East Herts Council
SG13 8EQ 17 November 2019
Dear Sir or Madam
BISHOP’S STORTFORD MASONIC HALL
Your ref: 3/19/2002/FUL
I am writing on behalf of the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation to object to this application.
As noted in the applicant’s Heritage Statement, the building has a important history in that it is one of the last survivors of the former grammar school. It falls within the Bishop’s Stortford Conservation Area. In the adopted Conservation Area Management Plan for the town, it is noted that although this part of the area has very few listed buildings, some twenty historic buildings make a significant contribution to the area and should be preserved. The Masonic Hall is one such building and is referred to in the Plan as follows
‘Masonic Hall, Hadham Road, north side. Probably dates from late 19th/early 20th century; single storey constructed of red brick with slate roof and tall chimneys with pots, some stone detailing. Such architectural detailing should be preserved and retained. Formal protection is provided by existing planning controls.’
The relevant planning controls referred to above are in the adopted District Plan in Policy HA4 I (f) and HA4 II. These say
‘(f) Where development proposals relate to Conservation Area Management Proposals the duty to preserve or enhance will be applied. Development proposals, including minor development under an Article 4 direction, will be expected to ‘preserve’ surviving architectural features identified as being significant to the character or appearance of the area or, where previously lost, to ‘enhance’ that character and appearance through authentic restoration of those lost features.
‘II. Permission for the demolition of buildings or structures within a Conservation Area will only be granted if it makes no positive contribution to the character of the conservation area and the replacement is of good design and satisfies the above requirements of the policy.’
As well as its historic significance, the Masonic Hall has been specifically identified in the Conservation Area Management Plan for Bishop’s Stortford as making a significant contribution to the character of the area with architectural features to which the duty to preserve applies, and for which permission to demolish should be refused. For the planning authority to do otherwise would call into question its commitment to preserving and enhancing the Conservation Area in Bishop’s Stortford. Given the current poor condition of the building, granting permission to demolish might also risk giving a green light to custodians of other heritage assets to neglect them in the hope that they too will than be allowed to demolish them.
The Civic Federation would have no objection to the property being converted to residential use, provided that its significant architectural features are preserved.