the process would be similar to applying for Estate Management consent.
Option 3: Replace the Scheme with an ‘Article 4 Direction’ and other legislation
This options set out that most residential properties benefit from permitted development rights allowing certain changes and alterations without the need to apply for planning permission. An ‘Article 4 Direction’ removes these permitted development rights under planning legislation, meaning that permission would be needed, although applications would be free. Replacing the Scheme with an Article 4 Direction would bring it within the mainstream planning system. It would: make it clearer for everyone to understand; bring all types of ownership under the same control; remove the need to submit separate planning and estate management applications; allow the Council to take more timely action against breaches; offer the opportunity for applicants to appeal a decision to the Planning Inspectorate; and be accompanied by a design guide to help ensure appropriate design. Whilst this option could be effective, it may not cover all aspects of the Estate Management Scheme and could mean elements of the existing Scheme, including works to trees and hedges, would need to be retained. This would only apply to freehold properties but would benefit the overall distinctive character of the garden city.
Option 4: Maintain the status quo
This option set out that we could continue to administer the Scheme as we do at the moment. The challenges highlighted would remain an issue; there would be on-going financial costs of administration and additional resources may be required to increase the size of the team processing applications. There could however be some benefits to keeping the status quo. The Council can only maintain full control of aspects such as trees and hedges for freehold properties as part of a single Scheme, and it provides an additional level of control for maintaining and enhancing the environment of Welwyn Garden City.
Option 5: Other options that might be proposed by residents or other bodies
This option stated that the Council has not identified any other viable options at this stage, but would welcome ideas from residents and other bodies for ways to improve or replace the existing Scheme.
Page updated: 22/01/2019