Head of Development Control
East Herts Council
|4 September 2008|
Your Ref: 3/08/1395/FO JOBBERS WOOD, MUCH HADHAM
FAO: Elizabeth Humby
1. I am writing on behalf of the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation to object to this application.
2. This application has clearly been lodged as a direct consequence of the application by the Boys High School and the Herts and Essex Girls School to relocate and for housing to be built on the vacated sites, including the reserve site at Hadham Road. It would be quite improper to treat this as a freestanding application when all the other relevant applications are to be considered at a special meeting of the Development Control Committee on 16 October. I would therefore urge that the decision on this application should not be delegated to officers and should in fact be considered at the same meeting of the Development Control Committee so that members may be aware of the full consequences of the schools relocation proposals.
3. This site, like the proposed schools relocation site, is within the Green Belt. Unlike Whittington Way, however, it is in the middle of open countryside, and the sole access to it is along the narrow, winding, but heavily used B1004. Permission for this development on this Green Belt location was presumably granted originally because the Boys High School was able to make a case of exceptional justification, based on the desire for more sports facilities than those available on its present site. The limitation on use, far from being an ‘onerous’ condition was imposed to ensure that an otherwise unsuitable use of the site created the minimum visual intrusion and generated the minimum amount of additional traffic.
4. The schools relocation proposal has sought to make a virtue of the quantity and quality of sports facilities to be provided at Whittington Way. If these claims had any substance, the schools should not be seeking to extend the use of Jobbers Wood, which is several miles from both their present and relocation sites. On the contrary, they should be reducing or abandoning the use of the Jobbers Wood facility which is in an inconvenient location for them. It can only be accessed by car or specially arranged bus services, and cannot conveniently benefit any local community since there is no community in the immediate vicinity.
5. Moreover, if this condition restricting its use were to be relaxed as requested, it would no doubt be followed up by a further application to extend the changing facilities to make them suitable for use by both sexes at the same time, thus causing further intrusion into the Green Belt. The fact that essential sports facilities are a permitted exception to the normal protection afforded to the Green Belt would make it difficult for the Local Planning Authority to refuse such an application.
6. The request that the condition should be further relaxed to permit use by local organisations is an additional cause of concern. Firstly, as mentioned above, there is no community and therefore no organisations which are ‘local’ to Jobbers Wood. If what is meant are organisations local to Bishop's Stortford then they will all have to drive there to use it, causing additional traffic movements on a road where they should be avoided.
7. It appears that one such local organisation which might wish to use the facility is the Bishop's Stortford Rugby Club. It currently uses part of the reserve Hadham Road site immediately opposite its ground for training purposes. If the schools were to relocate and the whole of the reserve site were to be used for housing, the Club would lose its training facility and would need to find a new one. This requirement would not arise if the site were to be used for its originally intended purpose as the site for a new school, since the new school’s playing fields would still be available for use outside school hours as a community facility. If, as a consequence of permitting the schools to relocate, housing is permitted on the Hadham Road site, it should therefore be confined to the part of the site not currently used by the Rugby Club.
8. In summary this application should be rejected for the following reasons: