Royston Bowls Club received £1,000 towards the purchase of a machine to de-thatch the green in order to help reduce disease and improve the playing surface.

The club’s Steve Kilford said: “Royston Bowls Club would like to thank the council for awarding us a grant of £1,000, this will go some way towards the purchase of a de-thatching machine.”

Royston Historical Pageant was awarded a grant of £500 to assist with the costs of putting on a large historical event on Therfield Heath in July 2019.

The funding will be used to assist with publicity and advertising costs and to pay for re-enactment groups to attend.

Councillor Sarah Dingley, pageant co-ordinator, said: “Grateful thanks to the Royston Area Committee for the grant awarded to Royston Historical Pageant.

“It will help us to create a memorable event for the whole community.”

And finally, the Royston Choral Society was awarded a grant of £750 to assist with the costs of putting on a community concert. The funding will go towards the publicity and equipment hire for their performance of Bach’s St John Passion at Royston’s parish church on April 6, 2019.

The Royston Choral Society has been putting on concerts for the people of Royston since 1974 and the event is part of the society’s commitment to put on 4 concerts annually.

Huw Jenkins, Chairman of the Royston Choral Society said: “The Royston Choral Society has been a community unauditioned choir since 1974. We recently performed Britten’s War Requiem to high acclaim and will continue to rise to the challenges set by the musical director, Andrew O’Brien, with the performance of Bach’s St John Passion in the spring.

“We are most grateful for this grant from North Herts District Council as it will support the Royston Choral Society in its commitment to provide ‘Fine music made locally’.”

Councillor Tony Hunter, NHDC’s chairman of the Royston Committee, said: “We are pleased to be able support these projects in Royston. We look forward to seeing how the projects develop and progress in the future.”

The grants are subject to completion of the necessary formalities.

You can use The North Herts Self Build and Custom Build Register to register yourself as wanting a plot in the District for a self-build home.

New rules came into effect on 31 October 2016 which amended the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 and implemented Chapter 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 which sets out provisions to support self-build and custom housebuilding.

This means that the second and final part of the Right to Build, placing a duty on relevant authorities to make land available to meet the demand on their self-build and custom housebuilding registers, has now come into force and the Right to Build is now fully implemented.

The legislation requires ‘relevant authorities’ to keep a register of individuals and associations of individuals who are seeking to acquire serviced plots of land in the authority’s area and to have regard to that register when carrying out their functions. Unless exempt, they also have a legal duty to grant sufficient ‘development permissions’ to meet the demand for self-build and custom housebuilding in their area.

Regulation 2 (Time for compliance with duty to grant planning permission) specifies three years as the period within which the required number of development permissions relating to a ‘base period’ must be granted to satisfy the duty (as set out in the Housing and Planning Act 2016).

As you may know, the Government have recently issued a consultation on powers for dealing with unauthorised developments and encampments. The consultation document can be found here.

Questions include: 1. What evidence is there of unauthorised development and encampments in your community, and what issues does this raise for the local community?

  1. We would like to invite evidence of unauthorised encampments which have occurred in the last 2 years, as follows:
    • the number of instances where trespassers have occupied land without authorisation, including the location and scale of the encampment.
    • whether the land in a) required cleaning or repair once the encampment had left, and if so, what was the cost?
    • how was each unauthorised encampment encouraged to leave, how long did it take, and was the local authority able to move them on; or did the police became involved?
  2. Do you think that the existing powers made available to local authorities to remove unauthorised campers from land are effective?

  3. Do you think local authorities could improve their use of existing powers?

  4. What other powers may help local authorities deal with unauthorised encampments?

  5. Do you consider that the current powers for police to direct trespassers to leave land are effective?

  6. Would any new or revised powers that enable police to direct trespassers to leave land make it easier to deal with unauthorised encampments?

  7. Do you consider that the Government should consider criminalising unauthorised encampments, in addition to the offence of aggravated trespass? If so, how should a new offence differ, and what actions and circumstances should it apply to?

  8. What barriers are there to the greater use of injunctions by local authorities, where appropriate, and how might they be overcome?

