About the Preservation Society
Wheathampstead and District Preservation Society was formed in 1995 with the immediate objective of opposing
the proposal by Sainsbury’s to build a superstore and petrol station on the former Murphy’s Chemicals
site on the edge of the village. WDPS took the view that the proposed store was too big (22,000 square feet) for a village
the size of Wheathampstead, and was effectively an ‘out of town’ superstore that would have attracted custom and
traffic from a much wider area. It would also have affected the viability of existing shops and businesses in the village
centre. Following a public planning inquiry in 1996, the application was refused by the Secretary of State. The site has since
been redeveloped for housing.
The next major campaign for the Society was to fight the proposal by Redlands (now Lafarge Aggregates) in
association with Hertfordshire County Council and the Groundwork Trust (now Groundwork Hertfordshire) to re-open Blackbridge
Tip, on the outskirts of the village (see Successful campaigns and projects). The proposal was to ‘restore’
the 110 acre site by tipping 700,000 cubic metres of inert waste on it. We were concerned that this would cause the leaching
of toxic waste already buried in the tip, and about the prospect of 200 lorry loads a day for five years visiting the site.
After a long campaign led by WDPS, Lafarge Redland eventually withdrew their application to the Lands Tribunal to allow the
tip to be re-opened.
WDPS’s Aims and Objectives
Stated simply, the Society’s objectives are to preserve the environment and oppose inappropriate development in
Wheathampstead and the surrounding area. However, “Preservation” Society is possibly a misnomer. It is not our
intention to “preserve” the village and its environs in their existing state, but rather to conserve what is best
about Wheathampstead. We accept that there has to be change and that some change is inevitable. WDPS’s aim is to try
to ensure that change is managed in the best interests of Wheathampstead as a whole, and that unacceptable developments are
not forced on the village against its wishes.
To this end, we try to work with, rather than against, the appropriate authorities and organisations - notably the Parish
Council and the Countryside Management Service.
Opposing inappropriate development in the area means that the Society gets involved in land-use planning matters when
necessary. We usually react to planning applications which, in our view, affect Wheathampstead as a whole or have a significant
impact on part of it. Wheathampstead is a large village set in the Metropolitan Green Belt. The central part of the village
is designated as a Conservation Area. We therefore pay particular attention to development proposals which may be regarded
as inappropriate in the Green Belt or which have a detrimental effect on the Conservation Area or important statutorily listed
Examples of planning applications in which WDPS has intervened, with varying degrees of success, are:
- the Sainsbury superstore (see above);
- redevelopment of the former Murphy site for housing;
- redevelopment of the former Helmets site for housing and business use;
- water treatment plant near Nomansland Common.
We do not get involved in relatively minor planning applications which affect only the immediate neighbours or which,
in our opinion, do not have a significant impact on the village as a whole or an important part of it. It is not our role
to comment on every planning application in the parish of Wheathampstead. That is a matter for the Parish Council.
As well as commenting on significant planning applications, WDPS participates in the plan-making process by responding
as appropriate to consultations by the local planning authority (St Albans District Council) on their emerging local plan
documents – known collectively as the Local Development Framework or Local Development Documents.
More information about how the planning process works
The Preservation Society is, of course, concerned about protecting the heritage and culture of Wheathampstead as far
as is reasonably possible. The village has a long history dating back probably to the late Bronze Age, and traditionally has
been involved in agriculture and local industries associated with agriculture such as brewing, milling and straw plaiting.
During the last century, a chemical works and helmet (headgear) making factory were prominent in the village, but these have
closed in recent years.
We see our role as being to encourage, as far as possible, the conservation of the heritage and culture of Wheathampstead,
and to oppose changes which, in our view, significantly damage the architectural, historical and archaeological inheritance
of the area. To this end, we opposed the proposed ‘re-branding’ of the Grade II listed The Bull public house as
a “steakhouse-grill-pub”, and are currently promoting improvements to the public and commercial signage around
|Daffodils planted by WDPS volunteers at the top of Brewhouse Hill
Although not principally a conservation group, WDPS participates in some countryside conservation and improvement projects,
usually in co-operation with relevant organisations such as Groundwork Hertfordshire or the Countryside Management Service.
Our contribution is usually confined to providing voluntary labour to carry out conservation work under expert supervision
Examples of conservation projects in which WDPS has been involved are:
- restoring a picnic area at Robinson’s Wood on the Ayot Greenway;
- clearing parts of the River Lea through Wheathampstead;
- the river access project to provide a viewing platform and information boards;
- planting daffodils at various places around the village each year.
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