Bishop’s Stortford is witnessing a large number of prospective developments which could affect the town in various ways, including some on which the Civic Federation's views are being actively sought. We are therefore issuing this newsletter to help our members keep abreast of what is under consideration and to give them the opportunity to feed in their views to help the Civic Federation make a positive difference to the future of Bishop's Stortford.”
With best wishes,
Solum, the proposed developers of the station goods yard, have begun to prepare a master plan following public consultation earlier this year. They have been sharing their emerging ideas with a number of local organisations including the Civic Federation. In contrast with much of our past experience of public consultation, Solum do seem to have responded positively to some of the concerns expressed to them in nearly 400 responses.
As a result, their suggestions include the following
The main content of the development is proposed to be residential. Their aspiration is for some 700 apartments in blocks of from 4 to 6 storeys and in one case 7 storeys.
Solum have asked the Civic Federation for feedback from their presentation and, as with the Causeway, we would like to hear what you have to say (contact details below). Further public consultation is planned for the New Year but if you have any aspirations for the site which we might offer in advance, we would like to hear from you.
East Herts Council have confirmed that they have re-purchased the property which they disposed of to Henderson Global Investors in 2010. They will be buying property which they did not previously own (No 1 the Causeway) and obtaining the freehold interest on other property where they had previously only been a leaseholder (Charringtons House). This means that the purchase price is not directly comparable with the proceeds generated by the previous sale.
However, from the Civic Federation’s perspective, the key issue is not the financial case, but what will now happen to the site. Formally, the Henderson scheme (for underground car parking, a hotel, cinema, department store, flats and shops) still has planning permission. But it would have required compulsory purchase of adjoining land, including the Waitrose car park (which is let on a long lease) to enable the scheme to proceed. The cost of this, the excavation work required and the lack of prospective tenants for major parts of the development persuaded Hendersons that they could not earn a return on the scheme, and it seems unlikely that another commercial property developer would reach a different conclusion.
East Herts Council could confirm that, regardless of planning permission, the scheme will not proceed, by revoking its previous decision in principle to make compulsory purchase orders and we hope that they will soon do so. This would, among other things, give us confidence that the car parking element of the scheme had been abandoned. This in turn would mean that the Meads could be retained as a nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary, rather than being turned into a flood relief pond for the proposed underground car park.
There does seem to be a genuine willingness now on the part of the Council to hear what the people of Bishop's Stortford think the future of the site should be and the Civic Federation wants to play an active part in helping the Council chart the way forward.
With that in mind, we would like to hear from you, our members, about what, if anything should happen to the site. We are fortunate to have a second opportunity to achieve something that would genuinely improve this historic part of the town, and hope that you will help us.
Stort Waterways Partnership was set up a few years ago with the aims of developing the River as a place of leisure and activity for all. Bishop’s Stortford Town Council were involved from the beginning but other interested parties soon joined which now include Canal and Rivers Trust, Inland Waterways Lee and Stort Branch, Wetherspoons, The Environment Agency, East Herts District Council, Lee & Stort Cruises and Herts Highways.
Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation supports Destination Stortford whose work complements not only the Sworders Field Master Plan but wider aspirations including Neighbourhood Plan 2, tourism, tow path walks, signage and information boards.
Destination Stortford identified the need to raise £24K to get some projects started and on the basis of a match funding agreement the Environment Agency has committed £12K and the IWA have contributed £2K. A further £1K has been pledged so they need to raise £9K to complete the match funding requirement. Canal and Rivers Trust already contribute by managing the waterways, visitor moorings, locks etc. and East Herts District Council have also indicated an interest in contributing and are considering quantum.
Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation supports Destination Stortford as a high profile project looking to develop benefits of economic development but also leisure and recreation for the residents of Bishop’s Stortford.
In order to bring residents up to date on the situation regarding new schools in the town, we have obtained the following briefing from the Children’s Services Department of HCC:
“Government legislation requires local authorities to seek proposals to establish a free school where they have identified the need for a new school in their area. The schools are established as academies and local authorities are responsible for providing the site for the new school and meeting all associated capital and pre-/post-opening costs. More information regarding the legislation and the process that local authorities have to go through can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/451377/Academy_and_free_school_presumption_departmental_advice_2.pdf
Hertfordshire County Council is anticipating that two new primary free schools and one new secondary free school will be required to support the large housing development in Bishops Stortford North.
It is proposed that the new secondary school will be located in the heart of the Bishop’s Stortford North development. The County Council has agreed a land swap with developers, swapping an area of land the County Council owns at Hadham Road with land in the development to facilitate this preferred location.
When a decision is made to build on any site, it goes through the full planning application process, which includes public consultation with local residents.
On 21st April 2015, HCC’s DCC approved the town planning application for the secondary school. A planning application for a 2 f.e. primary school (primary school 1) in the Western Neighbourhood has now been submitted, with the outcome expected before the end of the calendar year.
Once the land for the new schools is within the County Council’s ownership they will invite potential school sponsors to submit a bid based on an agreed set of application forms. Following evaluation, the County Council will present the bids to the Department for Education, where the Regional Schools Commissioner will make the final decision on who is selected.”
In 2012 the Civic Federation, in collaboration with East Herts Council, secured the dismissal of an appeal by two of our schools to relocate to a combined campus on Whittington Way. The Inquiry Inspector concluded that the educational arguments in support of the move had not been demonstrated, and could not override the protection this site deserved as part of the Green Belt. It was disappointing that East Herts Council, who gave evidence at the public inquiry in support of protecting its Green Belt status, should then have included the whole site in the draft district plan as having the potential for a development of up to 1000 houses.
In responding to the draft plan, we argued vigorously that nothing had changed which would justify removing Green Belt protection and a final version of the plan shows no sign of being published yet. East Herts Council have commissioned a number of technical studies to help them decide on the content of the next version of the plan. One study, recently published, confirmed that in terms of the valuable Green Belt functions the site performed, it was not suitable for release for development. However, another study (by the same consultants) on the deliverability of the draft plan suggested that this site was capable of development and deliverable and that a planning application was imminent.
Until the district plan is published and adopted following an examination in public, the site remains in the Green Belt, and there can be no justification for considering it for development. Moreover, now that the County Council have decided to dispose of their site at Patmore Close as part of the land swap arrangements to provide a secondary school on Bishop's Stortford North (see above) there is no suitable site within the existing built up area of the town capable of taking a new secondary school. The proposed extra housing at Whittington Way would be educationally unsustainable. We shall be arguing that it should stay in the Green Belt in the new plan and we shall object to any application to develop it.