The Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation (BSCF) is now in its fourth year and, to mark the occasion, the AGM was held at the Charis Centre on the 25th of March 2010. This was an extremely lively and successful meeting and was very well supported by all our Residents' Associations and members of the general public.
The main theme of the meeting once again focused on the behaviour of East Herts District Council towards the people of Bishop's Stortford.
The meeting opened with an address from the President, Michael Hurford, who expressed his concern about the lack of trust and transparency within East Herts District Council, which has been reflected in very low turnouts for their elections. He believed that this was because of the culture of secrecy that seems to characterise the behaviour of senior councillors and officers.
It was disgraceful, he said, that the BSCF had to use the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to get information that should have been readily available to the public and elected councillors. For instance, a request under the Act was used to try to clarify the situation arising from the renegotiation of the Charringtons lease and the sale of the Causeway site to a developer. The FoI Act was also used to uncover the behaviour of senior planning officers in their secret dealings with the developer of the Whittington Way combined super-school, where they seemed to be manipulating the original planning application to make it more creditable against overwhelming public opposition.
He also stated that Councillors sometimes put their loyalty to their political party ahead of their loyalty to the people of Bishop's Stortford, which was not acceptable.
He finished with a quotation from Carl Jung (Swiss psychiatrist 1875 -1961): "Anything that is concealed is a secret. The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates their possessor from the community".
Once again it has been another busy year for the BSCF across a number of areas. Therefore, in order to effectively manage the increase in our activities over the next twelve months, we have set up four sub-committees:
The main topics that the committee has been engaged on over the last twelve months are the relocation of the two secondary schools to Whittington Way, Stansted Airport, the preparation of the People's Vision Document for the future of Bishop's Stortford and supporting residents' associations on various building developments. Full details of the BSCF's activities throughout the year are described in more detail later in this newsletter.
During the course of the year there have been some changes to the committee membership. Warwick Road Maintenance Association has now joined the BSCF, with Marie Rhodes as its chairman. Anthea Wyatt is now representing Chantry Community Association in place of Philip Rowley, who continues to be on the committee.
All other committee members have agreed to continue for another year, with the exception of Cllr. Norma Symonds who has resigned due to her other duties. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Norma for all her efforts and contribution to the BSCF over the years.
I am pleased to announce that annual subscription fees are to remain at their current level. Renewal notices are being sent out with this newsletter and it would be most helpful if members would please renew their subscriptions as soon as possible.
In conclusion, the forthcoming year will be equally challenging, with the main issues probably being the schools' relocation, the Causeway site and the Goods Yard development. In order to meet these challenges to our town, it will be particularly important for the BSCF that all its members continue to play an active role in ensuring that all the qualities we value about the town are protected.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the committee and all our members for their support throughout the year.
Richard Hannah, BSCF Chairman
Both the District Council's 2020 Vision document and the Town Council's Town Plan for the future of Bishop's Stortford have now been completed and copies of the 2020 Vision document should have been received by every household in Bishop's Stortford.
However, the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation (BSCF) will continue to work with the Town Council over the coming months across a number of joint actions which were derived from the Town Plan.
Regarding the District Council's 2020 Vision document, it has been necessary for the BSCF to withdraw its support from the Education Section of the document.
This decision was taken at the AGM in March this year because the District Council had made fundamental changes to important document had been approved and signed off by the BSCF chairman.
Despite exhaustive correspondence between the BSCF and East Herts District Council to extract an explanation of who sanctioned this change without first getting approval from the BSCF, a satisfactory answer has not been forthcoming.
This is yet another example of the lack of transparency and secrecy that exists at East Herts Council and the disregard it has for the residents of Bishop's Stortford.
In addition to the vision documents prepared by the District and Town Councils, a group of young members from the BSCF prepared the People's Vision document for the future of the town to highlight their views and aspirations which they felt had not been properly addressed within the other two documents. A copy of this document was also sent to all councillors and it is referenced in the 2020 Vision document prepared by East Herts District Council.
The Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation has been invited by the Town Council to be a member of the "Listed Buildings Task Group".
The aim of the project is to produce an up-to-date assessment of historic buildings within the Bishop's Stortford Conservation Area. There are some 100 Grade II listed buildings and 2 Grade I listed building in the Town.
The main objective of the group is to visit each of these buildings, update the records held by the Town and District Council and comment on the current state of the buildings/properties.
The Federation is represented on the Task Group by Brian Edwards, assisted by Michael Hurford, Gill Champion and Liz Martin.
The relocation of the Herts & Essex High School and the Bishop's Stortford High School will be strenuously opposed by the BSCF and its Residents' Associations if and when another application is submitted.
