[2021 - ongoing]


Growing the Garden City

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Welwyn Garden City was the UK’s second garden city and one of the first new towns, exemplifying the physical, social and cultural planning ideals of the time.

fabrik are a pleasure to work with, very personable, technically excellent and with a full appreciation of Homes England’s priorities and objectives.  Outputs went beyond the core masterplan and planning/EIA process to include community engagement visuals and input, 3D fly throughs, a Building for Healthy Life Assessment and design coding.  Outputs were robust and enabled measurable design principles, which will ensure the delivery of high quality new homes and community infrastructure at De Havilland Park, Panshanger.  Thank you!

Caroline Searle, Senior Planning & Enabling Manager, Homes England

Panshanger Aerodrome, which lies along the northern edge of Welwyn Garden City, was established in 1940 and provided a decoy for the de Havilland factory at Hatfield to divert enemy bombers.  De Havilland went on to operate flight training at the site and run the airfield after the end of WWII. 

While originally containing four grass runways, in the decades following the war the airfield was steadily reduced in scale as housing was built over large parts of it.  In March 2020, Homes England, the Government’s housing accelerator, acquired the remaining former airfield land, with the aim of reviewing an existing outline planning permission for the site and promoting a second phase of development.  fabrik were appointed to provide masterplanning, landscape planning, landscape design and arboricultural support to review the extant phase 1 outline planning permission for 650 homes (alongside a primary school, local centre, care facility and gypsy and traveller accommodation), promote an extension of the scheme through the Local Plan EIP, prepare an outline planning application for phase 2 (comprising a further 210 dwellings), and undertake a site-wide Building for a Healthy Life Assessment and Design Code. 


Our approach was one of collaboration and partnership working with Homes England, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) and other partners, to secure an expanded Local Plan allocation and planning approval, and to successfully accelerate the delivery of new homes within the Green Belt, whilst also having careful regard to nature, the climate, viability, deliverability and attractiveness to potential developers.  Early dialogue with WHBC enabled the project to progress positively and at pace, while regular liaison with members, residents groups and the local school made the process less adversarial and secured local support.


A thorough and incisive review of the extant planning permission, background evidence, Section 106 Agreement and Local Plan evidence base was undertaken to identify areas which could be enhanced, reducing barriers to successful delivery. We took a place-led approach to understanding the site, in order to inform improvements to the masterplan.  The changes focused on enhancing locally distinctive placemaking, alongside the proposed extension to the allocation to include phase 2, and thus the revisions enabled a more comprehensive and community-led approach to be adopted towards the holistic design of the site.


Our considered approach to placemaking demonstrated to both the Local Plan Inspector, WHBC and Historic England that an extension of the allocation to unlock phase 2 would be appropriate in landscape, ecological and heritage terms, and would bring about significant community benefits and deliver biodiversity net gain, resulting overall in a more inclusive, enduring and sustainable neighbourhood.

The immediate context comprised generic housing estates, so we looked to the history of Welwyn Garden City for distinctive characteristics and how the site’s recent history as an aerodrome could be celebrated through the orientation of streets, open spaces, built form and views to the surrounding landscape.  The disposition of uses, such as the local centre, responds to and reinforces the approach to the public realm, whilst design elements bring nature to people’s doorsteps and reflect how communities live today. This was integral to creating a place people can identify with, value and care for, and which is sustainable.

The resulting masterplan delivers a robust design concept, comprising a series of neighbourhoods linked by a spine street following the line of the former runway, bookended by open spaces and underpinned by a strong framework of connected and well-defined streets, spaces and green infrastructure.


Our review highlighted a number of significant improvements to the phase 1 masterplan and was subsequently the subject of a successful Section 73 application, which gained the full support of Planning Officers, Members and residents, resulting in a delegated approval. Our understanding of WHBC’s aspirations, priorities and procedures was key to this, as was our approach to community engagement, which was viewed as sincere and inclusive, and which persuaded the community that our proposals would result in a significant improvement to the overall development.  A particularly concerned Ward Member also agreed that we had demonstrated added value to the local community and consequently supported our revised proposals, such that the Section 73 consent was secured without the need for referral to Planning Committee.



Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire


Phase 1 Section 73 application and Phase 2 outline application approved


2021 - ongoing


55 hectares

Partners & collaborators

  • Luken Beck
  • CampbellReith
  • RegenCo
  • FLOH
  • Derek Finnie Associates
  • BECG
  • Archaeology Collective
  • Savills
  • Arcadis


Masterplanning, landscape planning, landscape design & arboriculture

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