NHDC Draft Local Plan

Introduction: Last month I wrote about the development sites allocated to Knebworth in the Local Plan. This month I will look at the broader context. Development sites are allocated very rarely. The last time this happened in North Herts was in 1992. Once the current Draft Local Plan is approved the pattern of development in North Herts will be set for a generation.

Much of the draft plan is available on the NHDC website, but minor changes are still being made, so it is not possible to give any links here. Please check the website itself, and social media for the latest updates.

Implications of Local Plan for Knebworth: There are several sites proposed for Knebworth, see map, one in the centre of the village and the rest for removal from the Green Belt, with dwelling estimates (area based rule of thumb, not developer proposal) totalling 791, as follows:

SHLAA Ref Address Site Type Refined dwelling estimate
52 Land at Deards End Green Belt 227
335 Land rear of Redwood, Deards End Lane Green Belt 14
53 Land at Gypsy Lane Green Belt 229
55 Land North of Old Lane Green Belt 63
336 Land east of Old Lane Green Belt 44
57 Land south of Swangley’s Lane Green Belt 100
58 Land north of Watton Road Green Belt 100
KB/m01 Chas Lowe, London Road PDL within village boundary 14

Why is this consultation different:

Some of you are probably suffering from ‘consultation fatigue’. NHDC have consulted repeatedly on aspects of the local plan, which is not surprising since it was supposed to be ready by 2011. The most recent consultation, on the so-called Preferred Options was in December 2014 and generated about eight and a half thousand responses from around the District, including a several hundred from Knebworth.

This consultation is different because the responses will be examined by the Planning Inspector and will feed into the public enquiry where the Local Plan will finally be adopted (or not). NHDC will simply collate the responses and pass them to the Inspector. Responses may be electronic or on paper, but not by telephone or in person.

Note that, if you submitted comments in response to previous consultations on the plan and believe that the updated plan does not fully address your concerns, you should submit your comments so that they will be received by the Planning Inspector.

Soundness of Local Plan:

The Planning Inspector will examine the Draft Local Plan to determine whether it is ‘sound’. A plan is sound if it is ‘Positively prepared, Justified, Effective and Consistent with national policy.’

Positive Preparation

This requires that the plan provides for enough houses, business premises, infrastructure and community facilities. It also requires that the plan is sustainable, in the sense that it does not cause irreversible damage to the environment or the well-being of future generations. Although developers are expected, in principle, to pay for infrastructure, there is a requirement that the plan defines what infrastructure is needed. NHDC take the view that no account may be taken of ‘Brexit’ because it is too early to estimate its effects on housing numbers.

Justified

The plan is justified only if it is based on compelling evidence and that evidence is presented alongside the plan itself. The submitted draft must be the best of all possible choices. Other choices for the plan, such as the suggestion that has been made for a ‘New Garden City’, must be demonstrated to be inferior to the choices in the plan.

Effective

The plan is effective if it can be implemented within the available timescale (before 2031). If the plan does not mesh with those of neighbouring authorities, or the infrastructure required to support it cannot be built, the plan will fail the effectiveness test. The draft submission plan calls for around 1,100 house completions a year to be delivered for the latter of the plan period. This is considerably more than North Herts has previously achieved.

Consistent with national policy

The plan must be consistent with national policy. A policy that many local residents have commented on is the need to avoid changing Green Belt boundaries, except under exceptional circumstances. Available sustainable brownfield sites in the District are limited and the vast bulk of land allocated for proposed housing is on sites which are currently in the Green Belt. There are many polices in the NPPF (and the associated Planning Practice Guidance website): I suggest that residents consider whether or not the Plan is consistent with the whole of the NPPF, and not just the paragraph relating to the Green Belt.

Timings:

The NHDC Cabinet is scheduled to meet on 26th September to approve the current version of the plan to go forward to consultation. It will then become the ‘draft submission plan’. If it is approved, the officers will prepare the material for consultation, and set up the consultation software on the NHDC website. Readers will be pleased to hear that new, improved software is being used this time, so the frustrations which the experienced trying to make representations on the Preferred Options draft should be a thing of the past.

