The BSCF's Recommendations
The BSCF has read the Core Stategy Consultation document and recommends that residents answer the questions as follows:
Questions 1, 2 and 3 should be answered: None of the above
Question 4 should be answered: No
For details of why the BSCF has made these recommendations, see the Briefing Note.
Plans for a super-school on Bishop's Stortford's Green Belt have failed their examination – but Government spending cuts could determine whether they return for a resit.
At least 250 residents crowded into Stortford's Charis Centre last Thursday night (September 30), when East Herts District Council debated the controversial proposed relocation of the Bishop's Stort-ford and Herts and Essex high schools to unspoilt land on the edge of the town.
At the end of the three-hour battle, during which opponents and supporters pleaded their case to East Herts' development control committee, councillors accepted their officers' advice and unanimously rejected all six applications which made up the scheme.
However, Bishop's Stortford High School chairman of governors Rodney Stock – who addressed the council to endorse the plans – this week refused to rule out a planning appeal.
Under the plans, the two secondaries' London Road and Warwick Road sites would have been sold to make way for almost 700 new homes. A new base would have been built for both on a site off Whittington Way – and Herts and Essex's Beldams Lane playing fields, which are regularly used by the public, would also have been lost to housing. Residential redevelopment would also have been the fate of Herts County Council land in Patmore Close, reserved for a new school decades ago.
Mr Stock said: "[The move] is seen as preferable to a ‘sticking plaster' solution involving sending Bishop's Stortford children out of town and leaving the two outstanding schools willing but unable to help in their admittedly inadequate buildings and facilities.
"We await the outcome of the Government's comprehensive spending review [due on October 20] before reviewing the matter further on advice. We do not, however, expect the Government's spending review to enable Herts County Council to make available funds to provide an alternative solution to the problem."
At the meeting, supporters fought to persuade councillors that the educational benefits of the move outweighed the disadvantages of building on the Green Belt. Under district council policy, this is not allowed unless "special circumstances" can be proven.
John Harris, the county council's director for children and schools, told members there were no alternatives which met the county council's criteria of offering acceptable place numbers, educational standards, costs and transitional arrangements.
To a mixed chorus of cheers and jeers, he said: "None of the options put forward by the local community or those suggested in the officers' report meet educational planning requirements.
"That being the case, the county council considers that there are very special circumstances outweighing the rural character of the Green Belt and, on balance, the application should be approved."
But opponents hit back, saying the Whittington Way site was unsuitable because it was under a Stansted Airport take-off path and classes would be disrupted by aircraft noise.
They also raised concerns over road safety, fearing fewer pupils would walk, cycle or take public transport to the new, more remote site. As a result, they argued, London Road – which is already a congestion hotspot during the school run – would be choked.
Their views were echoed by Cllr Allen Burlton, who described the plans as "a nightmare waiting to happen" during discussion with his committee colleagues.
Cllr Keith Barnes added: "If we allow this, we could end up with a Bishop's Stortford South adjoining an equally unwanted Harlow North. We should not be opening the floodgates for further development."
The head teachers at Bishop's Stortford and Herts and Essex High did not wish to add to Mr Stock's comments this week.
This story and video Campaigners rejoice as Stansted Airport bosses scrap second runway plan appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer on May 27, 2010. BAA has finally announced that it is withdrawing its plan for a second runway at Stansted Airport.
People power has turned the tide in the fight against controversial plans for Sunday parking charges in Bishop's Stortford.
Following several petitions from furious residents and traders, including one organised by the Observer, East Herts District Council officers have recommended a rethink on the scheme and advised councillors to put off making a decision until next spring.
Although the 50p charge – which also includes bank holidays – could have been rolled out this summer, with a decision pencilled in for next month, officers believe the issue needs to be fully scrutinised as part of the authority's upcoming parking review.
The proposal for six of the authority's eight Stortford car parks, including those in The Causeway and Link Road, sparked a furore when it came to light at the start of March. Only Elm Road and Crown Terrace, on the edge of the town centre, would be exempt.
Residents' anger was fuelled by claims that East Herts had not done enough to inform the public of their plans. Although the council had advertised on pay-and-display machines, protesters said the notices were not prominent enough and pushed for a full consultation.
The authority hopes to claw back £37,500 from the charge, but more than 2,000 people who signed petitions argued this should be drawn from councillors' £460,000-a-year allowances and expenses pot instead.
Appleton Fields resident Helen Hunter, who set up a Facebook protest group which attracted more than 1,100 members, said on Tuesday: "I'm delighted that these plans, with significant implications for life in our town, have been recommended for deferral.
"Let's hope East Herts District Council has got the message and finds better ways of involving local people in their transport and parking strategy and other decision-making processes.
"It's clear that Bishop's Stortford people will not put up with secretive council meetings and allegedly public notices hidden in obscure places."
But while residents rejoiced, Stortford's Lib Dem district councillor Mike Wood feared the Tory-controlled authority was delaying the difficult decision until after next spring's local authority elections.
He said: "They've managed to alienate most people here in one fell swoop and they've seen the strength of feeling against them, so it's no surprise that they've drawn back - but will they try to reintroduce it once the elections are over? I just hope that's not what they're planning."
Independent East Herts councillor Nigel Clark, who represents Sawbridgeworth, added: "That may be a strategy the administration have in mind, but if that's the case I don't think the people of Bishop's Stortford will fall for it.
"There seems to be a lot of activity on Facebook about it, which I've been following with interest, so I doubt residents will let the issue go."
The council will vote on whether to defer its decision at an executive meeting on Tuesday (May 18) at its offices in Wallfields, Hertford. The meeting starts at 7pm and protesters are urging supporters to attend.
Bishop's Stortford Town Council has officially adopted a far-reaching Town Plan. This plan builds on the responses by over 4000 residents to a questionnaire issued to residents late in 2008, and is being launched in tandem with the 2020 vision created by the District Council.
A far-reaching report outlining Bishop's Stortford residents' hopes and fears for the future of their town was handed over at a special ceremony this week.
The 93-page blueprint, called Bishop's Stortford Town Plan, was put together by volunteers who distributed questionnaires and compiled the results.
More than 1,000 of the town's 35,000 residents had their say, expressing concerns on 11 key topics including housing, education, transport and Stansted Airport.
The document is a snapshot of public opinion in the town: what residents like, dislike and the ways they would like to see Stortford develop and improve over the coming decade.
While 91 per cent of respondents say they are either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the town's schools, more than half are "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the housing situation. One recurring complaint is the number of flats going up in the town centre, such as the recent development in Riverside.
Despite criticisms in some areas, the plan paints a largely positive picture. Twothirds of householders are happy with health-care provision while just seven per cent are "very dissatisfied", and nearly 70 per cent feel local business and employment are healthy.
The results are similar for shopping, public services, policing, sport and leisure – but satisfaction levels are lower for transport, with potholes, traffic jams and poor public transport ranking among the top gripes.
The finished report, which was received by town mayor Colin Woodward at the Rhodes Arts Complex on Tuesday night on behalf of the town council, will also be submitted to East Herts District Council. The local authority will consider the findings when it prepares its own Local Development Framework, which in turn will influence major planning decisions in the district. In its introduction, the plan states: "Often there is a feeling of apathy where town plans are concerned. It is correct that residents and local [i.e. town] councils cannot make the final decisions regarding many changes, but that is not, and has never been, a reason to not say what needs to be said."
Cllr Woodward told colleagues on Tuesday: "This was a unique exercise in that it started with town council discussions but went way beyond that. Bishop's Stortford is a place that you all care about – and you've demonstrated that by the hard work and many hours that you've put in. I welcome the optimism and energy that comes through in this report."
Bishop's Stortford residents are up in arms at the announcement that free Sunday and bank holiday parking is set to be abolished.
A campaign has been launched after East Herts District Council proposed introducing a 50p charge on these days at six of the eight pay-and-display sites it operates in the town – only Elm Road and Crown Terrace on the outskirts of the town centre would be exempt.
Town mayor Colin Woodward, who is also a district councillor, unleashed a storm of protest when he conceded that the move would be unpopular with motorists, but said the controversial suggestion came from members of the public as part of East Herts' budget consultations. He said: "If users of car parks don't pay then all taxpayers have to help EHDC raise its revenue in higher council tax."
Despite his claim, outraged residents have deluged the Observer website with complaints and even set up a Facebook group called Say No to Stortford Sunday Parking Charges. Founder Helen Hunter said: "The council ‘public consultation' about this significant and ill-thought-out change is appalling."
Stuart Henderson, director of North Street department store Pearsons, said: "Bearing in mind everywhere else in the South East doesn't charge for parking, I think it's a step in the wrong direction.
"We're in a changing economy. Sundays are becoming part of the working week and this move penalises retailers and shoppers. It goes against what traders are trying to achieve here and the general consensus is that it will kill Sunday trading.
"We're all doing our bit to make Bishop's Stortford a vibrant town and what we don't want to see is people going to places like Lakeside and Cambridge, where they can park for free, at a time when every single retailer is encouraging people to shop local."
Residents and traders have until March 26 to make their objections known to the council. A spokeswoman told the Observer that the charges were likely to be introduced in the summer, if approved. It is estimated that the Sunday parking fees in Stortford and Hertford would generate an extra £67,500 a year in income, but enforcing them would cost £30,000.
From Monday, March 29, drivers using Stortford's car parks from Monday to Saturday will face an across-the-board hike in charges of 10p an hour. The allday fee will rise 20p (4.7 per cent) to £4.40.
The increases come as revenue falls and the council faces extra costs. Last year it sold two of the town's car parks – at the Causeway and Waitrose – to a developer for a knock-down price before being hit by a 600 per cent increase for the Apton Road car park it rents from Herts County Council.
It is estimated the council lost £149,000 in parking revenue last year with £235,000 projected in 2010-11. However, extra fines are helping to make up the difference – for every £1 raised through parking charges, the council raises an estimated 20p in fines.
Super-school plans for Bishop's Stortford should be scrapped, opponents claimed this week after a critical independent report was revealed. Using Freedom of Information Act legislation, the Observer has obtained a design review compiled by Inspire East, which was commissioned by East Herts District Council's head of planning Kevin Steptoe.
The East of England panel of six looked at the project to rebuild the Herts and Essex and Bishop's Stortford high schools on a shared Green Belt campus off Whittington Way as governors prepared to resubmit the high-profile scheme to the local authority.
Inspire East concluded: "We are not yet convinced that an approach that has two separate schools located next to each other, separated by limited shared facilities, is the correct approach here.
"A clearer understanding of the functioning and hierarchy of the organisation of the two schools is needed."
The panel predicted "conflict in the later stages of the development" unless key issues were addressed.
It said: "The panel feel it has not been made clear how the schools will provide a benefit to the wider community beyond the provision of two replacement schools."
The project's backers were warned: "The team need to demonstrate more robustly that building on this site is sustainable and sensible, rather than simply opportunistic.
"The panel has the sense that the school site is being presented without the benefit of a wider masterplan.
"Given that the starting point is an open greenfield area, we feel the current ideas regarding location and siting are not yet strongly convincing or fully justified."
The first draft of the plans to build on the Green Belt in Thorley and redevelop the schools' existing sites in London Road, Warwick Road and Beldams Lane for more than 700 new homes was withdrawn amid a storm of protest a year ago, but the controversy shows no sign of abating.
A spokesman for Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation, which has been leading the fight, said that the organisation welcomed the Inspire East report, but said its findings should have been shared with the local community and councillors.
He added: "The report emphasises that the promoters have failed to understand the educational and organisational implications of the two schools on the same site. It also points out that a thorough sustainable travel and transport strategy to and from the school has not been properly explored.