  9. Do you have any suggestions or examples of how local authorities, the police, the courts and communities can work together more successfully to improve community relations and address issues raised by unauthorised encampments?

  10. Are there ways in which court processes might be modified in a proportionate way to ensure unauthorised encampments can be addressed more quickly?

  11. In your view, what would the advantages and disadvantages be of extending the IPO process to open land? Are you aware of any specific barriers which prevent the effective use of current planning enforcement powers?

  12. If you are aware of any specific barriers to effective enforcement, are there any resourcing or administrative arrangements that can help overcome them?

  13. Are you aware of any specific barriers which prevent the effective use of temporary stop notices? If so, do you have a view on how these barriers can be overcome?

  14. How do you think the existing enforcement notice appeals process can be improved or streamlined?

  15. How can Government make existing guidance more effective in informing and changing behaviour?

  16. If future guidance was issued as statutory guidance, would this help in taking action against unauthorised development and encampments?

  17. Are there any specific barriers to the provision of more authorised permanent and transit sites? If so, is there any action that the Government could take to help overcome those barriers?

  18. What impact would extending local authority, police or land owner powers have on children and families and other groups with protected characteristics that public authorities must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to under their Public Sector Equality Duty?

  19. Do you expect that extending the powers referred to above would have a positive or negative impact on the health or educational outcomes of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities? If so, do you have any evidence to support this view, and/or suggestions for what could be done to mitigate or prevent any negative impacts?

  20. Do you have any other comments to make on the issue of unauthorized development and encampments not specifically addressed by any of the questions above?

I decided to load up my regular columns for Knebworth Parish News onto this website. I occasionally post things here, but for anything I have to say that can be fitted into 280 characters, I tend to use Twitter.

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Station Pub

The long-awaited application for redevelopment of the Station Pub site (Planning Reference 17/01622/1) is likely to come before the NHDC Planning Control Committee this month, on the 15th February, probably in the Spirella Building in Letchworth. If you plan to attend, please check on the NHDC website for confirmation that the application is on the agenda. The start time of the meeting will be 7:30pm, but this application will be one of potentially many all of which will be decided at this meeting.

It has taken a long time for the application to come before the Committee. I do not know why this is, but a frequent reason is because the negotiations between the developer and the officers for Section 106 Contributions have been drawn out.

When an application comes before the Committee the members will have visited the site and read all the associated paperwork, including the objections and plans. Particular attention will be given to the responses from the statutory consultees, especially Herts Highways and Knebworth Parish Council. Committee members will rely on the report of the planning officer for guidance on which policies are relevant and to what extent the application complies with them. This is the job of the committee, to decide whether or not the officer has, in his professional capacity, missed any valid planning ground (i.e. breach of policy) on which the application might be refused.

In the meeting, the planning officer involved will introduce his report and summarize the main findings, including his recommendation. If this is to refuse the application, it is very unlikely the Committee will go against his recommendation. However, if the recommendation is to grant, it will need to have some fairly compelling reasons why. The objectors will have to provide these compelling reasons, all in a speech lasting no longer than five minutes.

As the local ward member I, or my fellow councillor, may speak in support of the objector for a further five minutes. The applicant is also allowed to speak for this amount of time, to rebut any of the arguments put forward by the objectors. After the speeches, the committee may ask of the speakers about their comments.

The committee will then debate the application until one of them proposes a motion to refuse the application or to grant it, possibly with additional conditions to those recommended in the report. If the motion is to grant, and the vote is passed, the applicant is free to proceed with construction. No appeal is possible in this event.

If the motion is to refuse, and it is passed, the applicant has up to six months to appeal to the Planning Inspector. Or he has the option to submit a new application, presumably somewhat amended to take account of the reason for refusal.

Members of the Planning Control Committee are not professional planners. They are elected District Council members. They are heavily dependent on guidance from planning professionals to make their decisions. Planning law is complex, and even the council’s own planning officers sometimes need to call in specialist advice. However, they are attuned to local need and I am sure they will arrive at the right decision as long as they are in possession of all the arguments for and against the application.