NOVEMBER UPDATE

NHDC Noise Application

NHDC has introduced a Noise App to help deal with noise nuisance

North Hertfordshire District Council is using new technology to help deal with noise nuisance and has introduced a new Noise App. The app created by RH Environmental, allows residents with mobile devices to record incidents of nuisance noise and submit them to NHDC via the app. As unwanted noise is captured when it is actually happening, this makes it easier for residents to report problems and will allow the Council to more effectively investigate noise nuisance cases. Recorded audio files, which are sent securely, can also be shared with the Police and other agencies when tackling cases of anti-social behaviour.

The app can be downloaded free from the NHDC website: http://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/environmental-health/pollution/noise-app

NHDC Schedule of Meetings

The schedule of meetings for North Hertfordshire District Council is available on NHDC’s website: http://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/council-and-democracy Agendas are posted ahead of the meetings and while some items, such as the Budget process, follow an annual cycle, other topics are ad hoc – the Planning Control committee is a good example where individual applications that have been “called in” to the committee are discussed. The meetings are held at NHDC’s offices in Gernon Road, Letchworth, SG6 3JF and are open for members of the public to observe; this includes the meetings of the Council’s Cabinet.

Approval has been granted to purchase equipment which will allow council and committee meetings to be recorded and made available on the web as podcasts.

SEPTEMBER UPDATE

NHDC – In the Summer time

NHDC full council meetings are not scheduled during school holidays to make it easier for those with school age children to stand as councillors. There are some exceptions, with the Standards Committee meeting in August (see below), and planning applications continue to be considered because of strict deadlines on the time allowed for the council to process these. Generally, the routine work of the council via the officers and staff continues ensuring that services are not interrupted, while a range of extra activities, particularly aimed at children, are run at the leisure centres and other venues through the district.

NHDC Planning Code of Conduct

A draft of an updated Code of Conduct for Councillors was reviewed on 12th August by the Standards Committee of which I am a member. The code makes it clear that it is essential for all members to avoid any suggestion of bias in respect of local planning applications. Many decisions are taken by the Planning Control Committee, while in some circumstances the case may be decided by a full Council Meeting, or on rare occasions be referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. This will not affect my ability, as District Councillor for Knebworth ward, to speak as member advocate for matters that affect Knebworth.

Three Houses Lane Solar Farm “Called In”

The Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government has “called in” the application for a solar farm in Three Houses Lane and confirmed that an inquiry will be held under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The situation is analogous to that of the application at Swangleys Lane and it is to be expected that the decision on the latter will be very significant for the Three Houses Lane application. Knebworth Parish Council is involved in the inquiry and neighbouring parish councils are also involved.

Neighbourhood Plan Working Party – Any more volunteers?

I have one additional offer of help towards producing a Neighbourhood Plan for all (or part of) Knebworth Parish so we are still on track to convene an inaugural meeting in the Autumn. If you would like to get involved, especially if you have any professional expertise or involvement with Planning legislation, then please get in touch with me using the contact details below.

AUGUST UPDATE

NHDC – Council Business Update

The Council Meeting on 21 July covered a range of important issues, many of which will have an effect on North Hertfordshire residents long after the current Civic Year:

  • The Council is preparing to respond to recent legislation to take into account Social Value in its tendering processes. This should make it easier for local businesses to sell goods and services to the Council

  • A report was accepted on the refurbishment of the North Herts Leisure Centre at Letchworth, costing in excess of £3 million, which should result in significantly improved facilities there

  • The ‘Corporate Objectives’ which sets goals and priorities for the district until 2021, centred around Promoting Sustainable Growth, Working with Communities and Living Within Our Means

  • Reports on projects such as Churchgate, Hitchin, and the North Herts Museum and Community Facility at Hitchin Town Hall, and from the Finance Officers

Knebworth Post Office – New Look and Longer Opening Hours

I was honoured to open officially the new-look Post Office in St Martin’s Road, Knebworth. The branch has undergone a major refurbishment and upgrade of the old post office, which has remained largely unchanged from a time before I moved to Knebworth in 1985. It will now open for longer hours, until 6pm on weekday evenings and until 5.30pm on Saturdays, so giving more time for residents to pick up un-delivered parcels and generally use the services without the need to go further afield.

Knebworth Post Office also now has a new Postmaster, with Mohammad Miah recently taking over from Nicola Low, who had held the position for the last thirty years.

Neighbourhood Plan Working Party – Interested in being Involved?

I have a small number of volunteers offering to get involved in examining the feasibility of developing a Neighbourhood Plan for all (or part of) Knebworth Parish. If you would like to get involved, especially if you have any professional expertise or involvement with Planning legislation, then please get in touch with me using the contact details below.

If there is sufficient support I hope to convene an inaugural meeting in the Autumn and would expect to work extremely closely with the Parish Council on development of any Neighbourhood Plan.

NHDC - New Council Appointment

The first meeting has been held and the appointments of Chairs, Vice-Chairs and members of the various committees made. As well as being a member of the Southern Rural Committee, I have been appointed as the Vice-Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The function of this committee is to ‘hold the executive to account’. To this end we examine many performance statistics and call each portfolio holders to present a report to us once per year. We occasionally have meetings devoted to specific, usually large, projects that we consider require close scrutiny: e.g. last year a meeting was devoted to examining the redevelopment of Hitchin Town Hall.

NHDC Grants available through the Southern Rural Committee

NHDC has limited funds, but does make grants to local organisations, as long as they are independent, not-for-profit and work for the benefit of the local community. Currently there is a Community Building Refurbishment Fund which has £15,000 available, and a Playground Fund and an Environmental Improvement Fund each with £10,000 available. With the exception of the Environmental Improvement Fund, community groups will be expected to raise at least 50% themselves. For further details see http://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/community/grants or call 01462 474000 and ask for the Community Services Team.

Grant applications for Knebworth groups will be reviewed by the Southern Rural Committee, which meets four times a year. In our meeting on 11 June the committee approved £250 towards the cost of installing new pedestrian handrails on the steps to the footpath from New Close to Stevenage Road, and £200 towards the cost of developing the new Parish Council Website. Grant applications must be completed in good time before we meet, and may be submitted on paper or filled in online. The deadline for submissions for the next meeting in September is early August.

Stevenage Borough Council – Consultation on Local Plan 2011-2031

As part of the development of the Stevenage Borough Local Plan 2011-2031, Stevenage Borough Council is undertaking a public consultation on SBC’s preferred housing target for the Borough which is increased to 7,600 homes. Their preferred approach would roll-back the Green Belt within SBC and for needs beyond 2031 would wish to work with neighbouring councils to review the Green Boundary. The consultation on this aspect of the Emerging Local Plan runs from 22nd June to 27 July 2015 and further information and how to submit a response can be found on SBC’s website under Planning Policy: http://www.stevenage.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/

June 2015 Newsletter

The Annual Meeting of the Parish on Wednesday the 6th of May, where parking in Knebworth was one of the more burning issues under discussion. Opinion in the village is sharply divided between those who welcome the increased space available for shoppers, and those who worry about availability of parking spaces for those who work in the village, and those whose vehicles need to be near their place of work. I am in discussion with NHDC to see if the balance between the needs of residents and local businesses can be improved.

Parking as a wider issue in the village has not disappeared from the agenda. I am trying to revive KPIG, the Knebworth Parking Initiative Group, but I will have to wait until the portfolio holder for transport is announced before I can make much more progress with this. Fairly extensive changes have been made to parking in the village, and the District is reluctant to deploy resources to change things even more, unless there is compelling evidence that this will improve matters. Clearly, the best outcome would be a new, large, free carpark near the centre of the village, but reviving KPIG will not deliver this.

There were no District or County elections this year for Knebworth. However, there were a number of seats contested elsewhere in the District, and your new Council will have a significantly different composition to that of the civic year just ended. Responses to the consultation on the emerging Local Plan will continue to be processed by hard-pressed officers until August or September, but when the report is ready I am sure that the Local Plan will once again hit the headlines.

The Annual Meeting of the (NHDC) Council is scheduled take place on the 21st May. After this I will know which committees I am on, and who the chairmen and vice-chairmen are of the various committees the make up the District Council. I will be on the Southern Rural Committee, as this is the one that deals with matters relating to the villages in the south of the district, but I do not know yet which other committees (if any) I shall be on.

June will be a month of fêtes and festivals. Do not forget to put the details of the Knebworth Festival in your diaries. Full details can be found elsewhere in this issue. I will be attending most of the events and look forward to seeing you at them.