Natural and historic environments
To conserve and enhance our Parish’s natural and historic environments, by ensuring that any proposed new development contributes positively to its distinctive character; takes into account its identified biodiversity and environmental issues; and does not negatively impact on its existing green infrastructure or its valuable archaeological heritage.
Wymondley is essentially a small rural parish to the east of Hitchin, created in 1937 by merging the two former parishes of Great and Little Wymondley (which, contrary to its name, has since the mid-1850’s had the greater population). Great Wymondley is situated approximately 1/2 mile to the north, and is substantially smaller.
The Parish includes the hamlets of Titmore Green, Redcoats Green and Todds Green and the surrounding rural area - stretching from the edges of Hitchin in the north, to the edges of Stevenage in the south. (The Wymondley Parish Map at Annex 1 refers.) Titmore Green is a farming community and Todds Green is a cluster of houses separated from Stevenage by the A1 (M), and from the Wymondley villages by the Wymondley Bypass (A 602). The East Coast Main Line railway also cuts through the Parish. (Further information on transport links is contained in Transport Links.)
Natural environment and landscape character
The Parish is set in a historic rolling, agricultural landscape which is predominantly arable, with pockets of horse (and other) grazing near its settlements. Its historic settlement pattern is one of settlements and farms. The various enclosed field patterns tell their own tale of differing cultivation methods throughout the centuries. It is populated with a good variety of native species in small woodland copses and hedgerows, (which maintain the more enclosed historic character of the area); and characterised by expansive, open views of the countryside from its settlements – which create a sense of space and openness. There are spring-fed ponds at Wymondley Priory.
Winding country lanes edged by tall hedgerows (and some high hedge banks) abound; and the Parish is also crossed by a network of footpaths, some of Roman origin – which mainly connect urban areas and smaller settlements. These include two long-distance paths – namely the Hertfordshire Way and Gypsy Lane. These would be vulnerable to inappropriate or unsympathetic development, a fact which was recognised when the A602 was designed to allow continuity of rights of way where footpaths have been crossed by the road. (More detail on footpaths is given in Sections 9 and 10 on Green Infrastructure and Spaces and Transport Links.)
Policy NHE1: In our discussions with the planning authorities, and responses to any relevant consultation exercises, we will aim to ensure that landscape character assessments have been prepared where appropriate; integrated with assessment of historic landscape character and landscape sensitivity; and due regard had to them in development proposals
The North Hertfordshire Landscape Study, (which includes character, sensitivity and capacity) is available online at http://www.north-herts.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/local-plan-emerging-policy/evidence-base/north-herts-landscape-study Due to its size it has been split into a series of smaller sections. Those relevant to our parish are Wymondley and Titmore Green (Area 215) and Arlesey - Great Wymondley (Area 216).
The Study is based on the original Landscape Character Assessment work carried out for NHDC by Babtie in 2004 - and the subsequent Sensitivity and Capacity work carried out by The Landscape Partnership in 2011. The original location, assessment and evaluation remain the same, and the later work adds sensitivity and capacity to the evaluation and additional guidelines on built development guidelines to supplement the landscape management guidelines. It was agreed in 2011 as background evidence to support the Local Development Framework, and we therefore regard it as appropriate evidence for the purposes of our Neighbourhood Plan.
Biodiversity and environmental issues
While the Wymondley Transforming Station, located just outside Little Wymondley, may itself detract from the landscape, its site has much to commend it in terms of important flora and fauna. It is located within an old gravel pit, where there are interesting grassland habitats present – together with the small-leaved Sweet Briar Rose, which is a rare plant nationally. Additionally, it is the only location in Hertfordshire where there are important colonies of pyramidal bee orchids.
Little Wymondley itself has important pipistrelle bat roosts; and polecats have been sighted near the allotments (and at Titmore Green). Other more common wildlife abounds, with a good variety of animals and birds throughout the Parish – including nesting Red Kites and swallow and house martin nests in Little Wymondley. A bat survey in Great Wymondley church has recorded three different species of bat in nursery roosts; and there are also swifts nesting in the church roof during the summer. There is also a large population of toads in the pond near Redcoats Green, and it has been long established practice, each year in the breeding season, for volunteer marshals to transport the toads across the busy road to the pond.
Wymondley Woods, which is situated to the north of the Parish, was planted in two stages between 1997 and 2000, amidst mature woodlands. Consisting primarily of locally-grown oak and hornbeam, it was created as an educational resource for managed groups. It features a special nature conservation and field study area, adjacent to existing and newly planted forest environments which provide food and cover for a wide variety of wildlife all year round – in marked contrast to the surrounding arable fields. It forms part of the Garden City Greenway, which was funded (and is owned and managed) by the Heritage Foundation, to act as a permanent commemoration of Letchworth Garden City’s first centenary in 2003.
The Wymondley Parish environment provides a rich tapestry of historical and archaeological features through which we can track its history and development through the ages. Some of these can be seen on the maps at Annex 3 and more comprehensive information is available from the Hertfordshire Historic Environment Record held at County Hall and also available online.
While we are constantly looking to the future, we believe it is imperative that we have due regard to our past, as it provides the cornerstones on which our parish’s character is founded.
Policy NHE2: By working collaboratively with our local and neighbouring planning authorities, (and other stakeholders), we will aim to ensure that the significance of the Parish’s heritage assets and the contribution they make to the environment is recognised - and due account taken of it in considering development proposals. This includes ensuring that, in line with paragraphs 169 – 170 of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the planning authorities use their required up-to-date evidence about our historic environment to predict the likelihood that currently unidentified heritage assets, particularly sites of historic and archaeological interest, will be discovered in the future
In 2001, for example, Archaeological Services & Consultancy Ltd. undertook a programme of archaeological monitoring and recording on land temporarily occupied by an easement in advance of the laying of electricity cables from Wymondley to Corey’s Mill. This revealed evidence of Romano-British occupation dating from the 1st to 3rd centuries – namely two buildings with masonry foundations, two kilns or ovens and several post holes and pits, one of which was filled with oven/kiln debris. The circular building had a diameter of 7.25 metres; and the rectangular building was 14.3 x 6.5 meters
As mentioned in paragraph 6.10 above, the Parish is rich in historical and archaeological features which provide a valuable insight into the development of the Parish through the centuries, and the differing cultures of our predecessors.
Wymondley’s written history can be traced back to the Domesday Book, in which it warrants four entries. Archaeological discoveries have so far provided widespread evidence of Roman settlements in the Parish, including farms, villas, roads, footpaths and a cemetery; and indications are that further significant discoveries would be likely if surveys were undertaken. Aside from the extensive Roman remains, there are other sites indicating earlier occupation from the Stone Age and Mesolithic period onwards. Examples include the ring ditch at Titmore Green, and the particularly significant Grade 1 henge at Lower Titmore Green - which has already been protected by NHDC.
Great Wymondley is an historic settlement where Romano-British material has been documented. The village and its surrounding area have a particularly interesting history, and many significant heritage assets remain visible as evidence of it – not least those indicating connections with several monarchs, including Edward the Confessor, William I and Henry VIII. During the reign of Edward the Confessor 8 hides in Great Wymondley were held by the church of St. Mary of Chatteris, and by 1086 King William held 8 hides. Landscape features with specific designations include: the remains of Great Wymondley Castle, which consist of a motte and bailey and associated manorial enclosure 20 metres east of the 12th century church of St. Mary the Virgin. To the southwest are situated the remains of a medieval moated site at Wymondley Bury, and a former hospital and Augustinian house – Wymondley Priory, with its (Grade II listed) tithe barn, moat, associated earthworks, enclosures, platforms, holloway (sunken road) and (Grade II listed) conduit head.
As indicated on the maps at Annex 4, there are numerous listed buildings in both Great and Little Wymondley, and elsewhere in the Parish. Wymondley Hall is one of a number of early 17th century timber framed buildings in the vicinity and Grade II listed, as is the late Georgian Wymondley House in Little Wymondley. Wymondley Bury, The Priory and the (originally Norman) Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin are all Grade I listed. Hornbeam Court and the nearby thatched cottages are all Grade II listed, as is Little Wymondley’s Church of St Mary the Virgin - which has a clock on the tower presented by the Little Wymondley villagers in commemoration of King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. The original church on this site was dedicated to St Peter, built in the middle 12th century and linked to the Priory in the 13th century. After falling into disrepair, it was rebuilt in the late 15th century and re-dedicated to St Mary.
