Clarification of BSCF's position on Green Belt development

An article was published in the Herts & Essex Observer on 10 September 2015 which led several readers to question the BSCF's position on the Green Belt. The BSCF subsequently wrote to the Herts & Essex Observer to clarify the position and the letter below was published in the same newspaper on 17 September 2015.

The Editor
Herts & Essex Observer
11 September 2015

Dear Editor

GREEN BELT REVIEW

I am writing to you about the article on this subject which appeared on page 2 of yesterday's Observer. While the article is mostly a fair reflection of my comments, the headline and opening sentence are not my views nor those of the Civic Federation.

The report recommends that most of the Green Belt around Bishop's Stortford should continue to have that protection. In particular it recommends that land south of Whittington Way which was earmarked for up to 1000 homes in the draft district plan should remain as Green Belt and we do welcome that aspect of the report.

Most of the sites recommended for removal are 'green wedges' which provide important open spaces for the town, or sports facilities from which we already suffer a shortage. The report argues that these can continue to serve their present functions through other planning policies rather than through Green Belt designation. But that would require East Herts Council to make and enforce those policies, and whether they are prepared do so remains to be seen. Until we can be sure that they will, we would not favour any redesignation of Green Belt sites.

I should be grateful if you would publish this letter to correct any misunderstanding the article may have created.

Yours sincerely

John Rhodes
President, Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation


The original that article appeared in the Herts & Essex Observer on 10 September 2015

Federation welcomes Green Belt 'Removal'

Parks and sports club sites earmarked to be reclassified

RECOMMENDATIONS that most of Bishop's Stortford's Green Belt could be removed have been WELCOMED by the town's civic federation.

While a source close to developers told the Observer the proposals would undoubtedly encourage new planning applications, with speculators using the East Herts District Council report as evidence to back their bids, Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation's president has also scrutinised the documents due to go before the council's planning executive panel tonight (Thursday) and come to a very different conclusion.

The parcels of protected land in question are the proposed countryside park at Stortford North and land used by the town's cricket and hockey clubs, green wedges within Thorley Park and between Thorley Park and St Michael's Mead, and Southern Country Park next to St Michael's Mead. Federation president John Rhodes said: "Even with reclassification I doubt if they [the cricket and hockey clubs] are planning to move anywhere soon, especially given the shortage of sports facilities in the town.

Criteria

"The authors of the report make it clear that they are proposing that these should be reclassified as not Green Belt, not because they are suitable for development but because they do not fit with the criteria that should be applied to deciding on Green Belt designation.

"But they are all important as open spaces for the surrounding communities and that can be preserved through the application of other planning policies."

Bishop's Stortford Golf Club's course at Dunmow Road is also deemed suitable for reclassification, and part of it has already been identified in the draft District Plan as suitable for 150 homes.

However, Mr Rhodes said the big silver lining to the Green Belt review was the recommendation concerning land south of Whittington Way, which the draft District Plan described as Bishop's Stortford South and suitable for up to 1,000 dwellings.

Part of the site was previously the subject of a planning application, dismissed after a public inquiry, to relocate the Herts & Essex and Bishop's Stortford high schools to a new, joint campus.

Mr Rhodes said the report recommends firmly that this should remain in the Green Belt and gives it the second highest category of value as a Green Belt site.

He was concerned that there would be growing pressure for development at Harlow North but said: "I am delighted that this independent assessment confirms the importance of keeping the land south of Whittington Way in the Green Belt.

Appeal

"This was the conclusion reached in 2006 by the inspector in her report on the last Local Plan and by the inspector in 2011 in his report on the schools' relocation appeal. The civic federation has always argued strongly that this site should not be developed and I hope that any such proposal will be removed from the next version of the District Plan."