BSCF letter to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, about Bishop's Stortford North proposed development

Rt Hon Eric Pickles
Secretary of State, Communities & Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU
27 February 2014

Dear Mr Pickles

Bishop’s Stortford: Planning Application to East Herts DC 3/13/0075/OP

I am writing to you on behalf of the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation in regard to the above planning application which has been referred to you by East Herts District Council. This application by the Bishop’s Stortford North Consortium to build 2200 homes was approved in principle at a meeting of their Development Management Committee on 30th Jan 2014. However, the following proviso has been added to their report on the outcome of the meeting:

"In addition, prior to any release of planning permission, the details of the proposals will be referred to the Secretary of State as they represent a departure from the development plan. This is because the application includes proposals for the development of ASRs 3, 4 and 5  Map  to commence in advance of the completion of a review of the current Local Plan. This does not comply with the requirements of the current Local Plan policy."

We assume that EHDC has now contacted you on this matter. (To clarify, ASR 5 is the site of a separate Countryside Properties application to build over 400 homes -3/13/1501/OP. This application is likely to come in front of the East Herts Development Management Committee in the next month or so.)

The BSN application engendered a great deal of controversy and was rejected by the Bishop’s Stortford Town Council and was objected to by our Civic Federation, two local residents associations and all the surrounding village parish councils. We accept that this land (ASRs 1-4) was set aside many years ago for future development but we have two major concerns which we would ask you to consider carefully when deciding on this matter.

Firstly, we are very disturbed by the extra traffic which a major development of 2200 houses will create in our ancient market town. We consider that the effect will be ‘severe’ in terms of the NPPF Paragraph 32. We have highlighted to EHDC our concerns in connection with the increased pressure that this development will place on our local roads and transport infrastructure and also the cumulative impact on an existing Air Quality Management Area in the town centre.

Secondly, we made the point at the 30th Jan meeting that development on ASRs 3, 4 and 5 requires the approval of a new Local Plan as agreed by EHDC themselves in 2008. The old Local Plan expired in 2011 and the new plan is still in draft, so we are in a planning limbo. Since the new Local Plan is only going out to consultation now, it is premature to approve development on ASRs 3&4. The approval of any development relating to ASRs 3, 4 or 5 breaches saved Planning Policy BIS8 in the previous Local Plan. To give permission for development to take place prior to the District Plan being approved undermines the role of the District Planning process as a strategic mechanism that drives a holistic, integrated and co-ordinated approach to development. In any case, this development is presented as a long-term one and ASRs 3&4 are not due to come on stream for 8-10 years. We would therefore ask you to require EHDC to adhere to the legal requirements as set down by their own planning committee.

We would be happy to provide further information if so required.

Yours sincerely,

Rob Francis
Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation
cc Mark Prisk MP, cc Stephen Tapper, EHDC.