According to East Herts District Council, their purchase of the key Causeway site in Bishop's Stortford town centre will provide both income and regeneration opportunities.
Click the image above to view the press statement.
We are obviously disappointed that the Court did not uphold our case that the procedure which led to the grant of planning permission for the Causeway development was flawed.
But our main concern remains, as it always has been, that this is simply a disastrous development for the site. The flood protection arrangements are unsustainable, and the scheme represents a gross overdevelopment of this important conservation area location. The Federation’s view is shared by the Environment Agency, the town’s retailers, English Heritage and East Herts Council’s own Conservation and Drainage Officers. We hope that, even though the Court refused our application to have the permission quashed, the Council and the developers will think again.
We are very grateful to our great legal team and to the people of Bishop's Stortford whose generosity enabled us to pursue the case on their behalf.
See here for the full text of the Approved Judgment.
View this story online.
Hearing to take place in the new year
The Civic Federation has been advised by its legal team that our judicial review application against EHDC to block the current Causeway Car Park site development has now been confirmed by the court. The case hearing date is set for the 11th of February 2014 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The hearing is expected to continue on into the 12th of February. The Federation will continue to keep the public informed of new developments as and when they occur and once again thank everybody for their continuing support.
The Latest Situation
The BSCF's judicial review application against EHDC is proceeding and the court has now indicated that a full judge-led hearing is likely to take place at the end of this year, or early in the new year.
The BSCF understands that EHDC and Henderson (who are taking part in the proceedings as an interested party) have both requested that the length of the hearing, previously set down for one day, be extended to one and a half days. This means the BSCF has been put under further pressure with regard to costs and would seem to indicate that the Council and Henderson will do everything possible to fight this application.
The BSCF will continue to keep the public abreast of any further developments as and when they occur.
The BSCF would like to thank the public for their continuing support and very much appreciates any donations they wish to make towards legal costs.
Market Stall Fund-Raising Event
The BSCF held a Market Stall event in the centre of Bishop's Stortford on Saturday the 7th of September to collect funds to cover their legal costs for the on-going judicial review action against East Herts District Council. A spokesman for the BSCF said that meeting members of the public and discussing their views on the impact that this proposed development would have on the town had proved invaluable.
This face-to-face engagement with the public has once again confirmed that the overwhelming majority of the townspeople are against this development and are totally supportive of the judicial review action taken by the BSCF. Interestingly, this view was shared by people who were visiting the town from outside the Bishop's Stortford area. Those we spoke to were also extremely concerned about the damage that the Causeway car park development would have on the south end of the town, an area which has been seriously neglected over the years.
Stortford's civic federation is claiming "overwhelming" support for its campaign to block development of the town's central Causeway site.
On Saturday members were in the market handing out leaflets and collecting donations for their legal battle against Henderson Global Investors Limited bid to build a £105m retail, restaurant and residential complex site in the heart of the conservation area.
A spokesman said: "We collected well over £200 in cash and handed out several hundred leaflets hoping that people will donate via our website or by filing in the attached hard copy donation form.
"People who took the leaflets all said they would make a donation, but we did not get any firm pledges on the day.
"However, from the positive feedback we got, we are very confident that the public will respond generous towards our judicial review fund target of £5,000."
He added: "This face to face engagement with the public provided us real positive feedback. This has once again confirmed that the overwhelming majority of the people are against this development, and are totally supportive of the judicial review action taken by the civic federation."
The federation is set for the High Court battle to overturn East Herts District Council's controversial decision to grant planning permission for the Causeway transformation.
The organisation, made up of the town's residents associations, believes the development control committee’s approval of August 2011, passed by the narrowest of majorities, was improperly influenced by Little Hadham’s Councillor Michael Tindale, in an address that the authority’s own standards sub-committee subsequently agreed was inappropriate.
Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation has won two crucial legal victories in its battle to block redevelopment of the town's Causeway.
Deputy High Court Judge John Howell QC has ruled that the residents' organisation can proceed with its bid for a judicial review of East Herts District Council's controversial decision to grant planning permission for Henderson Global Investors Limited to build a £105m retail, restaurant and residential complex site in the heart of the conservation area.
The development would transform the site, swallowing up the existing Causeway and Waitrose car parks and East Herts' former offices.
In a further boost, the court has granted a protected costs order - despite the authority's opposition – limiting the federation's liability throughout the proceedings to £5,000.
The judge ruled it was in the public interest for the case to proceed.
It centres on the federation's contention that the development control committee's approval of August 2011, passed by the narrowest of majorities, was influenced by Little Hadham's Councillor Michael Tindale, in an address that the authority's own standards sub-committee subsequently agreed was inappropriate. As he was not the ward member, he should not have spoken.
However as the executive member responsible for the council's finances, Conservative Councillor Tindale was instrumental in negotiating an earlier confidential deal with developer Henderson that stands to see East Herts profit from the development.
The civic federation alleges his intervention made it impossible for the committee to ignore that vested financial interest in the development and take a decision based on purely planning grounds.
According to the federation's legal team, the judge ruled: "The allegation of apparent bias is unarguable. The issue of whether Cllr Tindale had no right to speak at the development control committee meeting in itself does not give rise to any apparent bias, but the relevant question is whether or not anything he said might have flawed the decision of the committee.
"The position he held and how he came to speak at the meeting may be relevant to the influence of the statements he made.
"It is at least arguable that the development control committee took into account the land dealings the council had had and that they were in any event misled by Cllr Tindale into believing that the full council had previously agreed to the principle that the Causeway building would be demolished and that a mixed development would be acceptable.
"The judge then goes on to say that it is at least arguable that Cllr Tindale maybe have been taken to have suggested that the council had accepted the principle of such development from a planning perspective.
"Furthermore it is at least arguable that the committee chairman ... did not seek to correct any impression that Cllr Tindale may have created."
East Herts District Council now has 35 days to prepare a response to the judge's ruling.
Then the civic federation will get another 21 days to present further evidence before the submissions are again examined by a judge.
Welcoming the judge's findings, federation spokesman Richard Hannah said: "Now that the judge has limited our costs to £5,000, we intend to go all the way to fight our case to protect the town from this unwanted development."
To ensure it can take the case to conclusion, the organisation is launching a poster campaign and aims to win the support of traders and residents.
The federation wants its supporters to know the battle is continuing and it needs donations to cover the legal costs.
Commenting on the application, the Civic Federation's Chairman, John Rhodes, said:
"We have launched this action with the full support of the Town Council, the retailers and the people of Bishop's Stortford. Thanks to the Council's financial interest in the outcome, the planning merits of this development never received an impartial hearing. This is a scheme based on the commercial and development values of the last century and needs fundamental revision to accommodate present day realities. This is the last opportunity to produce a more sympathetic plan for the town that meets local needs and is supported by the residents".
The Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation today announced that it has issued a claim in the High Court for a judicial review of the planning permission granted by East Herts District Council to Henderson Global Investors Limited to develop the Causeway site in the heart of the conservation area.
The Civic Federation is concerned that the Development Control Committee's decision in August 2011, passed by the narrowest of majorities, was influenced by an address in support of the application by Councillor Michael Tindale that the Council's own Standards Sub-Committee subsequently deemed inappropriate.
As the Executive Member responsible for the Council's Finances, Councillor Tindale was instrumental in negotiating an earlier confidential profit share deal with developer Henderson that stands to see the Council profit from the development. The Civic Federation believes that his address made it impossible for the Committee to ignore the Council's vested interest in the development and take a decision based on purely planning grounds.
The Civic Federation's confidence in the Council's ability to fairly decide the planning application has been further undermined during the 16 month delay between the Committee's decision and the formal grant of planning permission in January of this year. During this period, the Council received further representations from Henderson that it withheld from the public and failed to refer back to the Committee for consideration.
As a charity reliant on subscriptions and donations, the Civic Federation cannot hope to match the financial resources of the Council or developer Henderson, and has applied to the High Court for an order to limit its costs, whatever the outcome of its claim. The Federation believes that the way in which the Council has approached its public interest obligations deserves to be fully tested in Court and hopes that the application to limit its costs will therefore be granted.BSCF
At a meeting of East Herts Council's Standards Sub-Committee held on 23 January 2013, Cllr. Tindale was found guilty of bringing the Councillor's office into disrepute (Para 5 of Code of Conduct). He was found not guilty of failing to treat others with respect (Para 3 of Code of Conduct).
The text of Para 5 of the Code of Conduct reads:
You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute.
The Standards Sub Committee's Determination may be seen in the next story below and on the East Herts District Council website.
For further details, see this story: Standards scrutineers find East Herts finance chief guilty of conduct breach which was published in the online edition of the Herts and Essex Observer on 23 January 2013.
East Herts Council's Standards Sub-Committee, at its meeting held on 23 January 2013, made the following determination in relation to each of the complaints made alleging that Councillor M Tindale had breached its Code of Conduct (as in place at that time) at a meeting of the Development Control Committee held on 25 August 2011:
(A) insofar as the allegation related to a breach of paragraph 3.1 of the Code - failing to treat others with respect - the Sub-Committee agreed with the Independent Investigating Officer's finding that Councillor Tindale was not in breach of this provision, and
(B) insofar as the allegation related to a breach of paragraph 5 of the Code - bringing the office of councillor or authority into disrepute - the Sub-Committee agreed with the Independent Investigating Officer's finding that Councillor Tindale had failed to comply with this provision. The Sub Committee considered that it was inappropriate for Councillor Tindale to attend and speak at the Development Control Committee meeting when his contribution was not a material planning consideration and he was known especially as being intimately involved in the Hendersons' negotiations. As such, there had been a technical breach of this provision of the Code of Conduct.
East Herts Council's Standards Sub-Committee will hear the complaint against Cllr Tindale on Wednesday 23 January 2013. The hearing will take place at the Council Chambers, Wallfields, Hertford. This is a public hearing and members of the public are encouraged to attend.
We understand that the Standards Sub-Committee's report of the hearing will be published on the East Herts Council's website on the 16 January.
See this page for details of the agenda:Agenda of Standards Sub-committee. The matter in question is Item 6.
See this letter for details of the complaint: BSCF letter of complaint to East Herts District Council.
A spokesman for East Herts Disctrict Council has confirmed that the case against Cllr. Tindale will not be heard by the Standards Sub-Committee meeting on 18 December because Cllr. Tindale is "not available" on that day. This is the second postponement of a hearing into Tindale's conduct at the Development Control Committee held on 25 August, 2011. For more details, see this article East Herts confirms new delay in conduct hearing against top Tory published in the Herts and Essex Observer.
The Standards Committee is to meet at 2.30pm on Tuesday December 18 at Charringtons House, Bishop's Stortford, to discuss the conduct of Councillor Tindale during his address to the Development Control Committee held on 25 August 2011. Following the decision of the committee to grant planning permission to Henderson to develop the Causeway site, the BSCF wrote a letter of complaint to East Herts District Council.
See this page on EHDC's website for further details as they are announced.
This committee meeting is open to the public. Note: Time changed to 2.30pm :
The BSCF is delighted to report that the Bishop's Stortford Retail Association is fully behind its move to seek a judicial review of East Herts District Council's deicision to approve the Henderson plans for the Causeway site.
The Bishop's Stortford Retail Association issued this statement:
"The Bishop's Stortford Retail Association fully supports the BS Civic federation and the Town Council in its attempt to gain a judicial review to test the validity of the decision by EHDC to pass the Henderson Global / Old river lane development plan."
At a full Town Council meeting held on 8 February, Bishop's Stortford Town Council voted to support the BSCF's move to apply for a judicial review of East Herts Council Development Control Committee's decision of 25 August 2011 to grant planning permision to Henderson to develop the Causeway site.
All members present voted in favour except Cllr Janice Elliott, who abstained.
See this story: Town Council to "test validity" of Causeway plan yes vote which appeared in the online and print editions of the Herts and Essex Observer on 9 February 2012.
See this story which appeared in the online edition of the Herts and Essex Observer on 1 December 2011. Cllr Colin Woodward, who represents Stortford at town, district and county level, has clashed with Ce' The Jeweller's Rob Drewett over the impending Old River Lane development at The Causeway.One comment on the above story that excellently sums up the views of the majority:
I agree with Rob Drewett - we are not against development in the town but it does have to be right. Why on earth EHC approved such a large development for more shops, flats and restaurants is beyond me - when there are premises around that remain empty. (Apparently the empty shops are not the right sort of shops - what's that all about ? An underground car park which is liable to flood? I really wonder who I am voting for in the local elections. Anyone I speak to about this development is seriously against it. The development of flats and shops behind the old Sainsburys has restaurant premises that have NEVER been occupied. The Bath Store closed after a few months and remains empty. I just cannot believe that people who are supposed to be representing us and our town have agreed such a thing. And do we really need more flats? The new development will draw people into the town to spend their money? I doubt it. After a couple of years of total upheaval - where they can't even get into the town, let alone try and park - they will probably stop coming back! But whatever we say it will still go ahead - their minds have been made up regardless of what we think.
Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation confirmed has confirmed it is to seek a judicial review to overturn planning permission for Henderson Global Investors' £105m plan to transform the Causeway.
President Michael Hurford spoke at a meeting of the Conservative-controlled town council to explain the basis for the move – and to urge members to back it – in defiance of Tory-run East Herts District Council, which in August approved the plans for retail, residential and restaurant development in the face of fierce public opposition.
A spokesman told the Observer: "The federation stated that the process applied by EHDC was fundamentally flawed and did not conform to several national and district planning policies with obligatory requirements for conservation areas.
"Furthermore, by granting permission, EHDC totally ignored the sovereignty of the Local Plan, which does not include any development in this area."
Mr Hurford made his plea during the public participation slot, so there was no discussion by members and the issue will be added to a future agenda for official consideration.
The judicial review call is the third attempt by the federation to overturn planning approval. After East Herts caused uproar by giving the scheme the green light, opponents asked Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles to ‘call in' the council's decision for in-depth scrutiny, but he decided it should stand.
The federation also called on EHDC development control committee chairman Cllr William Ashley to revoke the consent, but he too declined.
In addition, the federation called for Cllr Michael Tindale to be suspended after the executive member spoke in favour of Henderson's scheme to redevelop EHDC's former offices on the Causeway site and two adjoining car parks. He was accused of trying to intimidate members by telling them it would be "morally bankrupt" to refuse, but he strenuously denied the charge.
See this correspondence between the BSCF and Cllr William Ashley, chairman of East Herts County's Development Control Committee. The letters refer to the meeting of the Development Control Commmittee on 25 August which debated, and voted on, the Henderson Causeway development application. The BSCF maintain that the decision should be revoked. The second BSCF letter of 18 October notified Cllr Ashley that the BSCF intend to seek a judicial review of the planning decision.
Matters to be considered at a judicial review would include:
See this letter from BSCF President, Michael Hurford, to EHDC's Deputy Monitoring Ofiicer, Jeff Hughes. The letter is a formal complaint againt the conduct of Mike Tindale who spoke at the Development Control Committee public meeting held on 25 August 2011.
Opponents of Henderson's Old River Lane scheme have slammed East Herts' finance chief after he urged fellow councillors to give the green light as it was already a done deal.
At last week's crunch meeting, the district council's executive member for finance Cllr Michael Tindale told colleagues they had agreed in principle to a mixed-use development at The Causeway three years ago – and because of this, they should let the plans sail through.
Shortly before the authority took that decision in 2008, it had sold the town centre site and office to Henderson for £6.25m. Professional valuations had suggested it was worth up to £9.9m.
Cllr Tindale said: "I speak as the person responsible for reaching agreement with Henderson three years ago. The details of that agreement are not relevant – the deal has been done.
"Many have commented that the assets were undersold . . . but this is not about the deal. Under discussions three years ago, the proposals went to full council and it was agreed that The Causeway would be demolished and that a mixed use development would come forward. Members spoke and voted, and the decision was made under the full glare of public debate.
"To renege on that principle now . . . would be morally bankrupt – not because it would be unfair to Henderson, but because it would undermine the authority of East Herts Council."
But this week, Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation president Michael Hurford said Cllr Tindale's speech was the "most disgraceful episode of the whole evening" and a "breach of the planning system".
He said: "He attempted to intimidate the whole committee – he was basically saying: ‘we agreed we would give them planning permission when we sold the land and there's b****r all you can do about it'."
The civic federation has not yet decided its next move, but will soon be meeting to discuss the situation. Its supporters, including "appalled" former Stortford mayor Cllr Norma Symonds, are hoping it will call for a judicial review into the decision.
However, despite the controversy, Henderson remains confident its project will give Stortford's retail scene a vital shot in the arm – and that it can be built without causing chaos on surrounding roads.
Fund manager Cameron Fraser told the Observer that underground parking would be the first phase of construction, with temporary relief bays provided elsewhere to increase the number of spaces available.
Mr Fraser said: "We haven't just looked at our site by dumping a mixed-use scheme on the car park – it was very important to look back at the historical linkages that are part of the town, and how the scheme fits into it."
Henderson says the scheme will create about 720 permanent jobs and 300 during building. It hopes to start work next summer and open by autumn 2014.
On Thursday 25 August, at a packed Charis Centre and against the wishes of the majority of residents of Bishop's Stortford, East Herts District Council's Development Control Committee voted by 6 votes to 5 to grant outline planning permission for the proposed Old River Lane (Causeway) development.
The BSCF remains firmly opposed to these proposals and is considering its next steps.
In the light of proposed major developments in the Hertfordshire towns of Bishop's Stortford and Hitchin, English Heritage produced an Urban Panel Review Paper
The Urban Panel's conclusions are summarised below. For the complete Review Paper, see the full text of the Review Paper.
Alliance group in call to residents to seize golden chance.
It's crunch time for Bishop's Stortford as the future of two key development sites in the town centre hang in the balance.
That's the clarion call to residents from Mike Allen, chairman of the local alliance which was formed in opposition to massive plans for shops, homes, a hotel and leisure facilities at the Causeway, while proposals for similar-scale residential and retail construction at the railway good yards site are thrashed out.
Mr Allen, who is also chairman of the town's chamber of commerce, is speaking out on behalf of the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation and the Bishop's Stortford Retail Community, and urging everyone with a stake in Stortford to seize the chance to influence both designs – before it is too late and avoid the mistakes of the past, like the fiercely criticised Jackson Square redevelopment.
He fears that unless a co-ordinated approach is adopted, the outcome will be disaster, with infrastructure meltdown, traffic and parking hell plus dire duplication of the wrong facilities.
"Anything that's done on the Causeway site needs to be considered alongside the goods yard – in fact, we think it would be better to sort out the goods yard first, but that's unlikely to happen," said Mr Allen.
The alliance has already formulated a tentative layout for the goods yard – widely regarded as an eyesore at the railway gateway to Stortford – and made it clear that any new hotel for the town should be there, near the railway and bus stations, not in the northern sector.
He said: "We've been given a marvellous opportunity to carve out the concept. What I want to say to people is now is our chance to really put our mark on the developments. This is a golden opportunity – it's not like Jackson Square."
Henderson Global Investors, which is behind the £105m regeneration scheme for the Causeway – to be called Old River Lane – has applied for planning permission from East Herts District Council, but Mr Allen said delays caused by the May 5 local elections and problems with the proposals meant there was still time for a rethink.
"Just to slow things down would be beneficial for all of us," he said. "If Henderson are interested in being long-term then that's in their interest, too."
He wants to meet with the developer to find a mutually agreeable solution.
Martin Perry, Henderson Global Investors' director of retail property development, said: "We have been in dialogue with the alliance members from the outset and have held informal meetings with their leadership.
"We are in the process of planning a formal meeting with them which will take place during the first or second week of April."
In support of its opposition to the Henderson Causeway development proposals, the BSCF has published its own suggestions for an alternative development on the Goods Yard site, currently a wasteland in the town centre.
The BSCF's response is in two parts below, a text and a concept illustration:
Proposal for the Goods Yard Site
Prepared by Brian Edwards for the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation
This area and the surrounding land which has many derelict buildings should be the cornerstone of any major development to bring new life to the town, especially the south end.One suggestion would be to encourage a property developer to build a prestigious office building for rental to attract professional City businesses with the draw that it would offer:
The building should be substantial and inspirational (not a rectangular block – think Gherkin) but shorter than the Mill and have its own underground parking for employees. There should also be a small quality hotel in the area suitable for "professional" visitors. (Note: Planning permission has already been granted for a hotel on an immediately adjacent site on the other side of the river which may well be taken up when this scheme goes ahead.) The development could possibly extend over the top of the railway to embrace the dilapidated buildings along the west side of London Road and provide pedestrian access to the whole development.
A major development at this location could have significant advantages and provide every opportunity to rejuvenate the south end of town (pedestrian access would be by the new footbridge to Triad - Currey Award 2009) and it should include the following:
If additional houses are required to make the project viable, these should be quality homes, not apartments, and be sited on the east bank of the River Stort. There are already a number of unoccupied apartments off London Road on the Tanner's Wharf site to the south of the site.
All of the above should be in keeping with the historic character of the market town. No building in the development should obscure the views of St Michael's Church from the Hallingbury Road.
This development would obviously have a number of traffic implications: Station Road is already very narrow and Anchor Street a bottleneck. We would therefore request a re-run of the traffic model for the town to assess the impact of these proposals and to make appropriate recommendations.
However, the most important thing that this major development would bring in this location would be rail and bus services, which would bring visitors to the town from Cambridge, Harlow, Sawbridgeworth and elsewhere, without having to use their cars. The benefits of this would be obvious.
The Town Council was asked to comment on the 2020 Vision group document entitled "Goods Yard Development Brief February 2004". This is to support its opposition to the Henderson Causeway development proposals. View the Town Council's response.
The wording of the petition (agreed with the Retailers' Association and the Chamber of Commerce) is as follows:
"We the undersigned call on EHDC to Refuse planning permission for the Causeway/Henderson development on the grounds that it is unrealistic and undeliverable. EHDC council should consider carefully the effects of such an ambitious and potentially damaging proposal on Bishop's Stortford as a market town, its historic views, the surrounding existing retail businesses, the impact on an already failing road and parking infrastructure during and after the build and the proposed loss of ground level parking and the community church hall."
Bishop's Stortford is united this week with the formation of a "super-alliance" of residents, retailers and business people determined to forge a brighter future for the town – and avert an "imminent catastrophe". For more details, see this story Super-Team 'fighting for Stortford's future' which appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer of 27 January 2011.
A full meeting of the Town Council's Planning Committee was held at the Rhodes Centre, Bishops Stortford on Tuesday 4 January 2011. The main planning application for consideration was Henderson Global Investors' Old River Lane development plans for a new shopping complex on the site of the Waitrose car park. Following statements from the BSCF, the Chamber of Commerce and the Bishop's Stortford Labour Party, the planning committee voted against the plans. The ten reasons given included loss of views within the heart of the conservation area, the proposed development not having been adopted in the local plan, traffic congestion and lack of parking. The final decision will be taken by East Herts District Council later in the year.
The Herts and Essex Observer has this story: Town council says no to £105m Stortford redevelopment.
The BSCF has sent East Herts District Council its detailed comments on Henderson's proposals for the development of the Causeway site.
The BSCF has issued a formal response to Henderson's proposals for the development of the Causeway site.
See this page for Henderson's initial plans.
See this letter Will councillors make a stand for Stortford? published in the Herts and Essex Observer of 3 June 2010.
See this story - Frustration at council's 'culture of secrecy' reaches boiling point - for how EHDC is losing the trust of the public.
See this story - Experts called in amid claims council sold off Stortford land on the cheap for information about how EHDC did a deal with the developer, Henderson, which ignored the best financial option. Once again, it took a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain details of the deal.