Letter to Eric Pickles requesting that he call in the Causeway planning application New!
The Secretary of State has reserve powers to direct the local planning authority (East Herts District Council in this case) to refer an application to him/her for decision. This is what is meant by calling in a planning application.
Right Hon Eric Pickles,
Secretary of State,
House of Commons,
|8 September 2011|
Reference : App 3/10/1964/9 East Herts District Council Outline Planning Application By Henderson Global Investors Company - Old River Lane, Bishops Stortford, Herts
I am writing to you on behalf of the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation which represents Residents Associations across the town embracing some 9000 dwellings. We understand that the above planning application will be referred to you by East Herts Development Control Committee for confirmation in relation to the Town and Country Planning (Flooding) (England) Direction 2007 before granting of the application can be made.
In your deliberations we would request that you give the following issues your consideration:
- The decision to approve the course of action of referral to you was made after almost four hours of presentation and debate, followed by a vote of 6 for and 5 against. All this in front of some 300 members of the public who were overwhelmingly opposed to the application.
- This recommendation by Officers was necessary as the Environment Agency had strongly objected to the application as it does not comply with the requirement of Appendix E, paragraph E3 of Planning Policy Statement 25 ( PPS 25 ). The Flood Assessment had other shortcomings, identified by the Environment Agency.
- The Environment Agency subsequently relaxed their firm objection to the application by imposing 12 conditions and an S 106 provision to the Application. All to be met before agreeing to this proposal, despite being against the Thames River Basin Management Plan. These conditions we believe will be virtually impossible to meet given the history of the overall site.
- In considering these concessions both the Council’s Officers and the Environment Agency seem to have ignored the flood history of the site. The Meads ( as the area is called locally) has a long history of serious flooding, particularly when heavy rain or snow melt causes large volumes of water run – over from the high land to the north and west of the site. Some forty five years ago, to find a solution to this age old problem, when the perceived wisdom of water Engineers was to build a channel wide and deep in a U shape configuration, the course of the River Stort was diverted and a large U shaped basin created. In addition it was decided to build a weir to the north of the town (which the Environment Agency now want removed) and the installation of a weir gate be installed in the middle of the town. All these measures failed and on a number of occasions since this work was done there has been serious flooding in the town.
- The suggestion of installing pumps to pump out the proposed underground car park if /when flooded is the same proposal as was made for the underground car park at the recent Jackson’s Square development at the south end of the town. This idea was rejected on the grounds of capital and maintenance costs and that this solution will not deliver a reliable outcome to handle a serious flood in the future. The reliability of Flood Compensation scheme for the proposed development is critical, since the surface level car park has been replaced by a two level underground one.
The Civic Federation would ask you to give serious consideration to these points and refuse to confirm the granting of this application.
Although the Civic Federation are extremely concerned that you should be aware of this situation, as soon as possible, we have serious doubts on the viability of the flooding prevention scheme being proposed. Also, we wish to draw your attention to other improper events surrounding the decision taken by East Herts Council to approve Henderson’s outline planning application to build on this conservation site.
We therefore believe the application should be called in for the following reasons:
The Officer’s Report glossed over a number of other breaches of the District Plan without justification. We draw to your attention to the main evidence listed below:
- English Heritage has placed on record very strong objections, in particular their comment on the lack of sensitivity between the interfaces of the development with the historic core of the town.
- The Urban Panel of Architect’s report listed a number of concerns and urged the Council to be mindful of the potential dangers of the scheme, which could have an adverse impact on the economic vibrancy of the town. They also stated that the viability of Jackson Square should be resolved before confirmation of the nature and extent of development on the proposed site.
- The comments of the Herts Biological Records Centre, which concluded that the proposed development will have an adverse impact on European Protected Species.
- Hertfordshire Highways who initially objected to the development on the grounds of traffic congestion have changed their position at the eleventh hour following the offer of money by the Developer, and in their assessment appear to have ignored the impending growth of the town and resultant traffic.
- Hertfordshire County Council Historic Environment Unit turned down the desk based archaeological assessment of the site as being inadequate. They stated that a field based evaluation was essential of the main site due to its close location to the historic Waytemore Castle, and within an area of multi period activity of Roman, Anglo Saxon, medieval and post medieval. Their Archaeologist considers that insufficient information has been submitted to enable informed advice to be provided to the LPA. Thus the appellants are in breach of PPS5 policy HE6 and the Councils own policy BH2.
- The District Council’s own Landscape Officer recommended refusal as the application involved the removal of at least 59 mature trees.
- The Council’s own Engineers oppose the scheme and state that they are concerned that the proposed development site will increase flood risk in the area.
- The Bishop’s Stortford Town Council have twice refused the scheme and have serious concerns for the future historic fabric, market town ethos and infrastructure of the town.
- The Civic Federation supported by town wide Residents Associations and members of the Retail Community have also put forward substantial evidence why this planning application should be refused. Needless to say the Officers did not take any notice or put forward a sensible and reasonable case why this evidence was ignored.
- This proposed development is at the extreme Northern edge of the town centre shopping area and will draw trade away from the southern part of the town, which is in need of serious regeneration. In this respect the still extant East Herts Local Plan, second review April 2007 specifically identifies the three sites in the Town Centre for development Policies BS. 10, 11, 12 and 13, Paragraphs 11.14.1 through to 11.17.4. The site in this application is not identified in the Plan for specific development and “no specific sequential assessment” has been made to justify this blatant deviation from East Herts Local Plan.
- Also, in the Plan the Town Meads, upon which it is intended to locate the Flood Compensation Area (FCA) states in section 11.23.2 that the overriding aims are to make the area safe, enhance the wildlife value of the area, and improve public access. The use of the Meads for the FCA will be in conflict with and nullify this aim.
Secretary of State, I am sure you will recall your statement not to allow Local Councils to sell off car parks for development. In terms of surface parking, East Herts District Council has done just that, in a financial deal which not only sold the Council’s assets to Henderson at a cut down price, but also effectively guaranteed approval of Henderson’s planning application to build a massive development on the surface level car park. This deal has always been viewed with suspicion by the majority of residents of Bishops Stortford.
These suspicions were finally confirmed when East Herts Council executive member Councillor Tindale, who was instrumental in the sale of the Council’s assets, addressed the Development Control Meeting in Bishops Stortford on the 25th of August.
Councillor Tindale spoke directly to the Development Control Committee reminding members by way of a threat, that they had agreed in principle three years ago to this development, and because of this they were effectively obliged to let the planning application sail through.
Full details of what Councillor Tindale said at the meeting are reported in our local paper the Herts and Essex Observer; a copy is attached for your information.
Finally, on behalf of all our residents associations and the vast majority of local communities who oppose the scheme, we urge you to use the power of your office to call in this planning application in the interest of justice, fairness and local democracy.
Yours Faithfully,Richard Hannah
Chairman, Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation
Mark Prisk- Member of Parliament
National Planning Casework Unit
Press cutting from Herts and Essex Observer Dated 1st September 2011