April 2015 Newsletter

I attended a meeting on 11 March with representatives of NHDC and Stevenage Borough Council about the transfer of ownership and management of Norton Green Common to Knebworth Parish Council. The discussion was very constructive, and all parties confirmed that they could envisage no major obstacles to the transfers taking place. The legal process will take some time, and the Parish Council have yet to ratify that they wish to take on this expanded role, but I believe that this meeting was a milestone towards the goal of improving the Common as an important piece of amenity land within the Parish.

The Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed that an inquiry will be held under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 into the application for planning permission for the Swangleys Lane Solar Farm. Datchworth Parish Council plan to submit evidence and make a representation to the inquiry. They are looking for financial support from other Parish Councils and other interested parties. The inquiry will examine the appropriateness of developing this installation on this site in the Green Belt.

On a separate, but related matter, the planning application for the solar generation facility at Three Houses Lane (ref. 14/02360/1) has been amended and is being reviewed by NHDC. The scale of the installation has been reduced, to 5MW, but it remains in the Green Belt. Nicholas Pellett is leading the objectors to this application. Knebworth Parish Council are opposed to the application.

Steve Deakin Davies is looking for singers to appear in a video for the Knebworth Festival, on 26 June. Lots of events and activities are planned for the day, including a video featuring Knebworth singers, each singing a line of ‘Perfect Day’, along the lines of the famous BBC video. Contact Steve on 07508832581 for more information.

NHDC Planning Portal: via www.north-herts.gov.uk.
Swangleys Lane Solar Farm: knebworthsolar.co.uk.
Three Houses Lane Solar Farm: saveourherts.com.
Knebworth Festival: facebook.com/Knebfest or Twitter @knebfest or stevedeakindavies@hotmail.com.

March

Swangley’s Farm Solar PV

The proposed solar farm at Swangley’s Farm has been ‘called in’. It will be referred to the Secretary of State for the Dept. for Communities and Local Government under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Section 70. This was the recommendation of the planning officer of the District Council. Documents relating to the application will now have to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate. As of the time of writing, it is not clear how long this process will take.

NHDC Council Tax

At the District Council of the 12th February it was decided to increase its proportion of Council tax by 1.9%, or £3.88 for a Band D property in Knebworth. For such a property the contribution to the District Council becomes £208.01. The balance of what you pay on your Council Tax is made up of contributions to the Parish, the Police and the County, in order of increasing cost, for the important services they provide to us all.

Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan Consultation

Welwyn Hatfield has started consulting on its Local Plan. Responses must be submitted by the 20th March, so there is still time for you to comment. For residents of Knebworth the proposal that is likely to be of most interest is the potential development of the field between Gun Meadow Avenue and Monread Lodge, although there are a number of proposals along the B197 which will have an impact on Knebworth.

There is a Local Plan drop-in Consultation Event for the Welhat Plan on 7th March at Hatfield Hub, 56, Town Centre, Hatfield, AL10 0JJ. For further information contact the Welwyn Hatfield Planning Policy Team on 01707 357 000 or at planningpolicy@welhat.gov.uk.

Future of the Knebworth GP Surgery

Herts County Council have now confirmed their intention of Herts County Council that its intention is to enter into an agreement with General Practice Investments, a developer, to re-develop the current library site into a new Library, a GP surgery and an associated pharmacy. This is subject to HCC and GPI finding acceptable terms for the agreement. Stephen McPartland, Richard Thake and I, together with Graham Fothergill, representing both the Patient Participation Group, and the Parish Council, had a meeting last year, with the practice manager where we learned of this general intention. It is only this month (Jan) that HCC have confirmed their general intention.

I am sure that residents of the village will all welcome this development, which should ensure that Knebworth has a modern, fit-for-purpose, GP surgery for many years to come. As many of you will know, the library site has been the one that has been preferred by Knebworth and Marymead General Practice for some years. I am very glad that the process has moved on a stage so that we can look forward to a new surgery opening, if everything goes well, in the next few years.

Norton Green Common

I am pleased to report that Knebworth Parish Council has entered into a Stewardship Agreement with Natural England for the management of Norton Green Common. This agreement comes with over seven hundred pounds of grants from Natural England to restore the Common to a good condition. However the work needs to be done and the subcommittee are looking for volunteers to do it! It is hoped that two days of will be organised in the New Year when volunteers will be invited to work on clearance of the Common. In addition to the grant from Natural England, now the Common is registered it is eligible for payments from the Rural Payments Agency. To find out more please contact the Clerk to the Parish Council.

I should mention that the Stewardship Agreement represents major progress in the log hard slog that is the restoration of Norton Green Common. It would not have been possible without tireless effort on the part of Rosemary Pateman, Karen Robinson and the Parish Clerk.

Local Plan

By the time you read this the Extraordinary Parish Meeting scheduled for the 20th January will have been held. There is time to send your response to the consultation to NHDC. Just email your comments to localplans@north-herts.gov.uk or send via the post to Planning Policy, NHDC, PO Box 480, Sale, M33 0DE. If you use email, please think about copying in me and the Parish Council (clerk@knebworthpc.org.uk). The deadline for submissions is the sixth of February, so don’t delay!

JANUARY UPDATE

NHDC Local Plan - Preferred Options Consultation

The submissions made by members of the public to the Preferred Options Consultation, undertaken as part of the development of a new Local Plan, are now available on NHDC’s website. Every written response is available to read online - go to the page you get to by searching for ‘“Planning Policy Online Consultations” north-herts’.

NHDC’s Grants Policy

A report on Grants Policy is due to be discussed at the meeting of Cabinet on the 15th December. This will be reviewed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee by the end of February 2016.

Grants represent a modest, but important part of North Herts District Council’s cost base, and have to be reviewed just as we review all our spending commitments. Knebworth has to pay for the upkeep of its village hall, pavilion and recreation grounds through the precept levied by Knebworth Parish Council. Voters in the towns in the District have the equivalent expenditure paid for directly by the District Council, ie through the Council Tax paid by all householders in the District. Rural grants, to a degree, compensate villages for this anomaly. For this reason, the review of grants policy is very important to us, and I will continue to argue for a fair deal for the ‘parished’ areas.

I would like to take a moment to reflect on the passing year. 2015 was a notable year with a number of major proposals put forward, most now decided, but others, most notably the development of the draft Local Plan, that will continue into 2016. Some of these could have significant impact on the village, and I hope you will continue to make your views known, and I will continue to try to reflect these in discussions with NHDC as your elected councillor.

There will be changes to your representation on NHDC as my fellow councillor, Alan Bardett, will be retiring at the end of his term in May 2016 when local elections will be held for some of the wards within NHDC including, this time, Knebworth.

I look forward to the year ahead and wish you all a Happy New Year.

NHDC Waste Collection

David Percival in last month’s Parish News commented: “contracted refuse collectors routinely dump emptied wheelie bins at random on pavements all around our village”. I contacted the officer at NHDC responsible for the waste and recycling contract with Veolia and this is what she wrote about the contract:

“The operatives should be placing any bins or boxes back where they came from. They, in particular, should not be leaving them obstructing driveways or footpaths unnecessarily. Windy days can be a problem generally however if they are returned to the boundary of a property they are often next to a wall or hedge which helps prevent this problem.  

We do have Waste Services Officers out monitoring the contract, so I have copied [the relevant officer] in who will be about to check some of the streets in Knebworth over the next few collections.

It is clear that the Veolia operatives are not perfect, but hopefully this reminder will provoke an improvement in the service. If residents notice any problems they can contact the NHDC helpdesk on 0800 328 6023 who will monitor the level of complaints from Knebworth. Alternatively feel free to contact me about this directly.

North Hertfordshire Local Plan

NHDC is due to vote on moving to the next stage in the production of the Local Plan at its meeting on 27th November. This will approve the Local Development Scheme which sets out the timetable for consultation, but will include the publication of the “Preferred Options”, i.e. sites which the council have put forward as suitable for development. Consultation on this document, as well as on the numerous planning policies that together with the sites form the Plan, will take place from early December through to the first week of February (these are provisional dates and are still to be confirmed). Full information about the proposals will be available in the Library and on the NHDC website.

Planning Matters - Update

Solar Farm PV Applications: The Swangley’s Lane application was due to be discussed by NHDC Planning Control at its committee meeting on 13th November but the NHDC officer wrote to advise me that it had been withdrawn from the agenda as the applicant had written to the planning officers “setting out additional proposals to mitigate the impact of the scheme on the surrounding landscape and to address the concerns regarding the impact of the development on the Green Belt.“. There will now be further public consultation and NHDC expect it to be discussed at the planning meeting on 18th December. Consideration of the Three Houses Lane solar farm has been delayed because of errors in the application and no date is yet scheduled for it to come before the planning committee.

Knebworth Park Cricket Club: Consideration of this application was deferred by NHDC planning because of late submission of a revised design of the pavilion and of a Flood Risk Assessment and drainage plans. It is expected that the application will be reconsidered at the NHDC Planning Control committee meeting on 18th December.

111 London Road: Following our objections, the developer provided a revised application with extra parking spaces and a contribution to affordable housing in the NHDC area and the committee has now accepted it.