If all goes according to plan the consultation period will run from the 19th October to the 30th November. Again, this period will run over the Christmas holidays, and potentially means that some residents will have a very short window in which to read the documents and make their submissions.

Following the end of the consultation period, the submissions will be categorised by NHDC and submitted together with the Draft Plan and all other supporting material to the Planning Inspector in the first part of 2017.

NHDC Draft Local Plan

Update on Process: Last month I highlighted the extraordinary meeting of the Council to endorse the proposed emerging (or draft) Local Plan. It was the only topic on the agenda and the meeting heard public participation from a number of groups, almost exclusively speaking against the proposals. The council heard a presentation from the Executive Member for Planning, and then a prolonged debate involving most of the council. The resolution to endorse the draft plan was supported by 32 votes, with 12 voting against or abstaining (which included me).

Implications of Local Plan for Knebworth: There are several sites proposed for Knebworth, one in the centre of the village and the rest for removal from the Green Belt, with dwelling estimates (area based rule of thumb, not developer proposal) totalling 791, as follows:

SHLAA Ref Address Site Type Refined dwelling estimate
52 Land at Deards End Green Belt 227
335 Land rear of Redwood, Deards End Lane Green Belt 14
53 Land at Gypsy Lane Green Belt 229
55 Land North of Old Lane Green Belt 63
336 Land east of Old Lane Green Belt 44
57 Land south of Swangley’s Lane Green Belt 100
58 Land north of Watton Road Green Belt 100
KB/m01 Chas Lowe, London Road PDL within village boundary 14

A map of the sites is available, and you can find out more by searching for “draft emerging allocations Knebworth”, with information on the Parish Council and NHDC websites. The full detail of the Emerging Local Plan may be obtained from: www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/planning/planning-policy/emerging-local-plan

Next Steps and Timings: The next step is for a final decision by the NHDC Cabinet to submit the plan for public consultation which, in this context, is collecting responses for review by the Planning Inspector, on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The decision by Cabinet will be taken at a meeting in September, so that the statutory period of 6 weeks for the consultation will begin sometime around mid October, so there is time to examine the proposals so that you are ready to submit any comments once the consultation begins.

Note that, if you submitted comments in response to previous consultations on the plan, such as the Preferred Options consultation in December 2014, and believe that the updated plan does not fully address your concerns, you should submit your comments again in October. This time the comments will be examined by the Planning Inspector, on behalf of the Secretary of State, and not by the planning officers in NHDC, as part of his review of the whole plan. It is expected that formal submission to the Planning Inspector will happen in the first part of 2017 and approval of the plan will be some time after that, possibly not until 2018.

Joint Waste Collection and Street Cleaning Contract

A contract for waste collection and street cleansing in the District is not the most exciting topic imaginable. However, it does account for around 45% of all North Herts District expenditure, so getting it wrong could have catastrophic consequences for the Council budget. It has been decided to go out to tender jointly with East Herts as by doing this there will be an elimination of duplication in management of the contract and should result in a reduction in unit costs. Before we can do this the contract specifications for North and East Herts have to be brought into line: not least the termination date of our current contracts, but also in some detailed aspects of waste and recycling. To let the contract will therefore take quite some time, but the decision has now been made to move forward with the tender process.

Parking in Knebworth: NHDC Councillor Julian Cunningham, the NHDC executive member with responsibility for parking policy, attended the Parish Council meeting in July. Cllr Cunningham ran through the Council’s current parking policy and confirmed that the underlying principles were unlikely to change in the new policy which is about to be developed.

Residents at the meeting raised a number of issues, including hazardous parking on the east of London Road, south of Knebworth School, around the Gun Road/Gun Lane junction and along Hornbeam Spring, to mention just three of a considerable number of places of concern around the village.

Gun Lane had been previously identified as likely to benefit from extending some of the existing double yellow lines. Our county councillor, Richard Thake was also present, which was useful as Herts CC and the Herts Constabulary are consultees in matters of road safety.

NHDC Draft Local Plan: As I write there is a week to go before an extraordinary meeting of the Council to consider a draft Local Plan. If that Council meeting endorses the plan, it will be taken forward the NHDC Cabinet meeting in September as, under the council’s constitution, Cabinet has the ultimate responsibility for approving the final draft for submission for examination by the government appointed Planning Inspectorate.

Assuming that Cabinet approve the plan, public consultation will commence shortly thereafter, with a statutory six-week period. At this stage of the process the Council collates responses and submits them for examination by the Inspector, together with all associated supporting information relating to the draft plan.

You can find detailed information on the NHDC website at this address: www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/planning/planning-policy/emerging-local-plan/proposed-submission-local-plan-2011-2031

Flooding in Knebworth Cemetery: Officers from Herts CC and NHDC, Stephen McPartland MP and I inspected Knebworth cemetery (off Wadnall Way), part of which has been subject to periodic flooding, to understand what practical solutions to improving the drainage can be found. Herts CC, who are the responsible body for flood plans, explained that it was important that any changes did not increase the possibility of flooding further into the village, and thereby put properties at risk, and undertook to provide a summary of the issues.

NHDC Grants Policy: NHDC awards grants every year of around half a million pounds. The existing policy for determining eligibility for grants largely dates back to 2002 and was no longer fit for purpose, and a revised grants policy was approved by the NHDC Cabinet on 14th June. The revised policy puts some more stringent requirements on bodies applying for grants, with recommendations that: ‘precepting bodies’ (i.e. parish councils) be no longer eligible to apply for grants, no more than grant will be awarded to a body in any one year, and no grant will be given where a body has been awarded a grant in two consecutive years. Southern Rural, along with the other area committees, will suffer an approximately 50% drop in the funds available for grants.

It is recognized that parishes such as Knebworth may have difficulty raising funds for capital projects so a new capital funding scheme has been proposed which is designed to help both rural and urban capital projects. The idea is that village and community halls can be helped out when they have larger capital spending needs. The proposal is to make available a quarter of a million pounds annually.

Parking in Knebworth – meeting on 13th July: NHDC Councillor Julian Cunningham will be attending the Parish Council meeting on 13 July at 8pm. He is the Executive Member (i.e. member of NHDC Cabinet) with responsibility for parking policy. An hour at the beginning of the meeting has been set aside to discuss parking problems in the village.  

NHDC Draft Local Plan – meeting on 20th July: On 20th July there will be an extraordinary meeting of the Council to approve a draft Local Plan; as with other Council meetings this meeting is open to the public. The plan will be scrutinized by a planning inspector at a public enquiry, probably in 2017.

Flooding in Knebworth Cemetery: Stephen McPartland MP, officers from Herts CC and NHDC and I will be inspecting Knebworth cemetery (off Wadnall Way), part of which has been subject to periodic flooding, to understand what practical solutions to improving the drainage can be found.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Area: At its meeting on 14th June the NHDC Cabinet approved the Neighbourhood Plan Area for Knebworth as being the whole of the Parish. See the Parish Council article in this issue for further information about the Neighbourhood Plan.

Welcome to Steve Deakin-Davies, New NHDC Councillor for Knebworth

Following the local election for one of the NHDC seats for Knebworth ward in May, Steve Deakin-Davies was elected as a councillor. Steve enjoys living in Knebworth together with his partner and children, and has lived here for over 14 years having lived nearby previously for a similar length of time. Steve had previously been a Parish Councillor, and has been involved in a wide range of community activities, most recently with the Knebworth Festival when he ran a video and live performance night showcasing local talent. Steve is interested in helping young people get a start in life as entrepreneurs, and works as a lecturer and mentor at the University of Hertfordshire, helping set up and develop a range of businesses. Steve also has an interest in health matters, and previously work as a nurse at the Lister Hospital.

NHDC New Civic Year

The civic year for NHDC runs from May, following the local elections in Knebworth ward and a number of other NHDC seats. The new council will therefore have a different composition to the year just ended.

The Annual Meeting of the NHDC Council on 19th May is the first meeting of the new year, and includes appointment onto the various committees that make up the District Council, and the chairs and vice-chairs of the committee. Both Steve Deakin-Davies and 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, and will advise on which other(s) we will individually be on next month once the annual meeting has been held.

June will be a month with many activities, including the Knebworth Festival, and I am looking forward to going along to some of the events and will no doubt see some of you there.