March Update

If you had been wondering why news of the progress of the Neighbourhood Plan has been quiet recently, this is because we were all waiting patiently for the Parish Council to scrutinise the details of our draft submission document. This was no mean feat at 111 pages!

However, we are now pleased to be able to inform you that Knebworth Parish Council (KPC) approved the official Draft Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan during their February meeting. We feel that, not only is this a strong indication of the strength of the backing we have from KPC, but a considerable endorsement of all the work of the Steering Committee so far.

We knew that there would be several steps in the process to follow, but we were all somewhat surprised to learn that this process can be broken down into around 20 more steps! So, the work continues.

The three most imminent stages to be implemented are:

  • Submit Strategic Environmental Assessment Screening Report to North Herts District Council
  • Prepare Summary document for Knebworth Parish residents
  • Distribute Summary with Parish Update newsletter – 6-week consultation and Open Day (March/April)

As usual, we will keep you informed, in the meantime please check the website for updated documentation and information.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

February Update

If you use the buses or trains, if you use the B197 or use the High Street, if you drive or park a car in Knebworth, or if others park in your street this is relevant to you. Traffic, Transport and Parking was one of the working groups developed during the survey and consultation stages of the Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan. Feelings run high and there are plenty of opinions to be heard on these matters within Knebworth.

With this in mind, we would like to bring the following items to your attention: Hertfordshire County Council has developed the North Central Growth and Transport Plan (NCGTP) which covers the northern end of the A1(M), including the towns of Stevenage, Hitchin, Letchworth Garden City, Baldock and Royston, and key transport links between these towns and to surrounding areas.  The NCGTP considers the key problems and opportunities which currently exist, or may in the future, on the transport network and identifies what types of interventions are needed to improve the transport network. There is also a draft South Central Growth and Transport Plan which covers the southern end of the A1(M) and includes the towns of Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City.

Public consultations on both the draft North Central Growth and Transport Plan and draft South Central Growth and Transport Plan started on 6th January, 2020 and close 30th March 2020.

Hertfordshire County Council is also currently consulting on its proposed Local Transport Plan via its Rail Strategy Consultation, which can be found here: https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/about-the-council/consultations/transport-and-highways/rail-strategy-consultation.aspx#. It sets out the County Council’s aspirations for developing the rail network in Hertfordshire at both the strategic and local level.  This document is a revision of the strategy originally adopted in 2016.

Also, NHDC is currently looking at parking management and how this can be implemented. There is a consultation out from NHDC on their Parking Strategy, which should be read in conjunction with the previously approved parking strategy, which can be found at: https://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/parking/parking-strategy in pdf format. This is a reasonably interesting and important document as there is reference to ‘improvements’ in Knebworth and the B197.  

The detail of how NHDC proposes to implement the policy framework set out in the Parking Strategy will be contained in a separate document, the ‘NHDC Parking Operational Guidelines’, which will set out the necessary guidance and assessment criteria to be followed.

These Guidelines are currently under preparation and will be presented to the NHDC Area Committees and Cabinet in Spring 2020.  If you have any queries regarding the NHDC Parking Strategy, its Strategic Action Plan or its associated documents please email transport@north-herts.gov.uk

In addition to these issues, there have been changes to the bus services through Knebworth and these can be found at: https://bustimes.org/localities/knebworth and https://www.centrebus.info/service-changes/  Please note specifically that the 388 is affected at the current time. We hope you find this helpful and that you are able to comment if you wish to.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

December Update

The good news is that the Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan (KNP) is so thorough and comprehensive that “it’s the biggest Neighbourhood Plan” that our planning professional has ever dealt with. Residents should be reassured by this as it means that we have taken on your views comprehensively and dealt with your local concerns and issues, at least those which fall into the scope of the NP*.  However, Devil is in the detail and to ensure that everything is absolutely correct we have decided to submit it to the December meeting rather than November.

Following intense and extensive extra sessions, it now looks very certain that we’re on course to have it ready for Parish Councillors to review in time to discuss at their meeting on 11th December.

You might be interested to know that one of the issues within the KNP is how important the Green Belt is around Knebworth, particularly with regard to avoiding coalescence with other settlements such as Stevenage.  NHDC produced a document in 2016, which was revised in September 2018 before they made amendments to their own NHDC Local Plan. 

We would like to draw your attention to the North Hertfordshire Green Belt Review Update 2018 on the NHDC website Local Plan Examination Page  https://www.north-herts.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/local-plan/local-plan-examination/examination-documents. It clearly shows that the Green Belt around Knebworth plays a significant part in helping to keep separation from other settlements. One of the reasons that the Planning Inspector has asked for more hearings to take place is because NHDC commissioned the Green Belt Report and then appeared to ignore the findings.

That might help you understand why we are still waiting for further information on the status of the NHDC Local Plan and any potential impact due to the Inspector’s requirement for more hearings.

*The scope of the Neighbourhood Plan is often a cause for confusion as it can only deal with planning issues. We intend to make the scope clear when we ask for your views again.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

November Update

We are still waiting for further information on the status of the NHDC Local Plan and any potential impact due to the Inspector’s requirement for more hearings.

In the meantime, we are continuing with the development of the KNP Draft Pre-submission document and it is intended to present this to the Parish Council at their November meeting for review and comments.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

October Update

Those of you wondering about the purpose of the Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan (KNP) should perhaps consider the photos below; these show the current stages of two large, current developments in our village. Do you like them? Do you think they are of a good design, or the right size for the plot? Has the village ambience been captured in their schemes? What about the impact on the current community services and amenities?

Once we have a Neighbourhood Plan in place, we can have some influence over planning proposals and help mitigate the effects of proposed developments such as these.  As we have mentioned previously, Neighbourhood Planning is actively promoted by the Government through the Localism Act and “………..  Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community where the ambition of the neighbourhood is aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area.” What we want to achieve is a vision for the future of Knebworth Parish and create a sense of community and a sense of ownership of the village by the residents and businesses.

Follow our progress by checking the website:  https://knebworthneighbourhoodplan.org.uk/ or via the Parish Council website:  https://www.knebworthparishcouncil.gov.uk/neighbourhood-plan.html.

However, there has been a recent development with the NHDC Local Plan.  Following the Main Modification changes to the NHDC Local Plan, the Planning Inspector now requires more hearings. This is quite unusual. The implications are that it’s possible that the number of new dwellings required in North Herts may change, increase or decrease, with a consequential impact on Knebworth. This will delay the progress of NHDC Local Plan and possibly the Neighbourhood Plan too. 

Hopefully, we will have more information on the impact of these delays soon.

Meanwhile we will continue to the ‘Pre-submission’ stage. Our Planning Consultant is in the course of combining all our research, consultation results and individual subject group texts into a combined, structured document. This paper will be the basis of our Draft Pre-submission document and this work is continuing.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

August Update

For those of you trying to keep up to date with everything that’s changing in Knebworth and our neighbouring villages, here’s the current situation with the Neighbourhood Plan.

Following on from the policies documents that were accepted by the Parish Council in June, we are now in a position to present drafts of the important Consultation Strategy and Consultation Statement for review by the Parish Council at their July meeting. These are required as part of the official process and will need to be submitted to NHDC for scrutiny. We were surprised just how many consultations and surveys we have conducted to get to this stage.

After three years of working on the Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan, the Steering Committee felt pleased that the end of the exercise is in sight within the next 12 months. However, we have been alerted to a recent call for development sites by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and have been
particularly disheartened to see what they are planning for their own Local Plan, specifically with reference to additional housing in Woolmer Green. The effects on the amenities and infrastructure in Knebworth will be significant, especially traffic issues and local services such as the GP Surgery. More detailed information on the impact of these proposals will become clear once we have had the opportunity to study the details more fully.

So the work of mitigating the effects of these developments continues and it highlights how important it is to have a Neighbourhood Plan in place as soon as we can. You will be asked to take part in a local referendum as part of the process.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

July Update

The current position

We have been working on mitigating the impact of the huge developments allocated by the North Herts District Council Local Plan for nearly three years now. Your contributions have helped and the revised policies were presented to the Parish Council at their meeting on 12 th June by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Steering Committee. Various queries were raised and explained, with the result that the proposed acceptance of the revised KNP policies document was carried without objections.

We are now in the process of writing the actual Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan (KNP) document. This will demonstrate the work that we have undertaken to get to this stage and show that we have met the legal requirements for producing a Neighbourhood Plan. Heavy stuff!

We will include some background history of the development of Knebworth, collate all the research information around the concerns highlighted by consultation with residents and stakeholders and include some photos. Looking through some of these photos, to determine which to include, has reminded us of Knebworth’s intrinsic character and what we are trying to preserve.

Our next deadline is the July meeting of the Parish Council when we hope to present the KNP document to be used for the Pre-submission Consultation.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

June Update

As mentioned last month, the Steering Committee has revised and refined some of the policies following your feedback at the Open Day at the beginning of March. Thank you to everyone who came along and gave us your comments.

The Chair and Vice Chair of the Steering Committee both spoke in some detail about the Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan (KNP) during the Annual Parish Meeting of the Parish Council on 1 st May, particularly regarding what can and can’t be done under a neighbourhood plan.

For example, the allocation of over 700 homes in and around Knebworth is a result of the NHDC Local Plan. It is NHDC who have allocated and allowed the Green Belt to be designated for development. There have been opportunities over the past two years to comment to NHDC regarding their proposals, but the consultation period has now closed. Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan is trying to mitigate the consequences of these allocations. You can view our efforts so far on the website.

There was a lot of comment from the Open Day regarding the lack of restaurants, wine bars and new shops. As residents ourselves, we agree with what you are saying but, although the KNP Steering Committee would welcome all of these enterprises to enrich the lives of local people, unfortunately the initiative to open these undertakings has to be from people or companies wanting to start new businesses here in Knebworth. If you know of anyone looking for a suitable location for a new enterprise, then please direct them to one of our vacant premises.

There were several suggestions for new family homes to be built, with adequate parking places on site, rather than any more retirement residences. We are trying to influence these requirements with our policies. Similarly, we are trying to influence the provision of better road access to the new areas and other parts of the village.  Once finalised, Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan will have a legal status, North Herts District Council and the developers are obliged to take notice.

Unfortunately, despite there being many comments about the train service, the KNP cannot insist that extra trains are run every day, however there is a very active Knebworth Rail Users Forum – https://www.facebook.com/groups/knebworthruf/ – for anyone who is interested – it is a public group. For those wanting improved local bus services there is Bus Users Group Stevenage (BUGS) – https://www.bususers.org/your-local-group/bugs-bus-users-group-stevenage/about-us. They are “an independent group committed to campaigning for good quality bus services in Stevenage and the surrounding areas as well as speaking up for bus users in the area. Bus Users Group Stevenage works closely with local bus operators, Hertfordshire County Council, Stevenage Borough Council and other interested parties locally. We arrange public meetings on issues affecting local bus users, campaign on transport related issues and assist passengers with resolving their complaints.

Environmental and flooding concerns can be addressed on the Hertfordshire County Council website at: https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/services/Recycling-waste-and-environment/Water/Flooding-in-Hertfordshire.aspx. There are many more useful links to contacts for various services on the Knebworth Parish Council website at: https://www.knebworthparishcouncil.gov.uk.

Our revised policies will now be scrutinised by the Parish Council and, if agreed, will then be presented at an initial meeting with NHDC for discussion. There will be further consultations with residents later in the year.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

May Update

We have now had the opportunity to review the comments that you gave us at the Open Day in March. On the whole, the feedback was quite positive with between 67.35% – 89.36% in favour of the policies, the rest having reservations about aspects of some of the policies, or no view on them.

As anyone who lives in Knebworth would expect, there was very strong support for avoiding coalescence with Stevenage; Knebworth’s distinctive village identity is important to residents. Traffic, Transport and Parking (TT&P) produced the most comments and continued concerns. As a result of some very helpful observations from a local expert, the TT&P working group has scoped an application for funding for Technical Assistance on Transport. NHDC never seem to understand the problems and concerns that everyone has on these issues, despite many residents responding to their consultations in the past.

We are currently updating some of the policies in light of the feedback we have received. We then have to gather and collate all of the supporting reference documents, evidence, charts, photos and tables to prepare the consultation documents that need to be produced for NHDC. Also, we intend
to produce an Action Plan to keep us focused on what everyone requires to be achieved during the course of the process.

Watch this space!

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee

April update

We would like to thank everyone who attended the Open Day on Saturday 2nd March. Hopefully, the displays of maps, photos and spreadsheets helped everyone to understand the processes that have been undertaken over the last couple of years in order to arrive at our current point. Thank you too for standing and reading the policies, despite the daunting amount of print, and for listening to the presentations.

If you missed the event, but would still like to be up to date on what is proposed, the link below will take you to a page which contains documents that were available at the Open Day – https://www.knebworthparishcouncil.gov.uk/neighbourhood-plan.html.

Now we need to review the feedback that you gave us, summarise the significant things that we need to address and decide how we incorporate any suggestions into the existing policies/text/appendices/action plan etc. These are our next steps and we will keep you informed on what happens.

Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee