BSCF feedback on Solum Regeneration's plans for the Goods Yard site New!

In October 2015, a presentation was made by Solum Regeneration to members of the BSCF. This email is a summary of the feedback and comments from BSCF members.

Solum Regeneration
11 November 2015

Dear Sirs

GOODS YARD SITE REGENERATION

I am writing to you following your presentation to the Civic Federation on 21 October with further feedback from our members on your plans for the goods yard site.

I should say at the outset that we were encouraged by the consideration you had given to the results of an earlier consultation in evolving your plans. In particular we welcome the fact that your plans embrace the whole of the site and that they include a southern access, without which we do not feel that any development could be absorbed.

I am grouping our comments under some broad headings.

Traffic and Parking

It was clear at your presentation that the assessment of the traffic implications both during and after completion of the development was still work in progress. In our view it is essential that the implications are robustly modelled with results in which we can have some confidence before any planning application is submitted. Indeed, this is such a crucial issue for the development itself and for the wider circulation of traffic in the town centre that we would encourage you to submit detailed plans with your planning application for the different stages of the development rather than leaving it to be dealt with as a reserved matter as often seems to happen with such developments. We have considerable doubts about the ability of Herts County Council’s SATURN model to provide credible forecasts of the traffic implications of developments in our town, and hope you will supplement it with more sophisticated modelling techniques of your own.

More detailed issues that arise under this heading are as follows:

Quantum and Scale of Development

While we agree with your approach that the buildings near the river should be set back from it and lower in height, we feel that six or seven storeys is too high and would set an unwelcome precedent for other possible brownfield developments in the town. Nor are we persuaded that the southern end of the development next to the railway line is necessarily the best location for the tallest blocks. We are also concerned about an aspiration to build some 700 flats not just from an aesthetic point of view but because of the potential impact on the community of having a town centre occupied by over 1000 flats (taking other development into account).

We appreciate that this is a difficult site to develop but flat dwellers tend to be more transient, particularly with the growth in the buy to let market. It is very difficult to build stable communities in such an environment, because many flat dwellers will want to move on, to more permanent tenure and/or to family homes. We wondered therefore whether there might be a possibility of reducing the number of flats and incorporating a family home element into the scheme itself, as proposed in policy BISH3 of the draft district plan. It might also make more palatable the significant loss of green space at the southern end of the site which your plans contemplate.

We also noted that even with the type of accommodation you are planning for at present, a significant demand for schooling could arise. While the developer’s normal response to this is a S106 payment, we wondered what investigations you had made into the feasibility of adjacent schools being enlarged to cope with the increased demand. Our comments above on pedestrian access are relevant to this point too.

Riverside Opportunities

Bishop's Stortford has not so far taken advantage of the potential the river has to offer to enhance the visual attraction of the town and to provide leisure and recreational opportunities for a larger proportion of the population than the traditional angling and boat users. Apart from the flour mill site (which shows no sign of an imminent change of use) this is the last opportunity in our generation to bring about a genuine enhancement and you have some encouraging ideas.

However, you might be able to make more of the leisure potential. With the agreement of the Canals and Rivers Trust, it might be possible to provide some serviced moorings along the tow path. These might be located near a pub or café to complement those on the other side of the river near the footbridge. It might also be a more attractive location for the proposed hotel which could also add vitality to the area.

Gateway to the Town

Currently the approach from the station to the town has little to commend it either visually or in terms of vehicle and pedestrian access. We hope you will make the most of this, in terms of the quality of the design and the circulation arrangements. This too prompts us to wonder whether this is the best location on the site for the hotel, particularly if all we have to look forward to is a standard Travel Lodge slab.

Just off the site it will clearly be necessary to widen the Station Road bridge over the river by adding to the width of the current single file footpaths. But we also wonder whether there is any other wider community benefit which might be incorporated into the development. For example, both our town centre medical practices need new premises, and this would be well located to meet that need.

Construction traffic

We understand that the railway sidings will remain in use for at least the earlier part of the development. We trust therefore that you will seek to maximise the use of rail for delivery of materials and removal of spoil from the site.

Conclusion

We hope you find this comments helpful and look forward to seeing the next iteration of your plans. We are advising our full membership of you latest ideas in our Autumn newsletter, and if that prompts any further comments, I shall let you know.

John Rhodes
President, Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation