Published in the Bishop’s Stortford Independent, October 4 – 10, 2017
LAST CHANCE TO SAVE THE GREEN BELT
This week a review begins by an independent Inspector of the East Herts District Plan. The review is a form of public inquiry called an Examination in Public where the Inspector will be asking key stakeholders, including the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation, whether the plan has been soundly prepared and should be adopted by East Herts Council as the blueprint for development in the district until 2033. The Civic Federation will be arguing that it should not.
Over the last forty years, Bishop’s Stortford has been allocated 40% of all the new housing in East Herts. From a town of about the same size in 1981 as Hertford, we now have a population which is half as big again. This has not happened by accident or as a result of market forces. It has been the deliberate policy of previous district plans to allocate the lion’s share of all new housing to our town. The rationale has changed from time to time, but the policy of ‘stuff it in Stortford’ has been applied continuously.
The plan now under review promises more of the same with some 4500 new homes allocated to Bishop’s Stortford – nearly 30% of the total for the whole of the district. This has come about by projecting forward past patterns of inward migration without asking whether such lopsided growth across the district is sustainable in future. Bishop’s Stortford will be killed by having to take far more housing than its infrastructure and facilities can support. But at the same time, our villages are being killed off by having too little new housing which comes nowhere near meeting the organic growth in their own populations which, collectively, outnumber that of Bishop’s Stortford. An arbitrary decision was taken at the start of the plan preparation to restrict housing in the villages to only 500.
Much of the growth in Bishop’s Stortford has already been committed by decisions taken in previous plans, such as 2500 new homes at Bishop’s Stortford North. However, this plan also proposes to sacrifice our precious Green Belt by developing all the land south of Whittington Way to the Bypass. Development on the Green Belt and on land which would be released by that development amounts to 1000 of the total number of homes allocated to the town.
The Civic Federation had thought that defeating the ‘super schools’ appeal to develop part of the site would secure its protection as open space for the benefit and enjoyment of all. There is no justification now for developing the whole of the site, given the amount of housing the town will be absorbing elsewhere. Local people have made clear time and again that they want this site to stay undeveloped. The Civic Federation will be asking the Inspector to strike this proposal out of the plan. It is our last chance to save this Green Belt site for the whole community.