"Surprisingly, the report mentions that additional housing is planned on this Green Belt site, which is contrary to the Local Plan, but does not mention the impact of aircraft noise on the new facilities.
"The promoters of this scheme seem to have learned nothing from their previous proposal, which was comprehensively rejected by the people of Bishop's Stortford.
"The [Bishop's Stortford] Civic Federation (BSCF) wants the right solution for the children of Bishop's Stortford; clearly this is not the right one. We hope that the findings of the Inspire East report are accepted by the two schools and the local education authority (LEA) and that their proposal to build on Whittington Way is withdrawn.
"The BSCF believes that the LEA should now seriously consider focusing all their efforts to engage with local communities transparently and build new schooling facilities at their reserved site on Hadham Road."
A spokesman for the governors behind the schools move declined to comment.
The newhead teacher of Herts and Essex High has learnt a harsh lesson this week. The strength and depth of feeling over the superschool plans is not quite the welcome Cathy Tooze envisaged when she took on the top job at the Bishop's Stortford secondary.
Her support for relocating her new school and Bishop's Stortford High to the Green Belt on the edge of town has once again whipped up a frenzy over what would be the biggest educational shake-up in Stortford for a century. Last week we reported that she was urging residents to seize an opportunity for change and believes pupils will greatly benefit from improved facilities on a shared site.
However, if the correspondents on this page are any indication, then opposition remains as fierce as ever. The pros and cons of creating a combined campus are complex and it is vital all parties are fully educated when considering this highly contentious issue.
With our children's futures at stake, Mrs Tooze's arrival presents an opportunity to ensure that we all do our homework properly.
The new head of Herts and Essex High has urged Bishop's Stortford people to back plans for a super-school in the Green Belt.
Cathy Tooze, who has now taken the reins full-time at the girls' secondary, said that revised plans for the controversial joint project with Bishop's Stortford High School would soon be submitted to East Herts District Council and she hoped town residents would seize "a real opportunity for change".
A storm of protest was provoked by the previous application to relocate both secondaries to a shared Green Belt site off Whittington Way, Thorley.
Their existing campuses in Warwick Road and London Road, plus a sports field in Beldams Lane, would then be redeveloped for 700 homes, along with a plot in Hadham Road owned by local education authority Herts County Council which is earmarked for a new school.
Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation has led the fight against the proposals, which were withdrawn more than a year ago after concerted opposition – including 1,000 protest letters and a 4,000-signature petition – and a recommendation from EHDC officers that councillors on the development control committee should reject the scheme.
However, Mrs Tooze said: "The message is not to just think about today's students, but think about the students of tomorrow and think about the advantages if we are able to rebuild these two schools so more children can benefit from the outstanding education we provide."
The former head of Hadleigh High School in Suffolk was appointed as Alison Garner's successor in September but split her time between both institutions until the start of this term. Since arriving at the Herts and Essex, the maths specialist said she had been struck by the quality of her staff and the application and ability of pupils, but it was clear that the aspirations of both were limited by the confines of a cramped and ageing site.
"This is a beautiful site, but we have just one small field. The girls have a 10-minute walk to get to the athletics fields and some of the buildings are falling apart. We're hugely over-subscribed, so if there's an opportunity to expand, surely we should be taking that."
She joins the Herts and Essex as the school celebrates its centenary and is well aware of its rich history at Warwick Road, but stressed: "A school is its people, not its buildings – but we can offer an education for the future in a building for the future."
With a new school just four years away if planning permission is granted, she was particularly keen to work with Bishop's Stortford High head Andrew Goulding in developing a sixth form at the new school which would offer the broadest range of subjects for students, but was clear that the secondaries would operate separately – preserving single-sex school choice for parents in the town and surrounding villages.
She said she had no doubts the Whittington Way plans were the only viable option for the town and while the mother of three has decided to commute from her East Bergholt home in order not to uproot sons Jack, 16, and Ed, 14, her hope is that her six-year-old daughter Anna will be able to attend Herts and Essex – on its new site – in five years' time.
