BSCF letter to EHDC on proposed Thorley parish boundary alterations

John Williams Esq
Electoral Services Officer
East Herts Council
Pegs Lane
SG18 8EQ
8 March 2018


I am writing on behalf of the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation to comment on the proposal to transfer a part of what is currently Thorley Parish Council to Bishop's Stortford Town Council.

Thorley, although adjacent to Bishop's Stortford, is a largely rural village, unfortunately bisected by the bypass since the development of St Michael’s Mead. A major development has been proposed in the Draft District Plan on land south of Whittington Way which is currently within the Green Belt. The site is also largely within the Parish of Thorley.

The Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation has objected to the removal of this site from the Green Belt for purposes of development on various grounds. These include the fact that no very special or exceptional circumstances have been demonstrated to justify overturning the decisions of two previous Planning Inspectors and the Secretary of State to retain Green Belt protection.

However, there is an additional objection, namely that the Draft Plan designates Thorley as a Group 3 village. Within such villages the plan proposes that only limited infill development as identified in neighbourhood plans will be permitted. The Neighbourhood Plan covering this site, as well as the rest of southern Bishop's Stortford, makes it clear that the local population is strongly opposed to any development on this site, and by no stretch of the imagination could the development proposed be regarded as limited infill or sanctioned by the Neighbourhood Plan.

There is therefore an inherent contradiction in the Draft Plan between the proposed development of 750 homes, two schools and a neighbourhood centre, and the policy on Group 3 villages which is applicable to most of the site. The consultation currently taking place on proposed main modifications to the Draft Plan includes nothing which would resolve this inherent contradiction, and it remains to be seen what conclusions the Inspector will reach on the matter.

It therefore seems to the Civic Federation that the underlying reason for the proposed boundary changes is not administrative tidiness but to provide a retrospective legitimisation of an inherent flaw in the Draft Plan as it stands. Given that we object to the development of the Whittington Way site we can see no justification for the boundary change which appears to seek to anticipate the Inspector’s decisions on the Draft Plan.

I should also add that if, against our wishes, and following consideration by the Inspector, EHDC adopts the Plan with this major development included in it, we would also question the rationale for the boundary change. The development will have a devastating impact on the village of Thorley. It would therefore seem to us contrary to natural justice that, with the development having trashed the village, a smash and grab raid should be launched, so as the deprive Thorley Parish of any compensating financial benefit that would arise from it.