BSCF Questions on Town Centre Development

By Email

Richard Cassidy Esq
Chief Executive
East Herts Council
Wallfields
Pegs Lane
Hertford
SG13 8EQ
10 January 2021
Dear Mr Cassidy

BISHOP'S STORTFORD TOWN CENTRE DEVELOPMENTS

1. I am writing on behalf of the Civic Federation to ask if you can update us on a number of issues affecting development in the centre of Bishop's Stortford. I have been prompted to do so for a number of reasons.

2. Taking these points together, it is clear that the development brief for the ORL site has become largely irrelevant and that a different approach is needed to the enhancement of the town centre. In particular, whatever development takes place ought to be capable of absorbing all the parking requirements, including those generated by the development itself, on site. Bearing in mind the need for no net increase in parking spaces if Bishop's Stortford is to become a Sustainable Travel Town, this would make the multi storey car park on the wrong side of Link Road redundant – just as one of the members of the Development Control Committee foresaw when it was granted planning permission. Although construction has now started, it would surely prudent to pause the work, or cancel the project outright before further damage is done to that part of the conservation area. The only rationale for the car park was to release the ORL site for development, and its provision should no longer be needed to allow a suitable development to take place.

3. What that development should be may emerge from the forthcoming private meeting of the Council. But we think that this would be an appropriate moment on which to consult the residents of the town about what they would like to see on the site, rather than presenting us with new scheme as a fait accompli which may turn out to have no more public support than the previous development proposals. Or indeed it may be more sensible to leave the site undeveloped until the future for towns such as ours has become clearer.

4. But in any event, no further work should take place on the multi storey car park. Our reason for pressing this point is emphasised by the development of the station goods yard at the other end of the town centre. If the full scheme which was granted planning permission is implemented, this too will lead to a significant increase in parking provision for the general public, which, for a Sustainable Travel Town, implies a net reduction in parking provision elsewhere in the town centre.

5. We have been trying now for more than a year to find out from the Council’s Planning Department whether the full scheme is intended to be implemented. Our questions have included

And since my last correspondence with the Planning Department

6. I am sorry to say that so far I have been unable to obtain a substantive reply to these questions from the Planning Department. Their most recent suggestion, that I should contact a named representative of Solum to find out the answers, elicited no reply at all from that representative.

7. In conclusion therefore, it is clear that the future of the town centre and parking provision within it needs a complete rethink. While innumerable studies have been carried out, there seems to be no overall guiding vision, but simply a set of piecemeal exercises, of which the Link Road multi storey car park is simply the most egregious example.

8. In view of the imminent discussion of the subject by the full Council, I would be most grateful if you could arrange to have this letter circulated to all Councillors before that meeting takes place.

9. I look forward to hearing from you after the meeting.

Yours sincerely

JOHN RHODES
PRESIDENT