Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan 2019 - 2031
In gathering the views of those people who live in, work in, or visit Knebworth, it became apparent very early after the 2017 survey and confirmed in later public consultations, that the businesses, including retail, centred around the 'high street' (see the Policies Map), formed an essential part of why 'Knebworth is a good place to live'. Retention and enhancement of the Village centre, including the improvement of access to the village centre by pedestrians and cyclists is, therefore, a key objective of these policies, see also (HCC, 2018) and Policy KBT1 Sustainable Modes of Travel).
However, it is recognised that local hubs of shops, community spaces and small business units, will be necessary to support both the reduction of dependence on motor vehicles and those people unable to walk to the Village centre.
There is an increasing trend for businesses to operate 'on-line', for employees to more frequently operate from home, for more people to become self-employed and for small start-up companies to commence and grow, locally. There has also, recently, been a significant loss of employment opportunities, due to the re-allocation of business/commercial premises to residential use. This gives increased impetus to the need to retain/provide facilities for use as shared workplaces, for un-shared business units, for business storage, for improved communication and connectivity, and for business vehicle parking and access.
New premises for business use need to be encouraged throughout the Knebworth Parish, in places where there is good access and where the activities do not negatively impact those living nearby. This is consistent with NHDCLP Policy SP3.
The following objectives relate to policies on the local economy:
- Support existing employment locations within the built-up area of the Plan and encourage new employment opportunities throughout the parish
- Encourage and support a diverse range of retail and service uses in the village centre, retain and protect the 'high street' retail frontage and retain the two public houses
- Encourage the provision of suitable buildings for small scale businesses (including community shops) within new residential developments
- Encourage the growth of home-based businesses including the provision of shared workspaces
KBLE1 New Businesses
Proposals for new business space within the existing Retail Area or at other existing commercial locations will be supported, providing they do not adversely impact local amenities or traffic conditions.
In recent years several businesses have left the village and their vacated sites have been granted planning permission for a change of use from employment to residential. This Policy aims to reverse the recent loss of businesses from the village centre and from around the railway station by encouraging additional employment opportunities for current residents and for residents of the 30% increase in residential properties proposed in the (NHDCLP, 2016, pp. 176-179).
The Neighbourhood Plan supports the viability of local businesses and their expansion, and the establishment of new businesses where this is proportionate and appropriate in the individual circumstances. The intention is to avoid Knebworth becoming even more of a "dormitory" settlement which is over dependent on outward commuting. This issue was highlighted in the AECOM Report (AECOM, Feb 2019, p. 13) which states that 'Facilities and offices to stimulate local businesses should be developed around the 'high street'. This is consistent with NHDCLP Policy SP4 'Town and Local Centres'
KBLE2 Rural Businesses
Proposals for the conversion, expansion or change of use of rural buildings for business and tourism uses are likely to be supported where the development conforms to national and county guidance, and Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan policies, is well designed and proportionate to existing buildings, meets accessibility requirements and is demonstrated to have a minimal traffic impact .
Very little land is available within the settlement boundary of Knebworth to accommodate new businesses to generate employment. However, the Neighbourhood Plan area does include a large rural area. Some businesses already operate from buildings previously used for agricultural purposes. There may be scope for further new businesses in redundant or under-utilised suitable rural buildings, or home conversions, provided that the businesses are appropriately scaled and ensure minimal impact on adjacent residential properties. (NHDCLP, 2016) para 5.9 and a briefing document which highlights "Rural services account for most of the economic activity and the majority of jobs in rural areas. With a share of 65% of the rural Gross Value Added (GVA) (1) in 2013 in the EU, services include: both public and private services for people (education, health, public transport, social care, dentists, post offices, shops, garages, etc.); services for business (finance, consultancy, etc.)" (Business Models for Business Services, p. 1),
This policy will encourage the provision of additional employment opportunities for current and future residents throughout the Neighbourhood Plan Area.
It will also enable owners to make better use of, or bring back into use, existing agricultural buildings for local start-up hi-tech businesses and mixed-use premises for small businesses including offices and small commercial units. It is expected that such businesses would predominantly be of Class E – commercial, business and service and B8 – storage and distribution.
The NHDCLP recognises the benefits tourism can bring to an area and acknowledges that its rural area is a place for people to visit, for tourism as well as leisure and its contribution to the provision of jobs in policies SP3 Employment and ERC8 Tourism. The NPPF para 83 (NPPF, Feb 2019) supports a prosperous rural economy and states that planning policies and decisions should enable sustainable and accessible rural tourism development which respects the character of the countryside and also the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of businesses in rural areas, both through the conversion of existing buildings and well-designed new buildings.
Knebworth House already attracts tourists and there may be opportunities for more tourism related development in the surrounding area. This policy to support growth of rural businesses is consistent with NHDCLP Policy ETC2: 'Employment development outside Employment Areas'
KBLE3 Village Centre and Existing Businesses
The village centre supports a diverse range of retail and service uses which should be retained, wherever possible. Existing premises with ground floor access should retain an active retail frontage and new buildings should create new active retail frontage, in the Retail Area, as defined on the Policies Map, i.e. parts of 'high street' (London Road) and Station Road.
Redevelopment of any of the buildings on the 'high street' (London Road) will require the retention of the characteristically wide footway by fixing the building line no less than 23ft (7metres) from the current centre of the highway.
To encourage the retention of Knebworth's unique SME's, proposals to convert existing business land (buildings and/or associated unbuilt areas) to residential, outside the village centre including no 1 Stockens Green, Art Van Go at no 1 Stevenage Road, The Station public house and no 2 Station Approach, will not be supported, unless alternative land/buildings for flexible business space/workshops are provided within the Knebworth settlement boundary (as defined in NHDCLP).
The loss of existing business premises outside Knebworth settlement boundary including The Lytton Arms public house and the radio station, Old Knebworth Lane will be resisted.
The January 2017 (KNP Consultation Statement, 2019) survey revealed that residents are generally happy with the current retail businesses in the village. The community wishes to ensure no decline in the provision of goods and services within the village centre and to ensure that village centre businesses are supported by adequate road-frontage short term parking and controlled traffic flow.
Policy SP4 Town and Local Centres (NHDCLP, 2016) is to maintain and enhance the vitality and viability of village centres. It recognises that Knebworth village centre is currently large enough to provide a focus for the community local to it and considers that it is important that this type of centre continues to provide a mix of shopping, services and community facilities.
Consultation carried out in the process of preparing the Neighbourhood Plan including the open days held in April 2018 and March 2019 revealed that local people believe that to remain a viable retail centre, it is necessary to retain a diverse mix of businesses that cater for the needs of the community in a shopping area that is attractive to, and safe for, shoppers and other 'high street' users. Local businesses said that they are restricted by the lack of parking provision for staff and for customers (KNP Consultation Statement, 2019).
In terms of the width of the carriageway in the village centre, specifically on London Road. It should be noted that the bulk of traffic using the 'high street' does not stop in the village, and is through traffic on the B197, travelling between Stevenage and Welwyn, and beyond. National planning design guidelines (The Planning Service) for parking standards for carriageways, parking bays and pavements indicate a minimum requirement (5.4m for the roadway, 2.4m each side for parking and 2m for footway each side. However, this parking width is still inadequate for delivery vehicles unloading to shops where light vans and other vehicles require more space e.g. the space requirement for a light van is 2.4m x 5.5m. Ideally the 'high street' would meet the national planning design guides for footway, carriageway and parking bay widths.
The negative effect of congestion caused by on-street parking and through traffic on the village retail centre and the lack of off-street parking is addressed in the policies within the Traffic, Transport and Parking section of this Plan. The AECOM Report points out that 'Residents overwhelmingly reported that traffic congestion locks the 'high street' (London Road) during peak hours. New development will lead to an increase in the number of users and eventually more congestion' (AECOM, Feb 2019, p. 13).
While respondents to surveys and comments recorded at open days were generally favourable about the retail mix, many stated that the provision of public houses and restaurants in the village was inadequate. This is recorded in 2017-01 KNP Survey issues summary v1.1 (KNP Consultation Statement, 2019) and Section 1.6 of the AECOM Report (AECOM, Feb 2019, p. 13). This feeling is so strong that villagers vigorously opposed the loss of one of the two public houses in the Plan area and authorised Knebworth Parish Council to purchase The Station Pub, which has now been completed. The pub successfully re-opened in early 2020, before and again after the initial Covid lockdown, and forms a gateway to the village due to its convenient location opposite Knebworth station.'
KBLE4: Community businesses
The provision of flexible buildings (such as multiple occupancy office/business centres) for use by small businesses, or local community shops within major residential developments located away from the village 'high street', will be encouraged and supported.
NHDC recognises in its draft Local Plan that scattered local shops, services and other facilities provide residents with transport-free access to important goods and services. They also minimize the need to travel, and the less mobile are particularly reliant on these facilities. Policy KBLE4 will encourage developers to include flexible, appropriate satellite retail, small business and entertainment units as part of any new housing developments without detracting from the current 'high street' retail outlets. The provision of community shops would cater for people unable to walk to the 'high street' and would reduce car journeys in line with the recommendations of Transport for New Homes (Transport for New Homes, 2018, p. 19).
Many talented and well-educated young people have to leave the village and the area to find suitable employment (NHDC, 2016, p. 13) Providing mixed-use premises for small businesses including offices and small commercial units may help to reverse this trend.
The community wishes to encourage the provision of some purpose-built small units within the larger new development areas, to enable local start-up hi-tech businesses and mixed-use premises for small businesses including shops, offices, shared workspaces and small commercial units.
KBLE5 Home working
Where planning permission is required, proposals which enable homeworking will be supported, subject to there being no unacceptable impact on local or residential amenities.
The community wishes to encourage homeworking, with particular emphasis on flexibility of use of domestic premises. Homeworking is seen as a means of encouraging business and creating a sustainable community with less commuting, saving individuals the cost of travel and increasing their leisure time. It is estimated, using the neighbourhood plan survey results, that nearly 10% of Knebworth's working people regularly work from home therefore about 90% travel to work (Knebworth Parish Council, 2019).
Since there are limited employment opportunities in Knebworth most of the planned increase in residents will commute from the village unless small business opportunities are available, or home working is positively encouraged (AECOM, Feb 2019, p. 13). Reduction in or elimination of commuting time can improve worker health and productiveness, as well as the environmental benefits of less traffic pollution.
Developers will be expected to work with telecoms providers to facilitate the provision of a robust high-speed broadband infrastructure. to all properties within their developments to encourage and facilitate homeworking and small business use. On larger developments this may include retail/business units.
The community wishes to ensure that the ongoing sustainability of small businesses and homeworking is not restricted or curtailed by poor telecommunications. Good telecommunications are particularly important in supporting the viability and sustainability of homeworking and small businesses (AECOM, Feb 2019, p. 13) The NPPF states that advanced, high quality and reliable communications infrastructure is essential for economic growth and social wellbeing (para 112 (NPPF, Feb 2019).