Yesterday I spoke at a Planning Control Committee meeting. I was supporting the Parish Council, in the form of Cllr Roger Willcocks, in objecting to application, ‘17/02652/1 - 135A LONDON ROAD, KNEBWORTH, SG3 6EX’. This is the conversion of the old aggregates yard, part of Chas Lowe & Sons, into two 2-bed flats and two commercial (retail) units. The grounds on which we objected were principally to do with parking.

Although we did our best to convince the committee to refuse permission, only two members agreed with us. The minimum parking standards had not been met, but the committee accepted that the location justified relaxing the standard. The full argument, as well as the text of the Parish Council objection, can be read in the report of the Planning officer.

In a case like this, where the vote goes the ‘wrong’ way, my view is that the time has not been wasted as the committee’s attention is drawn to the desperately bad parking situation in the village, and may be less inclined to grant another similar application, having, perhaps, more appreciation of the severe cumulative impact of so many high-density developments going on in Knebworth.

Full details of the application can be read on the NHDC Planning Portal. Just search for the reference number on the application (in this case ‘17/02652/1’).

Station Pub Planning Application (Ref 17/01622/1)

It was good to see the support at the Pop Up Pub in the village hall last month, held as part of the SOSPUB Campaign (see photo). The planning application for the Station Pub, which retains a pub but includes development of part of the site into flats, is still to come before the NHDC Planning Control Committee, this month’s meeting is on Thursday 15th March, 7.30pm. I gave fairly extensive additional comments last month which you can find here: stevehemingway.com/posts/2018_feb

Changes to brown bin service

You should all have received a leaflet about changes to the waste and recycling services being made in May. The leaflet is available on NHDC’s website: www.north-herts.gov.uk/gardenwaste and this page is also the one to sign up through if you wish to use the brown bin service. To keep costs to a minimum NHDC is asking everyone who can to use the online option, but you can pay by phone via the general number, 01462 474000, and selecting waste services. The cost is £40 a year for one bin, with an early bird discount of £35 available if you sign up by the end of March. Payment can be by debit or credit card.

NHDC Budget 2018-19

The budget for 2018-19 was agreed at the full council meeting held in February. Total net budgeted expenditure will be £14.6m. To give some context, in 2010, total net spend for NHDC was running at £18m. Throughout the long march to reduce costs, the focus for NHDC has been to protect front-line services: those which directly affect residents of North Herts.

Of the £14.6m net expenditure, Council Tax will pay for the lion’s share, £11m, and the rest comes from Business Rates and New Homes Bonus. There are considerable increased costs flowing through as a result of various inflationary and contractual increases. Offsetting these increases are savings, primarily from the new Waste Collection and Street Cleaning contract which covers all the services the council must provide as a statutory obligation. This is around £2m per annum cheaper than the current one with Veolia, which has been running for 14 years, and some additional savings are expected in 2019-20.

The result of all this effort is that the increase in Council Tax for next year will be £6.49 for a Band D property for the year, to £223.45. Your total Council Tax bill is much higher than this as NHDC collects the tax on behalf of Herts County Council, the Herts Police, and Knebworth Parish Council.

North Herts District Council

Tel: 01462-474000 Email: service@north-herts.gov.uk Twitter: @NorthHertsDC
Web: www.north-herts.gov.uk

Contact NHDC about all the following:

  • Vandalism
  • Noise
  • Bonfires and Construction Dust
  • Licensed Premises
  • Stray Dogs
  • Public Toilets (not in villages)
  • Abandoned or burned-out vehicles
  • Dog Fouling issues
  • Council Tax/Housing Benefit
  • NHDC Housing (for the following:)
    • Actual or threatened homelessness
    • Housing debt advice
    • Advice on any housing issue
    • Common Housing Register queries

NHDC are responsible for parks and gardens in the towns in the District, but for these, call the contractor directly:

NHDC Ground Maintenance Contractors

John O’Connor

  • Pest Control: 01462-436694
  • Urban Parks (not Knebworth)

NHDC subcontract waste and street cleaning. Contact Veolia directly for these matters:

NHDC Waste and Recycling and Street Cleaning

Veolia: Tel 0800 3286023

  • Street cleaning
  • Litter and graffiti
  • Missed bin collections
  • General waste and recycling queries
  • Fly tipping
  • Drugs paraphernalia such as discarded needles

Knebworth Parish Council

Tel: 01438-813795 Web: www.knebworthparishcouncil.gov.uk/

The Parish Council is responsible for the recreation grounds and the village hall in Knebworth.


NHDC sold its council house stock in 2004 to NHH. Call them and not NHDC for matters to do with homes the own:

North Herts Homes

Tel: 01462-704100
Web: www.nhh.org.uk

If you live in a NHH property, then use the above to: * report repairs * report anti-social behaviour * discuss rent payments


The County Council is responsible for most other ‘Council’ functions in the District.

Hertfordshire County Council

Tel: 0300 1234047
Web: www.hertsdirect.org

  • Highways Fault Reporting (potholes, street lights, traffic lights, road signs, blocked storm drains)
  • Bus passes
  • Public transport information
  • Schools and childcare
  • Libraries
  • Social Care

The County Council have oversight of the Police and Fire Services:

Hertfordshire Police

In emergency, call 999 (or 112)
Non-emergency enquiries: 101.

Hertfordshire Fire & rescue

Web: www.hertsdirect.org/fire

In emergency, call 112

Non-emergencies, call 0300-123-4046

Knebworth Links

My post on Knebworth Links (especially for the Neighbourhood Plan) has some further links on contacts for Knebworth.

Councillors to consider potential scheme to regenerate Hitchin’s Churchgate Centre

A new potential joint venture opportunity for the regeneration of the Churchgate Centre in Hitchin will be discussed at a meeting of North Hertfordshire District Council’s (NHDC) Full Council on 8 February. The potential joint venture between the Council and Shearer Property Group would see a ‘face-lift’ of the existing shopping centre, improving the quality of the units available and in turn making them more attractive to retailers. The scheme would also see improved public open space and investment in Hitchin’s historic market.

At the meeting Councillors will be asked to consider supporting the principle of a joint venture regeneration of the Churchgate Centre, with the Council as funder of the regeneration. In return the Council would receive the lion’s share of the ongoing revenue generated. The Shearer Property Group would provide their specialist expertise and knowledge, essential to making a scheme such as this a success. If the principle is supported further detailed work would then be undertaken to ensure the proposals were deliverable, before a final decision is made.

The Council has been seeking to regenerate this area of Hitchin for many years, however previous potential schemes have come up against a number of challenges, including the size of the scheme, the cost of buying, knocking down and rebuilding the shopping centre and finding a suitable location for the market. It is hoped that the proposal for a smaller regeneration, which does not propose knocking down the Churchgate centre will address many of the previous concerns.

Cllr Lynda Needham, Leader of the Council said:

We are pleased that the regeneration of Churchgate is back on the agenda. The proposals would improve the retail offer in Hitchin, bring much needed investment to Hitchin Market and make the surrounding area more attractive, as well as provide an investment opportunity for the Council.

We know that the people of Hitchin are keen to see a suitable proposal come forward for the area and we look forward to debating this potential joint venture opportunity on 8 February.

My experience of the Twittersphere

I’ve been on Twitter for a long time. Since 2007. From a time before Stephen Fry discovered the medium, and many years before Donald Trump did so. I’ve mainly used it passively. I kept my account private, and followed only those authors whose work interested me. A lot of libertarian comment and analysis, some humour, especially the dark side. I have a number of followers, but get virtually no engagement with them. They are either people I follow, and feel that it is only good manners to follow back, or people who somehow have the email address linked to the account in the address book they have handed over to Twitter Inc.

Although I have never tweeted anything very incendiary, and do not follow anyone I wouldn’t want my mother to know I was following, I decided that when I was elected I’d better start a new account for the political me. This happened in 2014, and I’ve been quietly tweeting since, without much traction.

Of late I’ve decided to integrate a bit more automation, using ifttt.com, and simply linking my Twitter account to a FB page. I’d previously auto tweeted from my Tumblr blog, but that never seemed to do any good.

Anyway, for reasons quite beyond me, my follower numbers seem to be accelerating. The threat to close the Station Pub seems a catalyst. Maybe it’s just that my odd retweet is enough to create a sustaining wave. I confess to paying a magnificent £10 to promote one tweet, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again in a hurry, as there seems to be no way to localize the audience, in contrast to FB.