Warwick Road Maintenance Association's Objections to Redevelopment of the Herts and Essex School  Map 

Letter to East Herts Development Control


Ms Alison Young
Case Officer
Development Control
East Herts Council
Wallfields
Pegs Lane
Hertford
SG13 8EQ
18 August 2008

Dear Ms Young

REDEVELOPMENT OF HERTS AND ESSEX SCHOOL, WARWICK ROAD, BISHOP'S STORTFORD

Your Ref: 3/08/1102/OP

1. As Chair of the Warwick Road Maintenance Association I am writing on behalf of the Association to object to this planning application to redevelop the site of the present Herts and Essex School for Girls for 125 houses and associated infrastructure with main access from Warwick Road.

2. Warwick Road is an unadopted Road, not maintained at public expense, and the Maintenance Association was founded some eighty years ago with the following objects and membership:

OBJECTS The objects of the Association shall be the repair and maintenance of the carriageway and footpaths and verges of Warwick Road, Bishop's Stortford, Herts and of the gates and fences at the eastern end of Warwick Road and the cultivation and replacement of the trees planted from time to time on the footpaths and any other activity intended to maintain or enhance the amenities of Warwick Road.

MEMBERSHIP Membership of the Association shall be limited to: -

  1. the adult residents of each house and flat having either a frontage onto or main access from Warwick Road
  2. the Governing body of the Hertfordshire and Essex High School represented by the Head Teacher and one Governor
  3. one representative from the garage at the eastern end of Warwick Road
  4. one representative from the Herts and Essex Hospital

There are at present 87 dwellings in Warwick Road including two small blocks of flats. Membership of Herts and Essex Hospital has effectively ceased since it no longer has any property adjoining Warwick Road.

3. The Association holds an Annual General Meeting which is well attended: residents take a keen interest in the condition of the road and its amenities. The views of residents about the proposed redevelopment were obtained at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Association in July 2008. The overwhelming majority of those present, as well as a number of residents who were unable to attend the meeting, was opposed to the proposals. As the school's proposed relocation has led to this application and, if it were successful, would lead to its departure from the Road, the Committee of the Association did not consider it appropriate to invite the views of the school on this application. At no time has the school consulted the Association, as such, on its proposals.

The grounds of our objections are as set out in the remainder of this letter.

Local Planning Framework

a) The site is not zoned for housing under the Local Development Plan adopted by EHDC in April 2007.

4. As a preliminary step to re-locating the Herts and Essex School for Girls, attempts were made by the developers and by the local education authority, Herts County Council, to remove the proposed relocation site in Whittington Way from Green Belt protection at the final stage before the Examination in Public and adoption of the Local Plan, and to re-designate it as suitable for educational use. They could at the same time have proposed the re-designation of the existing schools sites as ones suitable for housing, but did not do so. There was therefore no opportunity for the public to debate the merits of the proposed use of the existing schools sites for housing at the Examination in Public into the Local Plan, and the Inspector concluded anyway that Green Belt protection should not be removed from Whittington Way. (East Herts Local Plan Second Review Inspector's report 11.48.1-11.48.11) Use of the schools sites for housing, in this case the Herts and Essex School, would therefore be a major departure from the recently adopted Local Plan which in itself is a sufficient ground for refusal. The suitability of the site for housing has not been properly assessed or subjected to critical public scrutiny.

b) The wish of the schools to finance their moves by selling their existing sites for housing is not a relevant planning consideration.

5. The developer's application states that:

'...the most important element of this application is that it will help facilitate the re-location of two high schools which in turn will allow for the continued provision of education to a high standard in Bishop's Stortford as well as providing additional pupil capacity to meet current and future needs' (Design and Access Statement Doc No 3/08/1102 para 6.3)

6. The Herts and Essex School is under no compulsion to move. If it chooses to do so, it should not expect the community away from which it is moving effectively to subsidise the transfer by acquiescing in an inappropriate use of publicly owned assets. The funding of such a move is not relevant to a consideration of the planning merits of the proposal. The application must be considered on its own merits as a planning application.

Overdevelopment

c) The proposal would represent a gross over-development of the site and would be incompatible in particular with policy ENV 1 in the adopted Local Plan.

