News Stories in 2009

10 Dec 09 - Ombudsman called in over Stortford super-school row

Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation has taken its super-school complaint against East Herts District Council to the Local Government Ombudsman. This report by Sinead Holland appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer - Ombudsman called in over Stortford super-school row.

10 Dec 09 - MPs 'not convinced' about second runway

This story by Sinead Holland appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer of 10 December 2009

The case for a second runway at Stansted Airport has been questioned this week by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.

The Future of Aviation inquiry report published on Monday says MPs are "not convinced" that expansion should go ahead at the Essex hub rather than at Gatwick.

Their view has been heralded as a victory by Stop Stansted Expansion.

Campaign director Carol Barbone said: "It should by now be clear to the Government and BAA that they are flogging a dead horse. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find anyone these days who still believes there is a logical case to be made for a second Stansted runway."

Hertford and Stortford MP Mark Prisk echoed her view: "The call by the cross-party transport committee of MPs against a second runway at Stansted is yet another nail in the coffin of this unwanted and unneeded scheme.

"I'm delighted that the select committee has seen sense and now supports the majority view against a second runway. The economic and environmental case is clear and now the political argument is on our side."

However, Stansted Airport's new managing director, David Johnston, was unbowed. He said: "We welcome the Transport Select Committee's support for aviation and its crucial role in the UK economy and in the lives of many residents and visitors.

"We note the committee's comments that a national case for the second runway at Stansted is yet to be made. This is precisely the role of the forthcoming public inquiry, where all of the issues of the proposed expansion, based on the facts and strengths of evidence presented, will be heard."

The committee's report said that it was unlikely a second Stansted runway could be completed before 2019, the year when the current restriction on a second runway at Gatwick expires.

"The Government should reconsider whether the additional runway, if required, should be located at Gatwick rather than Stansted," it said. However, the Government said that its policy, to expand Stansted first, remained unchanged.

26 Nov 09 - "People’s vision" aims to preserve best of Stortford  Top 

This story by Sinead Holland appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer of 26 November 2009

A blueprint for the future of Bishop's Stortford, dubbed "The People's Vision", has been prepared by the town's civic federation.

The checklist for planners is the organisation’s response to efforts by East Herts District Council leader Tony Jackson to formulate a game plan for development.

In its document, members young and old explain why an alternative to Cllr Jackson's Bishop’s Stortford 20:20 visioning exercise is required.

They say: "This vision is designed to reflect the views of the population of Bishop's Stortford, represented by the civic federation. Bishop’s Stortford is the largest town in East Herts and should have facilities to match.

"This statement is produced in response to increasing disquiet at continuing development in the town without any formal strategy to manage its impact on our environment and infrastructure, and to ensure all future development enhances and preserves the character and treasured features of our town."

The federation warns the council: "We believe no further development should take place in Bishop’s Stortford unless it complies with ‘The People’s Vision’ for the future of our town."

Key measures called for by the federation include ensuring no development beyond a population of 40,000. The report says: "The intention to build on land to the north of the town as many as 3,000 houses, together with continued expansion in the Essex villages of Stansted, Birchanger, Takeley, Elsenham and Henham, would cause an unsustainable amount of traffic to swamp the town."

Likewise, no further growth at Stansted Airport should be allowed in order to preserve Stortford’s market town character, say the campaigners, who want more conservation areas and tight controls on the Green Belt.

Any future building must focus on traditional design and family properties, with affordable homes for locals as a priority. The federation calls on the town and district councils to work with it on all future "strategic developments".

Phased pedestrianisation, an extension of the market, river regeneration, cycle lanes, more public open spaces and a policy of limiting high street retailers, while attracting more large employers by providing quality offices, should also be pursued.

The federation also demands sympathetic redevelopment of The Causeway site plus a park-and-ride scheme and a completed ring road.

Another priority is additional primary and secondary schooling – including development of the reserved site in Hadham Road – in conjunction with extra medical care and leisure provision.

Members insist: "Services must be expanded to provide a Jobcentre, better Citizens' Advice Bureau and a fully open police station and cells. There must be an improved police presence in the town and in local communities."

The document is being sent to Cllr Jackson and all other East Herts members for consideration.

19 Nov 09 - Bishop's Stortford super-school plan back on?  Top 

An East Herts District Council boss stands accused of colluding with a developer to push through controversial plans for a Bishop's Stortford super-school – in defiance of public opposition. The BSCF has made a formal complaint.

This report by Sinead Holland appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer - Super-school plan back on?