This story: Experts called in amid claims council sold off Stortford land on the cheap appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer on February 4, 2010. A specialist team of number-crunchers has been called in to scrutinise East Herts District Council's £7.35m Bishop's Stortford town centre sell-off after critics claimed the figures simply do not add up.
A document detailing "A Vision for Bishop's Stortford" is being delivered to every home in the town this week.
The plan for the future has been prepared by the Vision 2020 group, a partnership led by East Herts District Council and made up of "a wide range of stakeholders in and around the town".
They claim it encapsulates the shared views and long-term aspirations of residents – although the civic federation had criticised its conclusions and produced a rival People's Vision.
Backers of 2020 say it spells out the opportunities and challenges that Stortford faces now and in the future and will provide a reference point for improving infrastructure, housing, education and leisure.
Now that the document is in place, they hope it will provide a reference point and guidelines for achieving these goals.
East Herts District Council leader Tony Jackson, chairman of the Bishop's Stortford 2020 group, said: "Bishop's Stortford is a thriving and successful town. It is safe and welcoming and rightly shows pride in its appearance.
"We produced this document to help ensure it builds on that heritage for now and its future generations. It not only looks at how we can make improvements, but, importantly, how we can prepare for the many issues the future will bring.
"It has been a challenge working together with so many different organisations; from the town council, the chamber of commerce, civic society (sic), voluntary sector, businesses, arts and leisure organisations.
"However, we soon found our common ground and reached a consensus. The shared vision those discussions produced provides a benchmark for the direction of Bishop's Stortford.
"We hope as many people and organisations as possible feel they are able to pledge their support for those wishes and aspirations for the town."
He is urging residents and organisations to sign up to the principles of A Vision for Bishop's Stortford at www.eastherts.gov.uk.
The rejection of plans to turn a Bishop's Stortford beauty spot into a floodlit, all-weather hockey pitch has been heralded as a victory for the community.
Residents in the Cricketfield Lane area had campaigned to block proposals from the town's hockey club to transform a Green Belt gem known as the Plateau Pitch into a synthetic playing area.
They were backed by East Herts District Council, which refused the scheme – to players' dismay – in April, prompting an appeal by the club. Now Government inspector Christina Downes has dismissed the plea.
Two of the staunchest opponents, award-winning garden designers Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith, said: "What we found amazing was that so many people from the local community got behind the campaign to protect this open space from development, either by writing letters, contributing money to fund the campaign, signing petitions or attending the opposition rally.
"It's so heart-warming that there's still a big sense of community in Bishop's Stortford and when people stand together we can achieve results.
"It was also so good to see that so many families used the Plateau Pitch over the last couple of weeks for sledging and playing in the snow. This area is part of the amenity space in this part of town and it's good that it will be protected for generations to come."
In her report, Ms Downes said: "The appeal development would, in my opinion, result in a substantial visual interruption within this open site.
"Although the fencing would be wire mesh and would be coloured green or black, I have no doubt that it would be seen as a sizeable enclosure and that the adverse impact would be further reinforced by the eight lighting columns around its perimeter. Openness is the most important attribute of the Green Belt."
She said that the loss for local people was not outweighed by the benefits development would bring to the club, which struggles to accommodate all its teams on sites around the town. Bishop's Stortford Hockey Club's disappointed chairman Simon Murphy said: "We're surprised at aspects of the decision, which appear to reflect a lack of understanding of the sport and the necessary provision of both fencing and lighting, which were identified as specific obstacles to consent.
"One of our main reasons for seeking to obtain planning permission at Cricketfield Lane was to ensure the financial security of the Sports Trust which runs the entire facility. However, if we are forced to move away from Cricketfield Lane then I fear for the long-term financial future of the trust and its very existence. The impact on the cricket, squash and tennis clubs, our trust partners, should not be underestimated if this were the case.