Oxford House Enlarge
|Head of Development Control
East Herts Council
|25 January 2007|
I am writing to you in connection with the application to demolish Oxford House and replace it with a block of 21 flats.
This is a prominent site and provides an ideal opportunity for the local planning authority to show its commitment to high standards of design and insistence on developments of a size and scale appropriate to their surroundings. It should also cause the local planning authority to reflect upon the wider social implications of the permissions it grants, and in particular the desirability of building more flats close to the town centre.
The submission supporting this application notes that Oxford House is an undistinguished building but, from the sketched elevations, it appears that the proposed development has taken the existing building as its inspiration. The main differences in appearance are that it would be four stories rather than two and that it would occupy far more of the site area. As the proposals show, this building would be four stories in height while those around it, including other apartment blocks, are no more than three. Giving the building a flat roof does not disguise the fact that this proposal is one storey too high. If a building of this height were sanctioned it would give a green light to developers that the rest of South Road, which has mostly one or two storey dwellings at present, could be developed to the same height and density. This reason alone should be sufficient for the planning authority to refuse this application.
However, I should also point out that the number of planning permissions already granted and being sought for flats in the central area of Bishop’s Stortford is having a significant impact on the social composition of the town, since flats are generally not occupied by families in a country town such as ours. While social diversity is to be welcomed, it appears at present that there is an oversupply of flats in an otherwise booming housing market and this is failing to meet the needs of young families. In these circumstances, the local planning authority might think of encouraging the developers of this site to think in terms of building a small number of family homes rather than yet another block of flats. I hope that for this reason too, permission for the current proposal will be refused.JOHN RHODES