Some other examples of listed buildings are Lower Titmore Farmhouse, outhouse and barn (Grade II); The Elms and its associated barn range at Elms Yard in Little Wymondley (Grade II premises of Stutley Brothers Ltd); granaries at Delamare House and Redcoats Farm (Grade II); and the Redcoats Farmhouse Hotel (Grade II). A more comprehensive list can be found at: http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/england/hertfordshire/wymondley#.VsicxX2LRH0
More modern monuments include memorials in both the Wymondley churches of St Mary to the soldiers of the Parish who died in World War 1; and a memorial on the Willian to Great Wymondley road, commemorating the deaths of two Royal Flying Corps airmen who died on 6 September 1912, when their monoplane crashed in 100 Acres Field near Graveley while on a reconnaissance mission
Protecting our natural and historic environment, character and heritage
NHDC has recognised the value of the many significant heritage assets existing in Great Wymondley village and its vicinity, by designating most of the village as a conservation area. This has been crucial to preserving and protecting its character from inappropriate development, both in the village and on its fringes. We would wish this to continue, and see it as a key factor when considering potential development sites – particularly on Green Belt land - or initiatives relating to the Parish’s roads or infrastructure.
We are supported in this by the conclusions of NHDC’s own Landscape Survey. Although it found that the Arlesey – Great Wymondley area overall was considered to be of low landscape character sensitivity, it identified particular vulnerabilities around Great Wymondley, relating to removal of hedgerows and loss of woodland, mainly due to potential improvement or upgrading of minor roads and development pressures. Resulting loss of historic character was highlighted as a specific sensitivity.
In terms of visual and sensory perception and visual impact, the setting of the traditional villages and village greens was identified as a visual sensitivity. The Survey found that the area generally was characterised by large scale open landscape, which provides views to the “often poorly screened” urban fringes of Letchworth, Hitchin, and the A1 (M); and that the impact of urban fringe and the A1 (M) were prominent in numerous locations. Expansive views from higher ground, which create a sense of space and openness, were found to be sensitive to the introduction of further urbanising features or elements detracting from the character of the landscape. As a result, in visual terms, the Wymondley and Titmore Green area was regarded as of low visual sensitivity.
While the wooded areas of the Parish help to integrate the settlements into the landscape, Wymondley Transforming Station, electricity pylons and our transport infrastructure, (i.e. the A1 (M), A602, several other busy roads and the East Coast Main Line railway), were found to detract from the character of the area, as well as raw urban settlement edges – many of which are unmitigated through screening with tree belts. The Wymondley and Titmore Green area was therefore regarded overall as of low to moderate landscape sensitivity.
Given that the core of the Arlesey - Great Wymondley area is defined by the extents of Hitchin and Letchworth, the Survey concluded it is vulnerable to development pressure – and went on to recommend that “the area should be retained as a green wedge between the two towns.”
Policy NHE3:We wholeheartedly concur with this view, and will work vigorously with local planning authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that the historical character of the area is preserved; the key environmental features maintained (and enhanced wherever possible); and that in the absence of any “exceptional circumstances”, (as defined in relevant legislation, case-law or guidance), Green Belt land in and around our Parish remains inviolate.
6.24 Vulnerability to development was also identified in relation to smaller paddocks and fields dedicated to horses and equestrianism in close proximity to the settlements; and to the woodland areas, which were found to be vulnerable to lack of management, incursion or removal.
Policy NHE4: We value our green infrastructure and its key role in maintaining the historic character and environment of Wymondley Parish. Consequently, as opportunities arise, we will continue to work with local authorities, landowners and other interested parties to encourage improved hedgerow and woodland management; maintain and extend the rights of way network; increase appropriate tree belt screening and field boundaries in our parish landscape; lessen the impact of the A1 (M) and other elements of our transport infrastructure; and create new accessible green infrastructure.
Policy NHE5: We will also seek to protect our village greens (and other green spaces) from inappropriate development or unsympathetic management, as they form a key element of the character of the Parish. (Issues relating to green infrastructure are covered in more depth in Section 9 of this Plan.)
The above policies reflect the conservation and restoration strategies set out in the Landscape Survey, and the associated landscape management and built development guidelines – all of which we support. (For further commentary on these issues, see also Sections 6 and 9 of this Plan.)
The Survey’s findings on Wymondley Parish’s capacity to accommodate development are particularly relevant, and are also mentioned in other sections of this Plan.
In summary they are:
Policy NHE6:To protect our natural and historic environment, and retain the rural character and intimate scale of Wymondley Parish we will work with local authorities, landowners and other interested parties to ensure that any new development is appropriately sited and of an appropriate scale, form and style; that visually intrusive locations such as upper ground where they would be visible from the skyline are avoided; and that associated lighting does not create additional urbanising influences on the character of the area.