7. Policy ENV 1 requires development proposals inter alia to demonstrate compatibility with the structure and layout of the surrounding area, as well as effective connection with existing routes and spaces; complement the existing pattern of street blocks, plots and buildings (the grain of development); respect the amenity of occupiers of neighbouring buildings; and consider the impact of any loss of open land on the character and appearance of the locality. The proposals meet none of these requirements. Warwick Road and the surrounding area is characterised by single dwellings (with two exceptions) on large plots with large gardens. The exceptions are a semi -detached early 20th century house, converted into flats, and a small purpose built block of flats, both also on large plots. Until prevented by the Inspector's conclusions on the Local Plan, EHDC proposed to create an environmental zone for Warwick Road and adjoining roads, with a presumption against more intensive development in gardens. EHDC was assured by the Inspector that it could achieve the same result through applying policy ENV 1. EDHC should therefore apply those criteria set out above to this proposal. If it does so, the proposed development would fail to meet the criteria.

8. The proposed density of the proposed development is quite out of keeping with the rest of the Warwick Road area. The application states that site density in Warwick Road is 9 dwellings per ha. Equivalent figures for other roads in the area are, Pine Grove, 5, Grange Road, 18, Dunmow Road, 30 – 35, and Urban Road, around 30 (Doc 3/08/1102 Section 2 para 2.5 and Section 5 paras 5.1-5.5). The proposed density for the application site is 44 dwellings per ha. Since Warwick Road is proposed as the main access to the site its surroundings should be taken as the guideline for development rather than the cottages on Dunmow Road. Moreover, some 80% of the development is intended to be three storeys in height whereas the prevailing height of property in Warwick Road is two storeys.

9. The proposals obliterate the existing open space at the back of the school. They fail to reflect existing patterns of access by routing virtually all the traffic generated into Warwick Road. Development at this level of density will show no respect for the amenity of occupiers of adjoining buildings.

10. If this level of density is permitted on this site, no other generously sized plot in Warwick Road or the rest of Bishop's Stortford could be defended from a similar density of development. The main purpose of Policy ENV 1 – to prevent back garden development – would thus be defeated.

d) The proposed access to the site is inappropriate.

11. The application indicates that some 80% of the development will gain access to the highway network from an access road which would lead into Warwick Road (Doc 3/08/1102 Section 5, para 5.14). Although the main entrance to the school is in Warwick Road there is also access to the site from Grange Road and Dunmow Road. The proposal does not therefore reflect current patterns of movement.

12. The junction between Warwick Road and London Road is particularly dangerous. The sight lines are very poor and the heavily used pelican crossing over London Road to the station is an extra safety hazard both for users and drivers trying to enter London Road. Although the School generates traffic, the demand is predictable, being at opening and closing times and only during term time. There is little traffic generation at other times of day or year. A large residential development by contrast will generate significant traffic at all times of day and year, as has been found with the Herts and Essex Hospital site. Concentrating access from the site on to Warwick Road will lead to unacceptable traffic generation in the road and unsafe access on to the public highway network.

13. Any access by construction traffic for any development of the site would have to be from Dunmow Road, because the substructure of Warwick Road could not support the weight of such traffic and the environs would be quite unsuitable for a constant procession of HGVs. Since the site while under construction will generate more traffic than the site when completed, it would be equally appropriate to insist that the main access for any completed development should also be from Dunmow Road. If the highway network cannot absorb the whole of the traffic emerging onto Dunmow Road when the development is complete, it clearly cannot absorb the traffic which building it would generate, and the site should not be considered for redevelopment (if otherwise approved) until such time as effective traffic management systems are in place which would enable Dunmow Road to be the main permanent access point.

14. The transport assessment, by concentrating only on two weekday peak hours, gives no information about total traffic movements over the course of a full day and full year, which are likely in aggregate to be greater than those generated by the School. The proposed mitigation measures are wholly inadequate

e) Increased Parking in Warwick Road

15. The application states:

"Most of the properties have a lot of on-plot parking space meaning very few cars are parked on the road.” (Doc 3/08/1102 Section 2,para 2..6)

There is no basis for this statement and evidence to the contrary. Warwick Road is being increasingly used by non-residents for long stay and commuter car parking. We have expressed our concerns to Herts Highways and requested a survey of the road as a preliminary to taking action to reduce the parking problem. Cars are parked on both sides of Warwick Road from the junction with Pine Grove to London road. The western end of the road is frequently reduced from 10.a.m onwards to a single lane with passing places. Herts Highways has refused to carry out a parking survey on the grounds of cost and lack of resources. In further correspondence, Herts Highways has suggested that the residents would be required to meet the costs of the necessary survey and advertisements to enable, for example, changes to be made to waiting times which would help to reduce parking pressures. At an average car parking allowance of 1.5 spaces per dwelling proposed for the new development, will lead to further parking in Warwick Road. On present evidence the residents would be expected to pay to deal with this.

f) The power to build the access road has not been demonstrated

16. The application states:

"Physically, access is possible from Wllton Close, however there is land between Wilton Close which is outside the applicant's ownership and can therefore not be utilised within the proposal" (Doc 3/08/1102 para 4.2)

As stated elsewhere, Warwick Road is an unadopted road, not maintained at public expense. The residents pay a levy to maintain the footpaths and the road surface and the Association has carried out a regular programme of road repair and re-surfacing. The boundaries of the development site do not extend over the footpath outside the school. The footpath is therefore outside the applicant's ownership. Residents who wish to drop the kerb outside their house for off street parking apply to the Maintenance Association Committee for permission to do so. Such permission will be granted for any reasonable request provided that the applicant makes good the damage at his or her own expense. The school has such access to its own car park. However, breaching the footpath which the school clearly does not own in order to create a new public highway to access dwellings which are not part of the Road is clearly a different matter from improving access to a frontager's property. Having regard to one of the purposes of the Association being to maintain and enhance the amenity of the Road, it is most unlikely that the committee would agree to any request to breach the footpath with a new public road, should such a request be made. In the event of any attempt to create such an entrance without the Association's permission, the Committee would take steps to prevent such access.

g) The maintenance consequences for Warwick Road residents would be unacceptable.

17. Warwick Road is an unadopted road over which residents with a frontage on to the road have a right of access to and from their properties. This includes the school. The road is maintained at the expense of residents by means of a levy paid to the WRMA. The WRMA is a voluntary Association set up to arrange, through its Committee, for the maintenance of the road. The School makes a contribution to the levy which reflects the use of the road which it enjoys.

18. If its site is redeveloped as proposed, WRMA may be able to persuade residents whose property has a frontage on to the road to contribute to the levy, though this cannot be guaranteed since the arrangement is voluntary. But the WRMA would have no call on other residents of the development who relied on the road to gain access to their homes but had no frontage on to the road. The WRMA would thus be faced with the cost such traffic would generate without having the ability to raise the funds from those users to keep the road in good repair. This adds weight to the unsuitability of the access arrangements addressed at d) above.

h) Other road matters

Drainage

19. While public utilities (water, gas and electricity) supplied to Warwick Road are the responsibility of the utility companies, the residents are responsible for stormwater drains. Stormwater drainage issues are not covered in detail in the planning application. The application notes that surface run off and foul water from the school drains to public foul water sewers in Warwick Road and Grange Road. New development is not permitted to use combined foul water and stormwater sewers. The association would oppose any attempt by the developers to use stormwater drains in the road to dispose of run-off from the proposed new development.

The gate

20. Warwick Road has a permanent locked gate at the eastern end to which residents can purchase a key. Concerns about the future of the gate were expressed at the public meeting held by the developers in the Herts and Essex School. The application states:

'the proposals do not involve the opening up of Warwick Road' (Public Consultation Statement para 5.6.)

Because of the status of the road it would not be open to the developers to recommend that the road be opened.

i) Application for extended period of planning approval should be refused.

21. The developers seek to extend the period of planning approval from the usual three years to five (Doc /03/081102 para. 5.8). The Association strongly opposes this on the grounds that such an extension would cause unacceptable uncertainty and property blight for the significant number of residents affected.

Conditions

22. The Association is writing separately on a 'without prejudice' basis about conditions that should be imposed if, notwithstanding residents' objections, the planning authority is minded to give consent.

Right to address the Planning Committee.

23. In view of its concerns about the impact of this proposal on Warwick Road and its residents, The Association requests the right to address the Development and Control Committee at its meeting on 16th October 2008.

24. I am copying this letter to Mark Prisk, M.P. to the Town Clerk with a request that it be circulated to all members of the Town Council, and to the Chair of the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation, Mr Richard Hannah.

Yours sincerely
Mrs Marie Rhodes
Chair, Warwick Road Maintenance Association