BSCF's response to planning approval for development of ASR 5  Map  in Bishop's Stortford North

This letter was published in the Herts & Essex Observer on 27 August 2015

The Editor
Herts and Essex Observer
19 August 2015

Dear Editor

ASR 5

The Development Management Committee of East Herts Council approved a planning application to build 329 Homes and a 1 form of entry primary school on the ASR 5 part  Map  of the Bishop's Stortford North development. The remarkable thing is that nobody wants or intends to develop the site in this form.

The County Council as education authority thinks that 1 form of entry schools are too small and wants to commission larger schools elsewhere on the Bishop's Stortford North development to meet the demand the new homes will generate. But their plans keep changing and they cannot offer any guarantees about when or where the new school places will be provided.

The developers do not want to build a new school. They would prefer to build more houses on the site they are setting aside for the school. But this application gives no indication of how many more homes can be slotted in.

And residents moving to this site will face an uncertain future unless they can rely on a car because they will be marooned in the country without access to school places, shops and all the other local facilities needed to support a new residential community. These will be provided elsewhere in the Bishop's Stortford North development at some unknown date in several years time.

Nevertheless, the Committee felt powerless to refuse planning permission. They were advised that because East Herts cannot demonstrate the availability of a five year supply of land for housing, the presumption in favour of granting permission for new housing developments outweighs other considerations.

The land supply obligation applies to the whole of East Herts. There is no shortage of housing land in Bishop's Stortford. In fact the number of homes approved for Bishop's Stortford North alone is the equivalent of over three years supply for the whole of the district. But because house builders ration the rate of completions to be released over a much longer period to avoid flooding the market and keep up prices, the full number of approvals is not taken into account in the land supply calculations.

New homes may well be needed in other parts of the district as well as here. But granting planning permission for this scheme, simply to meet an arbitrary land supply target for the whole district, will do nothing to tackle the genuine shortage of housing land that exists elsewhere.

The last local plan is time expired and so, for the time being, it is open season for house builders to apply to build new estates wherever they like in the confidence that the planning authority dare not refuse planning permission. East Herts Council consulted on a new district plan 18 months ago.

The Civic Federation and others, offered many suggestions for its improvement, but we are still waiting for a revised version to be published.

May we therefore ask through your pages for East Herts Council to provide a firm timetable for completion of a new plan? Until we have one, we shall continue to face developer led anarchy rather than the management of development which is the proper role of the planning authority.

Yours Faithfully

John Rhodes
President, Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation