Comments on Plans for the Goods Yard Redevelopment
Letter from BSCF Chairman to Green Issues Communciations Ltd
Copy to the Head of Development Control at EHDC
|Green Issues Communications Ltd
|5 February 2007
BISHOP'S STORTFORD FORMER GOODS YARD
I am writing on behalf of the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation about the master plan which you recently exhibited about this site. The Federation brings together the Civic Society and all the active community and residents’ associations in the town into a partnership which represents over 6000 households.
We appreciate and welcome the fact that redevelopment will have the potential to bring benefits to a prominent town centre location which is either derelict or covered with surface level car parking. Some elements of the proposals are welcome:- the landscaping and improved accessibility of the towpath; the creation of a large, public (we trust) open space beside the river; the possibility of making the leisure centre appear less visible from a number of viewpoints, and the potential to reduce traffic congestion at Hockerill through construction of a new link road.
However, we also have a number of major reservations about the proposals which still appear substantially the same as those previously canvassed by the same developer and which do not, as a result do justice to this opportunity. Our concerns are as follows:-
- Recent developments along the swathe of brownfield land from the Causeway to Tanners Wharf have been planned in a piecemeal fashion and the results have been a series of buildings that pay little respect in terms of scale or appearance to either the historic character of the town around them or even to each other. The goods yard is the most prominent of these sites, but the impression provided by the exhibition is that this proposal will miss the opportunity to provide some coherence to this key location in the town centre and instead repeat the mistakes of neighbouring developments.
- We appreciate that the local plan provides for the number of dwellings included in the proposal. To achieve that number, the great majority are flats. All the recent town centre development proposals have been for flats, to the extent that the area appears to be overprovided with this type of accommodation and prices are not holding up in an otherwise booming housing market. This proposal, by doubling the number of flats in the area will make matters worse, while doing little to meet the needs of young families. We would prefer to see more family accommodation and fewer flats, even if this results in a smaller number of dwellings.
- The buildings are generally too high with one seven storey block, some six storey blocks and little as low as four storeys. The prevailing building height in the centre of this traditional market town is no more than four storeys. The Flour Mill has been until recently been an isolated eyesore which we hope will eventually be relocated. It should not be treated as the target height against which developers measure their proposals. More recently, the local planning authority have given permission in Anchor Street and Jackson Square Phase 1 for buildings which exceed the four storey norm and the inappropriateness of their height and scale when taken in the context of their surroundings is plain for all to see. We do not want to see the town lined by a monumental cliff face of buildings all the way from the Causeway to Tanners Wharf. The blocks in the station goods yard proposal should be reduced by at least one storey throughout.
- The access from the proposed link road to London Road is in the wrong place. The disparity in levels will have to be overcome by substantial engineering works, and the junction will be far too close to Hallingbury Road which your computerised model showed would become rapidly congested even in an off peak period. The model also failed to show the full impact of the completed Tanner's Wharf development on traffic circulation. Substitute for your model a trainload of passengers trying to leave the station car park in the evening peak and it becomes highly likely that the proposed siting of the junction will lead to gridlock in the evening peak and probably the morning too. New roads should aim to alleviate congestion, not make it worse. The obvious solution is for the exit to join London Road at the same point as the Tanner's Wharf junction with either a roundabout or signals to control it. This would overcome the problem of different levels and simplify traffic management by not having three busy junctions within the space of 100 yards or so.
- The link road proposal is likely to create severe congestion in the town centre because much of the traffic will take a left hand turn into Station Road. EHDC support plans to pedestrianise the whole of South Street which will force much of the traffic from Station Road either to go ahead into Newtown Road or left into South Road. Traffic in the area would be likely to flow more smoothly if the direction of the gyratory one way system were reversed to anti clockwise so that all traffic leaving the northern end of the development had to go straight ahead. This would bring additional benefits. It would eliminate the conflicting movements created by the current entry and exit arrangements for the new multi storey car park. And it would enable articulated trucks serving the Flour Mill to avoid the corner beside the Falcon public house which is so sharp that they have to use both carriageways at present – in itself a challenge to making Dane Street two way.
- Illustrations of the proposed elevations were too sketchy to inform any judgment of what the proposals would actually look like. However, in addition to our criticisms of the height and scale of recent developments, the materials, finishes and articulation of the facades of those developments have done nothing to improve the appearance of the townscape. We shall be looking to the developers of this prominent site to do better.
- Permission was given for the leisure centre to be built without dedicated car parking on the basis that users could have access to the immediately adjacent riverside and station car parks. Outline planning permission has already been given for development of the riverside car park. Your client's proposal would relocate the station car park a considerable distance from the leisure centre. While this may not be a problem of your client's making, without some parking provision for leisure centre users it is likely that parking problems will be displaced on to other parts of the development or nearby streets.
I hope you find these comments helpful and look forward to an improved proposal which takes account of them before planning permission is sought. I am copying this letter to the Head of Development Control at EHDC.