BSCF concerns about the closure of the south-facing ramp to Bishop's Stortford station. New!

Ms Sarah Saunders
Head of Planning and Building Control
East Herts Council
Pegs Lane
Hertford
SG13 8EQ
15 June 2019

Dear Ms Saunders

BISHOP'S STORTFORD STATION GOODS YARD
Your ref: 3/17/2588/OUT

1. It has come to the attention of the Civic Federation (from a news item in the Stortford Independent) that the south facing ramp from Station Road into the railway station forecourt is being closed with immediate effect. Although this was foreshadowed in the planning permission granted for this development, it does give rise to some issues which do not appear to have been addressed.

2. The first of these concerns pedestrian access to the railway station and transport interchange. This part of Station Road is an important pedestrian route since four schools and the Herts and Essex Hospital are located east of the railway line and London Road. Closing the ramp will benefit pedestrian safety since it will eliminate the conflict with vehicles which has made crossing the road hazardous until now. Unfortunately, it also removes the only route between the railway station and the eastern side of the town with step free access.

3. We pointed this out both beforehand and at the meeting of the Development Management Committee which resolved to grant approval for the development. Our concern was brushed aside by the officers dealing with the application who assured the meeting that alternative arrangements could be devised. Quite what those alternative arrangements might be, we could not imagine at the time, and in any event nothing appears to have been done to address this shortcoming. Installation of a footpath on the remaining north facing ramp would overcome the problem, but the carriageway would then be too narrow to permit two way traffic, and turning it into a one way operation would have wider implications for traffic circulation.

4. The second issue is the impact of this closure on traffic circulation, particularly on the London Road and at Hockerill junction, which is an AQMA as a result of the pollution from traffic congestion which occurs there. Meyer Brown (who appear to be the transport consultants of choice for all developers in Bishop's Stortford) claimed in their assessment that use of the ramp was such that its closure would have a negligible effect on traffic congestion in the area. We felt that, like many of their claims about the impact of development on the road network, this assertion relied more on imagination than evidence, and since the closure has now been implemented it provides a text book opportunity to test the actual impact of a change whose results they have modelled.

5. We trust therefore that EHDC will be arranging for an independent assessment of the results of this change in the road network. We feel it is particularly important to do so because, in the case of Bishop's Stortford South, for which the determination notice has not yet been issued, Herts Highways’ preference also appears to be to monitor the traffic impacts on a post hoc basis rather than insisting on prior mitigation measures. Monitoring in this case might therefore provide some valuable lessons which would help inform the Bishop's Stortford South determination.

6. Clearly, Meyer Brown should not be asked to carry out this monitoring exercise, because that would be akin to allowing them to mark their own homework, and the same objection would apply to Herts Highways who signed off the results of the assessment. It may of course be too late to create an accurate picture of conditions before the change although a reliable statement of baseline conditions should have been included with the planning application, but the aftermath certainly can and should be modelled. Observation of the first few days of operation suggests that considerable problems have arisen.

7. Finally it is reported that another, albeit temporary, impact of the closure is that the frequency of local bus services 308 and 309 (not noted for their reliability) is to be reduced as a result of this closure. While the overall transport strategy for the town is apparently to encourage people to become less reliant on the private car, it seems to us that the changes I have set out in this letter will have the opposite effect.

8. If you are unfamiliar with the area, I would be happy to show you around to help you understand the problems.

Yours sincerely

JOHN RHODES
PRESIDENT