22 Oct 09 - BAA bids to keep Stansted Airport  Top 

This story: BAA bids to keep Stansted appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer on October 22, 2009. BAA was giving evidence at the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

22 Oct 09 - Ryanair calls for sale of Stansted Airport

This story: Ryanair calls for Stansted sale appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer on October 22, 2009. Ryanair was giving evidence at the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

1 Oct 09 - A nail in coffin of the Causeway  Top 

New lobby is first step in council move to Hertford - Planning application added to committee meeting agenda one day before deadline for objections

This story by Sinead Holland appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer of 1 October 2009

A "first nail in the coffin" of the Causeway site in Bishop's Stortford has been hammered home by East Herts Conservatives.

The district council's development control committee rubber-stamped plans for a secure public entrance and lobby at neighbouring Charringtons House, where the local authority wants to set up a new office with skeleton front-line staff.

The planning application was added to last Wednesday's committee meeting agenda at the last minute – a day ahead of the deadline for objections.

Despite impassioned objections from the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation and Stortford's Independent district councillor, Keith Barnes, the plan was passed in principle.

It will enable the council to move some 100 jobs out of the town and centralise services at its Wallfields HQ in Hertford.

It also paves the way for demolition of the Causeway building and redevelopment of the whole site by landlord Henderson. The council has paid the company £5m to escape its Causeway lease as part of a £7.35m deal which also involves handing over the Causeway and Waitrose car parks.

Cllr Barnes said at the meeting: "To the residents of Bishop's Stortford and the council staff affected by the move from the Causeway to Wallfields, this application will appear to have been rushed through. "My main concerns are the long-term implications for this area, although not under debate at this time.

"While I cannot find legitimate reasons to object to a new entrance porch, I do see this as the first nail in the coffin of the Causeway site and for that reason I cannot support the application." The Civic Federation's vice-chairman, John Rhodes, said: "Approval should not be given to this minor part of a major scheme until the details of the whole proposal are known."

Mr Rhodes said that the scheme was contrary to the council's own policies because it would promote extra car journeys by relocated staff and residents.

A council spokeswoman said: "The target we have for dealing with applications of this nature is eight weeks.

"Because of the dates on which the meetings fall, if we waited for the October meeting, it would have been outside eight weeks.

"We are also required to allow a 21-day consultation period. Because we wanted to deal with the matter within the target time, we put the report together for the September meeting.

"As a result, the recommendation was that, if no further substantive comments were received within the last days of the 21-day period, officers could go ahead with the decision which the committee agreed."

17 Sep 09 - Healthy trees by river set for axe  Top 

This story by Eleanor Patmore appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer of 17 September 2009

More trees along the River Stort are destined for the axe, despite protests from river users.

Six months after British Waterways removed dead and damaged trees along the towpath to the south of Bishop’s Stortford, workmen are due back on site to complete the work as part of a national vegetation management programme.

The news has horrified Sandy and Roger Halford, of Pig Lane, who say even healthy trees and shrubs are now earmarked for the chop and claim it would "devastate and destabilise" the riverbank.

"They’re coming back to finish what they started in March and now want to take the healthy ones down, too," Mrs Halford said.

"It would completely devastate the river. By applying a blanket policy to all rivers and canals they’re failing to realise that all rivers are not the same.

"We don’t want the healthy trees taken away – the River Stort has the character it has because of the beautiful trees that overhang it."

The Halfords are so incensed they have alerted Stortford MP Mark Prisk, who has written to British Waterways seeking answers to why the work has been scheduled.

"There is a lot of frustration and anxiety over the way in which British Waterways is moving ahead with removing these trees and shrubs without having done any meaningful consultation," said Mr Prisk.

"I walk that stretch of the water. It’s a very attractive and natural area, and the habitat it offers is very important to local wildlife.

"The way British Waterways operates should reflect that rather than arbitrary national policy. Local people want clear answers and it is not acceptable to press on without listening to people’s concerns."

A British Waterways spokeswoman confirmed that trees and shrubs between the towpath and water’s edge would be removed over the next few weeks as part of an ongoing national vegetation maintenance programme.

The work was required for a variety of reasons, such as river bank stability and the management of the aquatic environment, she said.

"The waterways, including the Stort, have a diverse range of users and stakeholders who enjoy the many different aspects of waterway life. Managing these different requirements and uses means a balance of activity is required so everyone can continue to enjoy the rivers, canals, docks and reservoirs British Waterways manages."

17 Sep 09 - Leader taken to task by 'young guard'  Top 

This story by Sinead Holland appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer of 17 September 2009

Frustrated Bishop's Stortford residents took East Herts District Council's leader to task over his authority's treatment of the town.

Members of the town's civic federation [the BSCF], representing a cross-section of the population ranging from a young mother-to-be to white-collar commuters, told Cllr Tony Jackson they felt short-changed by an administration which paid lip service to their concerns.

They came face to face after the top Tory asked for feedback from younger householders instead of the federation's old guard. However, a source told the Observer their message echoed Cllr Jackson's veteran critics.

"The meeting covered a wide selection of subjects: reasons for coming to live in the town, green spaces, historic features, schooling, shopping, leisure and, most importantly, growth of the town to date and vision for the future.

"Throughout the discussion the group were unanimously critical of the developments that have already taken place, which were progressively eroding the character of Bishop's Stortford as a historic market town – the very thing they liked about the town and reason they chose to live in Bishop's Stortford."

Cllr Jackson's pet 2020 Vision project, looking at Stortford's future, came under fire. The source said: "The group expressed concern about ownership of the project, makeup of the committee, lack of feedback to local communities and no tangible progress since its launch in September 2007.

Meanwhile, strategic decisions which have a major impact on the future of the town were being taken without any reference to the Vision committee. These include highly contentious plans such as moving two secondary schools to a Green Belt site and the future of the Causeway site."

The source added: "After the meeting the group were extremely disappointed that Cllr Jackson was at pains to point out he could make no promises following their comments and, after he closed the meeting surprisingly early, the representatives were left feeling the box entitled 'consult with young people' had been ticked with little likelihood of their views influencing the shape of the forthcoming Vision report."

17 Sep 09 - Planning bid outlines demolition of Causeway  Top 

This story by Sinead Holland appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer of 17 September 2009

The controversial Causeway building in Bishop's Stortford will be razed to the ground, a report reveals this week.

The disclosure demolishes hopes of a rethink by Conservatives on East Herts District Council over plans to shift around 100 local authority jobs out of the town and centralise services in Hertford.

The fate of EHDC's current headquarters is outlined in a planning application for a new Stortford base next door at the Charringtons House office block, which will be home to a skeleton front-line staff.

A design and access statement for a new, secure public entrance lobby says: "As part of a future proposed development the [Causeway] building they [EHDC] currently occupywill be demolished."

The Tory executive insists a complex £7.35m property deal with landlord Henderson, which will ultimately lead to redevelopment of the key site with shops, homes and offices, will save the council from a £1.9m repair bill for the Causeway and lead to a better deal for council taxpayers.

However, critics argue the figures do not add up and point to a £1.9m bill already racking up to refurbish the council's Wallfields HQ in Hertford as part of the centralisation.

Last week, the councillor leading the spending, Little Hadham's Michael Tindale, told an executive meeting: "We now have a unique opportunity to bring about a number of changes, not just the fabric of the [Wallfields] building but IT and working practices as well. This is not the time to pennypinch."

Ultimately he hopes to save £1.5m a year through his programme of changes, but Bishop's Stortford Liberal Democrat Cllr Mione Goldspink told him: "I have very serious worries about the whole of this project.

"It seems to me we are now being told there are huge expenses involved in implementing this move. I really don't think the case has been made for doing it. You talk about benefits, but that’s so vague. There’s no indication about how and when any savings would be made."

Those wishing to comment on the council's planning application for Charringtons House have until September 24 to make their views known to East Herts.

30 Jul 09 - Stortford pushed to the sidelines again  Top 

This story was a leader article in the Herts and Essex Observer of 30 July 2009

Despite the vehement denials of East Herts top brass, it's hard to believe that Bishop's Stortford residents have not been once again relegated to second class citizens. As the biggest town in the district, it is not unreasonable to expect that services and facilities will be centred here – where they are most easily accessible to the greatest number of people.

However, the decision by the council to centralise its operation in Hertford – coupled with the primary care trust's conclusion the Hertford is the best place for a swine flu medication pick-up point – seem to reinforce the view of the civic federation and others that the town is being marginalised at best – and often ignored. Stortford's location on the border with Essex seems to mean that the authorities always look to the smaller county town instead of the centre of population, regardless of the hardship and environmental cost of travelling there.

Perhaps its time to look seriously at the federation's [BSCF] suggestion that a move out of Herts' jurisdiction might be a sensible strategy?

30 Apr 09 - New court defeat for Stop Stansted Expansion  Top 

Campaigners from SSE still plan to plead their case before a court – despite another judge throwing out their latest attempt to block expansion at Stansted Airport.

This report by Sinead Holland in the Herts and Essex Observer - New defeat for SSE

28 Apr 09 - Budget 'will delay second Stansted runway until 2030'  Top 

New Government predictions have grounded a second runway at Stansted until at least 2030, according to SSE claims.

This report by Sinead Holland in the Herts and Essex Observer - Budget 'will delay second Stansted runway until 2030'

19 Mar 09 - Campaign for Bishop's Stortford to ditch Hertfordshire for Essex  Top 

A campaign for Bishop's Stortford to ditch Hertfordshire and become part of Essex is being mooted by residents' representatives who claim that East Herts District Council is "abandoning" the town.

This report by Sandra Perry in the Herts and Essex Observer - Campaign for Bishop's Stortford to ditch Hertfordshire for Essex

19 Mar 09 - Stansted Airport must be sold  Top 

The Competition Commission has ruled that Stansted Airport must be sold within two years.

This report by Sinead Holland in the Herts and Essex Observer - Stansted Airport must be sold within two years

12 Mar 09 - East Herts District Council set to quit Bishop's Stortford  Top 

East Herts District Council is pressing ahead with proposals to centralise services in Hertford - leaving just a skeleton staff of 15 at offices in Bishop's Stortford.

This report by Sinead Holland in the Herts and Essex Observer - EHDC set to quit Bishop's Stortford

2 Mar 09 - Stansted second runway inquiry delay  Top 

The inquiry into a second runway at Stansted Airport - due to start on April 15 - has been postponed, Secretary of State for Communities and Government Hazel Blears confirmed.

This report by Sinead Holland in the Herts and Essex Observer - Stansted second runway inquiry delay

18 Jan 09 - BAA airport lobby links to No 10  Top 

MPs suggest that the go-ahead for a third runway was down to the influence of former Labour officials now working for BAA

This report by Toby Helm of The Observer - Fury at airport lobby links to No 10

15 Jan 09 - Tesco to the rescue in Stortford town centre but Artisan to close  Top 

This story by Sinead Holland appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer of 15 January 2009

Every little helps! Tesco boosted Bishop's Stortford's beleaguered town centre this week by confirming it is to open a store in South Street.

The supermarket giant told the Observer that the new Tesco Express will open on the former Iceland site, pictured, in late spring or early summer, subject to planning permission, and create up to 30 full and part-time jobs.

Plans are being prepared for a new shop front, signage and a cash machine after Tesco sealed a deal for 8,346sq ft (155sq m) of ground and first-floor retail space on a 15-year lease at £120,000 per annum.

This week, the former frozen food store was still advertised for sale by Masons and Partners. However, rival Bidwells confirmed it has successfully negotiated with Tesco and ended a two-year stalemate at the site.

After Iceland moved out in spring 2007, Tesco was touted as a possible successor but stonewalled the Observer's inquiries. Then homewares specialist Cargo was ready to move in and even advertised for staff before pulling out of negotiations.

John Gearing, chairman of Bishop's Stortford Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the shock announcement.

“It's a perfect location and I'm only amazed they didn't jump at it straigt away,” he said. “Since Sainsbury's left [South Street] there's undoubtedly a market for a general store there.”

He believed the building of dozens of new flats would further boost Tesco's business and urged other retailers to welcome its arrival.

The arrival of Tesco and the expected increase in trade has come too late to persuade Peter Worley to stay in Stortford.

He will close his Artisan fine art gallery – next to Iceland – by the end of the month when the lease expires. Staff will relocate to one of his five other branches, including Epping and Canary Wharf in London, which continue to thrive.

He said: “It will increase footfall, but I'm still not convinced that the whole town is what it was when I arrived here five years ago.” He blamed poor access and parking for compounding the effects of the recession.

John Ratcliffe, manager of the Sainsbury's store in Jackson Square, believed shoppers would stay loyal and continue to seek out “great service and good quality at a fair price”.

Mr Ratcliffe's view was bolstered this week by Tesco's latest trading figures. Its sales were up 2.5 per cent over Christmas and New Year, less than its main rivals, including Sainsbury's, which last week announced a 4.5 per cent increase.

Nevertheless, Tesco is continuing to invest and plans to create 10,000 new jobs this year as it opens further stores across the country, including an Express in Stansted Mountfitchet.

Hopes that Iceland would return to Stortford were dashed last week when the frozen food chain snapped up 51 former Woolworths stores – but not the Potter Street branch.