Latest (15/June/2010): We now know that a new application has been submitted. For details, see the Schools Information page.
Unfortunately, due to a shortage of suitable candidates, the BSCF did not hold the Currey Award Competition for 2009.
However, we are now actively looking for 2010 candidates. Nominations, which would be most welcome, to be sent to the secretary, please.
We currently have three candidates. For details, see the Currey Award 2010 page.
In 2009, a developer put in a planning application to demolish two semi-detached homes in Haymeads Lane to give access to the back gardens of a further ten properties on which to build at least 13 houses. Despite not including details of the required 40% affordable housing nor having the consent of all the current owners, officers recommended granting permission on the basis it would result in a net housing gain for the town.
Development Control granted permission provided all owners signed the s106 Agreement within 6 months. To date, no resident has been approached by the developer. This reveals the frightening reality that any home owner could wake one morning to find someone else has planning permission to develop their garden!
Permission was granted for the widening of the Nags Head Junction to allow a couple of cars to turn left at the same time as vehicles queue to turn right into Dunmow Road. This was the best solution Herts Highways could manage to the ever-present traffic queues in Haymeads Lane, which can reach 60 vehicles at peak times. Sadly, unexpected media cabling was found and the project was postponed until 'at least mid-May', preventing the desperately needed resurfacing which should have taken place when the hospital site was developed more than 5 years ago.
The Nags Head remains boarded-up, despite McMullens Brewery's planning application to extend and refurbish. We are hopeful the pub will reopen later this year. It is worth noting that previous owners would have demolished and redeveloped the site for housing but were prevented by the pub's listed building status.
The proposal to sell off the Herts & Essex School site and playing field for development to fund the school moving to a Green Belt site off Whittington Way Map is still a major source of anxiety for residents. Haymeads Lane/Beldams Lane cannot cope with the increased traffic this would bring, yet Herts Highways consistently refuse to recognise the scale of the problem. This is the biggest challenge facing our area in 2010.
It has been a busy year for the Association since its relaunch in March 2009.
The committee, with the help of local councillors, has had the broken seat on the Stansted Road - Kings Court corner replaced and a bus shelter installed at the stop opposite the Limes Dental Practice.
Following representations by the committee, the bus stop outside the Limes Dental Practice has been moved back because it was situated directly opposite the bus stop on the other side of the road, causing traffic problems when two buses arrived together. Last year, some members planted daffodils on the unsightly bank near Parsonage Lane, where the railway bridge used to be, and we saw the fruits of their efforts this spring. More bulbs will be planted this Autumn.
The Association is still fighting to keep the Stortford Hall Park - Dunmow Road footpath (FP53) open and to establish a footpath from Manor Road to the FP53. The committee is currently in contact with the Highways Authority to try, once again, to sort out the phasing of the Hockerill traffic lights. The problem of heavy lorries ignoring the weight restrictions, particularly along the Dunmow Road, has again been drawn to the attention of the police. Some action has been taken and more is to follow.
A well-attended and successful Social Evening on 5th November included a most interesting talk on the history of Bishop's Stortford by Dr. Sarah Turner of the Bishop's Stortford Museum.
Our AGM was held on Saturday 17th April and all the committee members were re-elected en-bloc. The guest speaker was Mr. Simon Dennis, Principal of the Hockerill Anglo-European College, who gave an informative insight into the life of the college.
71-77 South Street - Proposal to build a Hotel and Retail Units
The proposed development consisted of a hotel and retail units in South Street.
The BSCF, together with the Town Council, objected to this development again for a second time. Although the revised proposal took into account the BSCF's original objections, we still registered our concerns about traffic congestion at this busy cross road junction, in view of the extra traffic that would be generated by the hotel. This application was subsequently approved.
The closing of the Castle Gardens toilets
This appears to be a very short-sighted idea. The lack of toilet facilities will be a major inconvenience to those who visit the gardens, the paddling pool, funfairs, the Carnival and Fun Days. It is some distance to the nearest shops participating in the scheme which will make it difficult for mothers with young children, the elderly and those with continence problems. On special days these shops are likely to get quite crowded with people queuing for the toilets.
Surely, there are few, if any, municipal gardens and leisure areas with no toilet facilities?
Causeway Site Retail Units:
Whilst appreciating that it is the market that dictates the type of shop that comes in to the town and whether a shop is able to trade or closes down, it does seem somewhat perverse for the East Herts District Council to be considering yet another retail area on the Causeway site. How would this affect the rest of the town's retailers, particularly those at the lower end of South Street, who are already having trading problems? Would we end up with yet more coffee shops and restaurants?