To: Members of the Development Management Committee
14 March 2019
Sent by email

Dear Councillor


I am writing on behalf of the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation to you in your capacity as a member of the Development Management Committee to request that this item of business scheduled for your meeting on 20 March be deferred until such time as meeting can be arranged to discuss it in Bishop’s Stortford; and that members of the public be allowed far more time than the usual three minutes in total to address the committee about the application.

I first made this request in our response dated 23 February to the amended application. Having received no acknowledgment of that request, I emailed your chairman Cllr. Page on 5 March to repeat the request. In his reply dated 7 March, Cllr Page chose to treat my request as being to have your meeting scheduled for 20 March relocated to Bishop’s Stortford and explained that I was out of time both for doing this and for extending the time allowed for members of the public to address the committee.

However, as can be seen from the correspondence, my request was not to relocate your next meeting but to have consideration of this item on the agenda deferred to a later date so that the committee could decide how long to allow for the public to address it and so that a suitable location could be found in Bishop’s Stortford.

No reason has been advanced as to why it is necessary to determine this application with such urgency on 20 March in Hertford. However, it appears that the timing has been driven by a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) made between the developer and the Council. Government guidance says that

‘PPA’s can be particularly useful in setting out an efficient and transparent process for determining large and/or complex planning applications. They encourage joint working between the applicant and the local planning authority and can also help to bring together other parties such as statutory consultees.’

Since the existence of the PPA has only just come to light as a result of inquiries in the local press and Bishop’s Stortford Town Council, a statutory consultee, has had no involvement in the formulation of the proposals, the PPA has clearly failed to achieve the purposes of transparency and joint working. The content of the agreement has not been disclosed, which unavoidably prompts the question as to whether its influence on the consideration of the application has been entirely proper.

On previous applications of this scale and impact (the station goods yard and Bishop’s Stortford North), the Committee has been at pains to take its decisions in Bishop’s Stortford. To do otherwise on this occasion would be an insult to the residents of the town – not least the 1392 people who took the trouble to object.

I hope therefore that when you come to this item on the agenda you will agree to defer consideration of it for the reasons I have given. Moreover, in addition to the question of democratic accountability, there are other reasons for not determining this application now.

Other sites in Bishop’s Stortford on which development has already started are scheduled to deliver over 3000 new dwellings. There is no pressing need to undertake another development of a similar scale at the moment.
Since the District Plan was adopted projections of household formation for East Herts have been reduced by 14% – equivalent to about 2500 dwellings. The development proposed in this application is thus surplus to the requirements of both Bishop’s Stortford and East Herts as a whole.
Natural England – the statutory conservation body – are working with the National Trust and Uttlesford Council on a conservation strategy for Hatfield Forest to mitigate the impact of the huge influx of residents from developments already completed and in prospect. They have therefore recommended against granting permission for this scheme until they have been able to develop their strategy over the course of the summer. In our view, the officers’ report at para 4.13 does not accurately reflect Natural England’s advice. I am therefore enclosing at attachment 4 the full summary of Natural England’s advice, and below it the full text of the relevant points which are expressed rather more clearly than in the summary. In any event even if it were to be judged acceptable to grant permission in advance of the production of the conservation strategy, no condition has been proposed by officers that would require the developers to contribute towards it.
Bearing these additional considerations in mind, I would urge you to defer consideration of this application to a later date at a venue to be arranged in Bishop’s Stortford.

Yours sincerely

John Rhodes