Letter to EHDC objecting to Grange Paddocks car park scheme New!

Francesca Hill
Development Control
East Herts Council
Wallfields, Pegs Lane
SG13 8EQ
12 May 2011

Your Ref: 3/11/0544/FP

I am writing on behalf of the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation to object to these proposals on the grounds that they are premature and not needed at the present time.

Herts County Council and East Herts District Council have just embarked on preparations for a new urban transport strategy for Bishop's Stortford. The Civic Federation strongly supports the need for this and is playing an active part in the consultations which are taking place. We believe that a car parking strategy for Bishop's Stortford needs to be an integral part of the overall strategy, covering both public and privately owned car parks and on street as well as off street car parking. Hitherto, the approach of the applicant to parking provision and control has been entirely piecemeal, with the result that introducing or changing parking controls in one area has simply shifted the problems of uncontrolled parking to another part of town. The applicant’s decisions appear to have been informed by no strategic view about how much demand for car parking exists or will emerge as a result of future developments; how much parking the town and, in particular the town centre, can absorb without jamming up the highway network; how to reconcile the conflicting demands of workers in the town, shoppers and other short stay users, and residents; the appropriate locations of different types of parking provision; or how such a strategy might be delivered through a combination of pricing and other traffic management measures, including park and ride.

The overall effect of the applicant’s approach to the regulation of parking so far has been to reduce the convenience and availability of long stay parking in the town both for workers who have no other means of getting to town and for residents who are not covered by a residents’ parking scheme or off street provision. The fact that the station goods yard car park has recently been extended clearly shows that unmet demand for long stay parking near the town centre exists, contrary to the assertions of the applicant when enforcement action was taken over the unauthorised car park on the Lancaster garage site in London Road (on which the Planning Inspector made his site visit during the school half term holidays).

We expect the newly commissioned transport strategy to address these issues and come forward with plans which, even if their implementation is sequential, are directed towards a clear set of long term objectives. While we have no objection in principle to the provision of a better surface to this car park if its continued use remains part of the long term strategy, until that strategy has been determined, any expenditure on enhancing the present facility might turn out to have been unnecessary and therefore wasted. Since this is clearly a discretionary project, we are surprised that at a time of unprecedented financial stringency for local authorities, any financial outlay on this car park should even be contemplated.

We are also concerned that the proposed ‘temporary’ facility, involving the loss of sports and recreational facilities, may turn out to be a Trojan Horse for a permanent extension of car parking in an area which is prone to flooding and should be retained for its present purpose. We have heard it suggested, not least from representatives of the proposed Causeway development, that making this temporary car park permanent would be a solution to the inadequacy of the parking provision in that scheme. The inadequacy of parking in that scheme, to which the Civic Federation has objected strongly, arises purely because of the massive over development proposed on the Causeway site. It would be wholly unacceptable to sacrifice sports and recreational facilities to provide additional parking at the expense of local taxpayers, purely so as to remove an obstacle to a development proposal for the Causeway which is so fundamentally flawed. No decision therefore should be taken on this application before the Causeway development proposals have been determined.

Finally, while we recognise that a tarmac footpath to the town centre may be a welcome improvement for present users of the car park, the addition of street lighting will turn what should be a pleasant walk through open land into an extension of the townscape. Given that consideration of the car park enhancement itself should be deferred for the reasons set out above, there seems to be no merit in pursuing this element of the scheme in isolation.

I am copying this letter to the Chief Executive of the Bishop's Stortford Town Council.

John Rhodes
Vice President,
Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation