NORTH HERTFORDSHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL – AUGUST UPDATE

Station Pub Planning Application

A planning application, Ref. 17/01622/1, which has been submitted to NHDC to re-develop the site of the Station Hotel (aka the Station Pub) to provide nine two bed and five one bed dwellings, in addition to the existing bar area. The ‘Save Our Station Pub’ campaign team is looking at valid planning grounds on which this application might be challenged. Please see the article elsewhere in this edition for more information.

Waste Collection and Street Cleansing Contract

Waste collection and street cleansing are a big part of what NHDC does. More than a third of its overall expenditure goes on this one item. The work is contracted out to Veolia currently, but under current procurement rules the Council must undertake market testing and cannot simply renew the existing contract.

Some while ago it was decided to jointly procure this service with East Herts District Council, in order to realize some economies of scale. With a jointly let contract it will be possible to avoid duplication of contract monitoring and customer support and it should be feasible to introduce much more up to date technology for both these services. It should also be possible to operate a single waste transfer station: the facility at which waste is transferred from District Council collection vehicles to County Council vehicles for disposal/recycling.

One factor that will impact the new contract is the price of material for recycling. This has collapsed as supply of ‘recyclates’ has outpaced the demand for them, and sales of newspapers - an important source of demand for paper - have fallen dramatically in parallel with the rise of the Internet.

For a contract of this size there is an obligation to go out to consultation. By the time you read this you should already have been invited to submit your comments. Watch out on NHDC social media sites for the link to an online survey. The consultation will seek the views of residents on how much they value the non-statutory services, such as collection of textiles, and whether they would value collection of batteries or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (‘WEEE’). It will seek to obtain a view on whether the current weekly collection from flats is justified, and whether or not a change to the commingling rules are needed (e.g. putting paper waste in the grey bins and getting rid of the blue boxes). There will also be questions on street cleansing.

The survey is due to run from 17th July until the 4th Sept. The evaluation of responses will be done in time for Cabinet to make a decision (jointly with East Herts DC) at its September or October meeting. The new contract will run from 9th May 2018, so the whole timetable is really very tight. It is very important to get this contract right as the scope to vary it once it has been signed will be negligible.

NORTH HERTFORDSHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL – JULY UPDATE

We have had a long period of elections, with the General Election following closely on the heels of the County elections. Stephen McPartland was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Stevenage, which includes Knebworth, Codicote, Datchworth and Aston. Let us hope that Westminster MPs from all constituencies from across the country focus on the job in hand: which is to make the laws that will shape society in the country for years to come. A finely balanced parliament should help encourage more scrutiny of legislation, not least that which will arise as a result of the Brexit negotiations.

At the local level, NHDC carries on with the usual cycle of the Civic Year. As in all organisations, the finance function is at the heart of everything we do. The outturn of the revenue and capital budgets will be examined at the next cabinet meeting, as well as the annual treasury management review. These need to be completed before the budget cycle begins again, with the Corporate Plan and Medium Term Financial Strategy, which are due to be debated by Council on 31st August. The difference between the Council’s projected income and its projected expenditure needs to be funded somehow. The amount is the ‘precept’, or the total amount of Council Tax collected. Note that the District Council also collects a precept for the county council, the police authority and, where a property is in a parished area, a parish council precept.

NHDC Community Facilities Capital Projects Fund

Last month I attended the first meeting of the panel which oversees the awarding of capital grants to Village and Community Halls in the District. It has been set up to dispense around one million pounds over the course of four years. The minimum award is £10,000 and the maximum £50,000. Projects themselves can be of any size. There were no applications from Knebworth at our first meeting, but one from the John Clements Centre in Codicote. Note that the panel is not decision making, and simply makes comments on the applications for consideration by the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance in consultation with the Executive Member for Community Engagement and Rural Affairs. To find out how to apply, contact me or search for ‘Community Facilities Capital Projects Fund’ on the NHDC website.

Please contact your NHDC councillors if you would like to discuss these or any other matters: Steve Hemingway, steve@stevehemingway.com or phone 01438 940594 (please include STD code when dialling) and Steve Deakin-Davies, stevedeakindavies@gmail.com or phone 07949 435435.

Or be in touch directly with your County Councillor Richard Thake: richard.thake@hertfordshire.gov.uk, phone 07973 157605

Or your Member of Parliament Stephen McPartland: stephen@stephenmcpartland.co.uk, Stephen McPartland MP, House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA

Following the meeting and resolutions of Full Council on 11 April 2017, the new Local Plan for North Hertfordshire has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for examination.

The Planning Inspectorate have advised the Council that Inspector Simon Berkeley BA MA MRTPI has been appointed to conduct the examination. The precise date for the opening of any formal hearing part of the examination into the Local Plan will be decided by the Inspector.

Louise St John Howe has been appointed as the Programme Officer for the duration of the examination. The Programme Officer is the independent ‘go between’ who liaises between the Inspector, the Council and the respondents to the plan. The Programme Officer will shortly write to everyone who responded to the last consultation on the Local Plan to advise them of the above and provide further details.

Any queries regarding the administration of the examination or any correspondence for the attention of the Inspector should be sent via Louise:

Louise St John Howe Programme Officer PO Services PO Box 10965 Sudbury Suffolk CO10 3BF

E: louise@poservices.co.uk

Please visit the NHDC website for updates.

I received the following email letter today, and I thought it would be useful to share it with local residents. Luton airport is an important local employer, as well as a very important public transport hub for us all, but it does create some problems. The CAA are keen to hear your views.

Steve.


Letter from CAA

Dear Cllr Hemingway

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is currently consulting on a new decision making process for all future airspace changes.

This consultation ends on June 30.

The rules, regulations and technology that underpin the UK’s airspace and network of flight paths have remained largely unchanged despite the growing increase in demand for air travel in the UK.

As a result, London Luton’s ability to modify and improve flight paths is not only restricted by conflicts with routes from other London airports but also by a slow and inefficient airspace change process.

The guidance the CAA has drafted defines what will happen in the new process, including each stage a sponsor of an airspace change, such as LLA must complete; the stakeholders we must engage with at each stage and the expectations of that engagement; and how the CAA assesses proposed changes.

London Luton Airport is submitting a formal response to the consultation. However, we believe it is vital that everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the process of airspace modernisation.

Details of the consultation and how to respond can be found on the CAA’s website.

We encourage all interested parties to take part before the deadline. Whilst we can never eliminate aircraft noise entirely, we always aim to work constructively with local communities and our partners to strike the right balance between minimising the impact of aircraft noise while maximising the positive social and economic benefits of a successful airport.

Yours sincerely

Neil Thompson Operations Director


NORTH HERTFORDSHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL – JUNE UPDATE

On 4th May, elections were held for the County Council. Richard Thake was re-elected to represent Knebworth, as well as Codicote, St Pauls Walden, Kimpton, Wymondley and St Ippolyts. 

Residents are often unclear about the difference between the County and District councils. The County Council runs social care, children’s services (including schools) and the highways (other than motorways and trunk roads), and for Hertfordshire has a budget of around £1.85 billion, spending £1,625 per head of population.

The District Council has a budget of less than one percent of that of the county, around £16.6 million, with spend of £125 per head, so County spends approximately 13x as much per capita.

One of the primary functions of the District Council is to act as the Planning Authority. This does affect us a lot - the reason I write about it here so often. It is important to understand the distinction between Planning Policy: the production of the Local Plan; and Planning Control: the process by which applications are development are checked against the appropriate local, and national, planning policies.

Inevitably, there is scope for developer and objector to disagree on exactly what they are permitted to build according to the policies in place. The District Council employs a team of planning officers, who are professionally qualified to interpret planning law. They determine routine applications under authority delegated from the Planning Control Committee. The bigger, or more contentious applications are examined by members of this committee, all of whom are elected councillors.

Although there seems to be a view that once a Plan is adopted, there is nothing further that residents can do to shape development, this is not the case. Individual applications will still have to be reviewed as part of the Planning Control process, which gives residents a say in what ends up being built. Objectors have been successful in blocking, or causing major modifications of several applications recently. Applications for solar farms on two Green Belt sites were refused or abandoned. Even if an application is granted, it may be possible for residents to make the grant subject to the developer taking prescribed actions. For example, he may be required to fund to local infrastructure.

Draft Local Plan – Public Inquiry

NHDC voted in April to proceed with the formal submission of the Draft Local Plan to the Secretary of State, which should have been done during May.  The independent examination through a public inquiry is expected to take place between September and December this year. If the Inspector proposes Main Modifications, there will be a further public consultation on these, between February and March 2018. The final inspector’s report is expected in about a year’s time, with adoption scheduled for June 2018.

A number of groups of objectors are actively preparing their oral submissions at the Examination In Public, so if you have registered to speak, please make sure you will be ready by September. This will be a key stage where the local views can make a difference. The event will be in public and in a local venue. I will announce the details here when I know them, but please also check with the North Herts website for updates.