Hertfordshire County Council
|7 August 2007|
Dear Councillor Beatty,
Proposed Relocation of Herts & Essex and The Bishop's Stortford High Schools at Whittington Way, Thorley, Bishop's Stortford
I am writing in response to the email you sent me dated 4th of May in which you assured me that consultation on the proposed relocation of the two foundation schools would be undertaken by the schools themselves and the local planning authority.
This proposal, if implemented, would have a more far reaching impact on the future of Bishop’s Stortford and surrounding areas than any other planned development affecting the town, such as Jackson Square or the station goods yard redevelopment. Not only would it relocate the great majority of secondary education places to a green belt site on the edge of town: it would also foist upon Bishop's Stortford a minimum of a further 750 houses on sites which are not zoned for this purpose in the local plan and which would reduce by that amount the housing allocation for the district to be found in the rest of East Herts.
The proposals, to the extent that they have been disclosed to the public, have insuperable shortcomings
For other major developments in the town, such as Jackson Square and the station goods yard site, the developers have undertaken major public consultation exercises before submitting an outline planning application. So far the two schools have shown not the slightest inclination to explain in public the justification for their proposals or to consult existing parents, parents of feeder schools or the wider public about their plans, but we understand that they intend to submit outline planning applications for all the affected sites in October.
The local planning authority’s responsibilities do not cover the full catchment area of the two schools, and their normal approach to planning applications is to invite written representations over a six week period, and allow one objector and one supporter three minutes each to make a case at the relevant development control meeting.
It therefore appears at present that there is no intention to engage in a serious public debate about the merits of this proposal or the alternatives – rather that an outline planning consent will enable legitimate, preferable alternatives to be discarded. Since the proposal could only have reached this stage of development with the active support of the LEA, who are using it to provide the extra school places the town already needs, it seems to us that the LEA is best placed to undertake the consultation which has so far been lacking.
I trust that you will be able to give me an early response that you will be instructing the LEA to undertake this and assimilate the results before any planning application is submitted.
Finally, I am also copying this letter to the Chairs of Governors of the two schools, to give them the opportunity to explain how they are planning to involve the public in this far reaching proposal and to Cllr Gilbert, Chair of the EHDC Development Control Committee, so that he can appreciate the Civic Federation’s concerns about the proposal, the complete lack of public involvement so far in the decision making process, and the major departures which would be involved from the local plan which EHDC has only just adopted.
Yours Sincerely,Richard Hannah