On 4th May, elections were held for the County Council. Richard Thake was re-elected to represent Knebworth, as well as Codicote, St Pauls Walden, Kimpton, Wymondley and St Ippolyts.
Residents are often unclear about the difference between the County and District councils. The County Council runs social care, children’s services (including schools) and the highways (other than motorways and trunk roads), and for Hertfordshire has a budget of around £1.85 billion, spending £1,625 per head of population.
The District Council has a budget of less than one percent of that of the county, around £16.6 million, with spend of £125 per head, so County spends approximately 13x as much per capita.
One of the primary functions of the District Council is to act as the Planning Authority. This does affect us a lot - the reason I write about it here so often. It is important to understand the distinction between Planning Policy: the production of the Local Plan; and Planning Control: the process by which applications are development are checked against the appropriate local, and national, planning policies.
Inevitably, there is scope for developer and objector to disagree on exactly what they are permitted to build according to the policies in place. The District Council employs a team of planning officers, who are professionally qualified to interpret planning law. They determine routine applications under authority delegated from the Planning Control Committee. The bigger, or more contentious applications are examined by members of this committee, all of whom are elected councillors.
Although there seems to be a view that once a Plan is adopted, there is nothing further that residents can do to shape development, this is not the case. Individual applications will still have to be reviewed as part of the Planning Control process, which gives residents a say in what ends up being built. Objectors have been successful in blocking, or causing major modifications of several applications recently. Applications for solar farms on two Green Belt sites were refused or abandoned. Even if an application is granted, it may be possible for residents to make the grant subject to the developer taking prescribed actions. For example, he may be required to fund to local infrastructure.