March 11 2014 Latest news:
by Imogen Blake
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
A man who has been involved in the running of Hampstead Heath for 10 years and was pivotal in overseeing the controversial dams project has made an MBE by he Queen in the New Year Honours List.
Retired architect Michael Welbank was chairman of the Heath management committee at the City of London Corporation for three years before he stepped down in May last year.
He had been part of its management committee for 10 years serving as chairman and deputy chairman.
The 84-year-old is also notably a member of the Heath and Hampstead Society, the main opponents of the City’s plans to develop the Heath dams, perhaps a reflection of his widely praised ability to fairly negotiate contentious discussion.
As he spoke of the “great privilege” of being made a MBE for services to local government and the north west London community, Mr Welbank also said residents must “face up” to the Heath dam plans to protect the capital’s largest open space from freak floods.
But he admitted he would be “delighted” if the £15million project did not have to go ahead.
Objectors claim that plans to carry out dam works at every pond will disfigure the iconic Heath landscape.
Mr Welbank, of Belsize Park, said: “We have to face up to it somehow. We don’t want to do it, we’d be delighted not to do it but we have to because we have been legally advised to go down that path.
“If a person could change the law, we would be delighted. We don’t want to find the amount of money necessary and it will change the heart of the Heath quite considerably.”
Mr Welbank now chairs the City of London’s planning and transportation committee, where his brief includes overseeing another contentious planning application on the Smithfields Market site.
A lifelong Hampstead and Highgate resident, Mr Welbank grew up in Highgate and attended Highgate School, before moving to South Hill Park in Hampstead with his wife, where he lived for 40 years.
The father-of-three moved to Belsize Avenue when his wife died in 2002, after which he started to get involved in local government.
Since being elected as a common councilman at the City of London Corporation in 2005, the retired architect and town planner has also served as deputy chairman of the Hampstead Heath consultative committee and has sat on a large number of different panels.
He said being made a MBE was “a great privilege”.
“It is a recognition of the very great contribution that the City of London Corporation makes to London and to all its open spaces,” he said.