Newsletter - Spring 2008

Message from Richard Hannah, BSCF Chairman

Having completed my first year as Chairman of the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation (BSCF), I am pleased to say that I found it a very interesting and challenging experience. To mark the occasion of its second year, the annual general meeting of the BSCF was held at the Rhodes Centre on the 27th March 2008. The meeting was well attended and there was interesting discussion on a number of topics, including the proposed new schools' relocation at Whittington Way.

Since our last newsletter, the BSCF has been actively involved on a number of issues; the most significant of these was our participation on the Stansted Airport Expansion Public Inquiry and the presentation to the Development Committee of our objections to the location of the proposed new schools.

During the course of the year there have been some changes to the committee membership. Brian Stevenson has left and a replacement is needed to represent Hockerill Residents Association, Vicki Whithear who represented Parsonage Lane has also left and her position on the committee has now been filled by Brian Wallis.

Brian Edwards, who has been a member for several years, has now joined the committee. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all our new committee members.

On more routine matters, I am pleased to announce that the annual subscription fees are to remain the same. Renewal notices will be sent out with this newsletter and it would be most helpful if members would please renew their subscriptions as soon as possible.

In conclusion, in order to meet the challenges to our town in the forthcoming year, it will be particularly important that all our residents' association members continue to be proactive and play an active part in the major issues mentioned in this newsletter. We must take every opportunity to make our objections known in writing to our Councillors and to the appropriate authorities.

Last Year's Activities

East of England Plan

We succeeded in getting Bishop's Stortford removed from the East of England Plan as a strategic housing location. Unfortunately, the Government ignored their own Inspectors' recommendations, and reinstated Harlow North into the plan. This would be a settlement the size of Bishop's Stortford on the opposite side of the Stort flood plain from Harlow. We believed this would be of no benefit to Bishop's Stortford or Harlow, and objected. The final Government decision on the plan is still awaited.

Station Goods Yard  Map   Top 

The illustrative proposals exhibited last year displayed many shortcomings – the scale of the buildings, the number of flats, and the impact on traffic and parking, for example. We were therefore glad to hear that the preferred developers had withdrawn which means that there might be an opportunity to produce a more imaginative and sympathetic development brief. We understand, however, that a similar proposal may be likely to reappear soon.

Jackson Square (phases 1 and 2)  Map   Top 

We were pleased that Phase 2 was rejected by East Herts as a result of the justifiable outcry provoked across the town by the scale and unsympathetic appearance of Phase 1. The developers appealed and the BSCF gave evidence in support of East Herts’ refusal of permission. Unfortunately the appeal was upheld.

The Inspector concluded that East Herts should have made its objections clear when considering the outline application and would then not have granted permission for Phase 1 in its present form. This highlights the importance of registering objections to any development proposal at the outline application stage. Waiting for the detailed proposals is too late if outline permission has already been granted.

As we predicted three years ago, car parking and traffic management arrangements for Phase 1 have been a disgrace. The simple solution would be to reverse the position of the entry and exit points to replicate the arrangements in the previous multi-storey car park. But Herts Highways seem determined to do anything rather than admit they got it wrong in the first place. We do not believe their advice on transport matters can be relied upon when more complex proposals such as the goods yard redevelopment or the proposed schools' relocation come forward.

Stansted Airport  Top 

Our President and Vice Chairman gave evidence to the Public Inquiry last summer into Phase 1 development proposal – full use of the existing runway. The BSCF objected on grounds of the impact on:

The BSCF suggested that if permission were nevertheless to be granted it should be subject to the following conditions:

Schools' Relocation  Map   Top 

The Vice Chairman presented the case against the proposed relocation of the Herts and Essex and Boys' High Schools to the East Herts District Council (EHDC) development control committee on 5 March 2008. The full details of the arguments against relocation are on the BSCF website. We believe that the impact on the quality of education and on the physical fabric of the town would be disastrous and that, given a free choice, the last place to build a new school is beneath the busiest Stansted Airport flight path (see below on noise preferential routes). The schools, having developed their proposals in secret, are at last having to go public on what they are planning to do. Whilst the BSCF will be objecting when the planning application is lodged (expected at the end of April 2008), it is essential that as many as possible of our member associations and individual members write to East Herts Council expressing their views. The result is not a foregone conclusion and this is an issue on which numbers may count.

Other Development Proposals  Top 

The BSCF has objected to proposals for flats in Rye Street, Crescent Road and at Oxford House – more bad examples of town cramming, unfortunately. The outcomes are awaited. While the BSCF Committee tries to spot the worst examples we do rely on our members to alert us to unwelcome developments.

Currey Award  Top 

In spite of development all over town, no new development was thought worthy of consideration for an award in 2007. This year is not looking much better, but any nominations for developments, which have to be substantially complete by the end of June, should be sent as soon as possible to our Secretary, Angela Marshall.

Vision for Bishop's Stortford  Top 

East Herts have set up a committee to establish a vision for the future of our town. Our President sits on it but it remains to be seen whether the Committee will influence the future or whether all the key decisions (such as the schools' relocation) will have been taken in advance. The BSCF Committee has also met EHDC planning officers to give views on the Local Development Framework (which will succeed the local plan after 2011).

Activities for the Coming Year  Top 

Unfortunately for your Committee, the coming year looks like more of the same.

Station Goods Yard  Map   Top 

We will review any new development proposals critically. We believe that whatever is proposed should treat the rest of the town, not Jackson Square, as the benchmark for the scale and appearance of buildings, and should aim to exploit the amenity value of river.

Stansted Airport  Top 

The 2nd runway application has now been submitted even though no decision has yet been published on the G1 application. Comments have to be submitted to Uttlesford by 26th June 2008 26 September 2008 and the BSCF will be objecting while working closely with Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE).
Note: Uttlesford District Council has extended the deadline for formal objections to Friday 26 September 2008. See this news story.

Noise Preferential Routes  Top 

National Air Traffic Services (NATS) have published a consultation document reviewing the use of air space in the whole of the London and South Eastern area. This consultation ends on 22 May 2008. The SSE website provides the best way of finding out what is proposed, but the main impact would be to bring the BUZAD noise preferential route (the most frequently used south-westerly take off route) closer to Bishop's Stortford with much greater prospect of overflying Thorley, St Michael’s Mead, and the Whittington Way Schools' relocation site.

The BSCF will object but the exercise redistributes the use of airspace over such a wide area that the prospect of change is unlikely.

Schools' Relocation  Map   Top 

Public exhibitions on 8, 9 and 12 April were held with Planning applications (for the schools and for housing on the vacated sites) expected by the end of April. When the applications are submitted, the BSCF will object. As mentioned above, it is essential that as many individuals as possible also lodge objections - otherwise your first opportunity to comment on the proposals may turn out to be your last.

Material needed to make objections can be found here:
BSCF Briefing Note for Proposed Schools' Relocation.
Letter of 9 Apr 08 to Herts & Essex Observer
Letter of 7 Aug 07 to Herts County Council
Letter of 28 Jun 07 to Herts & Essex Observer