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.

NHDC Emerging Local Plan

The process of producing the new Local Plan for the North Herts District is progressing. The record number of over 8,000 responses to the Preferred Options consultation last year has meant that, despite long hours of work from the Planning Policy Officers, the consideration of the comments will take until the summer and Consultation on the Proposed Submission to the Secretary of State will follow thereafter. The formal submission is expected to be made in March 2017 according to the current timetable (Local Development Scheme).

There have been some suggestions that there will be a substantial increase in the housing allocation numbers in the Emerging Local Plan. It is the case that recent revised ONS figures suggest an increase, and it is also the case that the National Planning Policy Framework suggests that sites are identified in excess of the actual need to allow for some flexibility. It is expected that there will be more clarity on this in the next weeks.

As part of the Consultation, a number of new sites have been put forward for review by the officers. They are in the process of being evaluated against exactly the same criteria that were used to select the sites that were included in the Preferred Options consultation. In Knebworth itself, three additional sites have been put forward for consideration for inclusion in the Local Plan – see http://www.north-herts.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/local-plan-emerging-policy/draft-local-plan-2011-2031/local-plan-preferred (click on the text which reads “New sites 2015 (additional sites submitted since 2013)”). All are currently in the Green Belt, so this is, essentially, a suggestion that they be taken out of the Green Belt. On the document titled “NHDC Local Plan - New Sites 2015” these sites are numbered 334, 335 and 336. They are Cnebba’s Field, Old Knebworth, the land to the rear of Redwoods in Deards End Lane, and land east of Old Knebworth lane. The three sites would comprise 79 potential dwellings in all, but only if the sites are found to have met the criteria for inclusion. No decision on this have yet been made.

Knebworth GP Surgery

I am regularly asked about the status of the new GP surgery. As I understand it, a planning application is due to be made this month, assuming that the new arrangements for the Library are confirmed by HCC in a cabinet meeting scheduled for 28th April. I understand the impatience that people feel about this, but emphasise that NHDC is not responsible for the delays.

Thank you to retiring Councillor Alan Bardett

After serving as a District Councillor for over 14 years, Alan Bardett has decided to retire and therefore not seek re-election in this year’s elections. I would like to offer my great thanks to Alan for showing me the ropes and giving me advice when I was a new councillor only two years ago, as well as for all his efforts on behalf of our village over the many years of service.

Annual Parish Meeting – Wednesday, 4th May

I will be attending the Annual Parish Meeting on 4th May. Please see the article from the Parish Council for more details.

Council Tax for 2016-17 – NHDC Budget

At the full North Herts District Council meeting on 11 Feb the Executive Member for Finance, Terry Hone, presented his budget for next year (Apr 2016 – Mar 2017) for the District, later than usual as central government took a long while to decide on the financial settlement for local councils. The settlement for NHDC is £871,000 of Revenue Support Grant for next year and after that zero, i.e. from April 2017 NHDC’s expenditure (net of income received) has to be provided 100% by local Council Tax Payers. NHDC is one of only 15 local authorities in England to be facing a zero revenue support grant, which reflects the relative prosperity of the residents of North Herts. However, as a result of the response to the consultation on the financial settlement to local authorities’ additional central government funding has been provided. A so-called Transition Grant has been awarded to NHDC to ease the move to zero RSG. This amounts to £285,000 in total and will be received over the next two civic years.

The budget for 201617 results in the District component of Council Tax being set at the equivalent of £211.96 for a Band D property, an increase of 1.9% over the current year. For a Band D property, the charge for the cost of services provided by NHDC is therefore 58p per day, or just over £4 per week; the increase is only 1.1p per day. The recommendation to adopt the budget received all party support at the council meeting.

Of course, your Council Tax bill includes elements to fund services provided by the County Council, the Police and the Parish Council, so your total Council Tax bill will be considerably greater.

District-Wide Survey

NHDC seeks to understand people’s satisfaction with the Council and its services. A North Herts District Wide Survey is a consultation exercise that takes place every two years. The survey consists of approximately 1,000 residents from across North Hertfordshire who are consulted via telephone interviews. These interviews are carried out by independent consultants.

The most recent survey was carried out in October and November last year. The report from this survey is expected to be presented to Cabinet next month, and will be available on the website from about mid-March.

As part of the District-Wide Survey new members of the Citizen’s Panel are selected. This is a group of residents who are regularly contacted about their views on Council performance, so that trends in satisfaction levels can be tracked on a more frequent basis than every two years.