Welcome to this Annual Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation (BSCF) Newsletter.
2018 has been a busy year for BSCF and 2019 is proving to be the same. This is not only because of the implications for Bishop’s Stortford of the approval of the new 2018-2033 East Herts District Plan, but also as the challenges and opportunities arising from the increasing investment and development in the London Stansted Cambridge Corridor become clearer.
These, along with other matters relevant to ensuring Bishop’s Stortford is a pleasant place in which to live and work, are discussed in more detail below. We live in interesting and challenging times!
First though, we must express our thanks and best wishes to George Cutting, who stood down as BSCF Chair at our May AGM. George was a committed and hard-working Chair, bringing a great deal of wisdom and local knowledge and experience to the role. Following his re-election as a Town and District Councillor and appointment to an Executive role in East Herts Council (EHC), George felt it appropriate to stand down. We shall miss him and wish him well in his new responsibilities.
It is now over a decade since the Civic Federation was established, and with the adoption of the new East Herts District Plan, we felt it was time to review our aims and objectives so that they provide an up to date reflection of the opportunities and challenges that now face us. The headline Aims and the actions we have been carrying out and are planning for the coming year are set out in the main body of this newsletter. The full set of Aims and Objectives were approved at our recent AGM and are now on this website together with a restatement of the overall purpose of the Federation.
Following that I have to remind you to that it is time to renew your subscription (please see the attached form), ask you to encourage others to join BSCF and wish you happy and informative reading.
With best wishes for 2019-20.Paul Dean
Bishop’s Stortford South
Like the Town Council, Thorley Parish Council and others, BSCF thinks this development is misconceived and has particularly failed to properly assess adverse traffic impacts on the existing road network. This is especially so when it is considered in conjunction with the planned development of 150 homes on the present Bishop’s Stortford High School site, if it were to move to a new site on BSS (see separate entry below). We are working closely with Thorley Parish Council and OTTRA to identify appropriate remedies, especially now the Secretary of State has declined to adopt our preferred remedy of calling the application in for his own determination. Although EHC has resolved to grant planning permission the consent conditions have not yet been finalised so a formal decision notice has not yet been issued.Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation
Town Planning and Development Control
Aim: To ensure that the town is a pleasant place in which to live and work, sustains a clean environment and is conducive to healthy economic activity, and that the historic features of Bishop’s Stortford are preserved.
East Herts District Plan
Our main objection to the draft District Plan, which underwent public examination 2017-18, was the removal of the Bishop’s Stortford South (BSS) site from the Green Belt and its allocation for development. The Plan was adopted without any substantial change in October 2018 though and will result in development of some 5000 homes in the town over the next 15 years, until 2033. This is 25% of the new homes planned in East Herts, and will substantially shape and affect the development of the town and its surroundings. For example, there will be significant impacts on the existing infrastructure and services and a need for rapid improvements in all of them.
Station Goods Yard
Work has at last started. We particularly hope that the new link road will be completed quickly so that construction traffic can start using it rather than the existing road network. However, we have expressed our concern to EHC about the closure of the south facing ramp from Station Road into the station forecourt. It already seems to be having an adverse effect on traffic congestion and, while the footpath remains open at the moment, its planned closure will remove the only step-free access to the station from the eastern side of the town.
Transport and Parking
Aim: To enable the growth planned for Bishop’s Stortford and its surroundings to be accommodated by the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive strategy for transportation and parking.
Multi-Storey Car Park
We have argued for many years that there needs to be a whole-town strategy for the management of car parking, including on-street parking, and the management and pricing of off-street car parks, whether owned by the Council or third parties. This is essential to underpin any wider transport strategy for the town which, while it may aspire to encourage less dependency on the private car in favour of more sustainable forms of transport, in practice, appears to contemplate spending as little as possible on infrastructure improvements in the hope that congestion will lead to a change in travel habits. Moreover, without such a strategy, piecemeal initiatives such as the Stride and Ride bus service, are always going to lead to disappointing results.
BSCF considers that the proposed multi-storey car park is another piecemeal initiative that will do little more than replace the existing car parking in Old River Lane and next to Charrington’s House. It also considers it is in the wrong location – being on the opposite side of the road from the town centre, thus causing havoc to traffic circulation; it will also be seriously detrimental to the town’s conservation area; and the supposed offsetting public benefit – including a new arts centre on the site to be released for development – is unclear. Thus the development appears to be all too typical of the fragmented approach to planning that has blighted many other developments in the town centre.
A judicial review application by Yew Tree Place resident and BSCF Committee member Clive Risby led to EHC conceding it had wrongly assessed the adverse impact on the conservation area. However, it has since granted itself planning permission again, for a scheme that is substantially unchanged. This so-called revised scheme is therefore once again the subject of a judicial review challenge, for which leave to go to court has been granted. We hope that this will provide the occasion for EHC to look more fundamentally at what it is trying to achieve, and at how much and what kind of development will be needed to obtain a result that will achieve a good outcome and command community support.
Aim: To support the continued prosperity of the town centre for trade and commerce and support initiatives which enhance its attraction as a retail and leisure destination.
Part Pedestrianisation of South Street
For some years now, we been lobbying for a timed closure of part of South Street and this is now a key objective for 2019. We aim to engage with relevant parties – HCC, EHC, BSTC, Chamber of Commerce, etc. – to find a way to test and implement a timed closure for some of the street south of Apton Road. The aim would be to improve air quality, open up the space for cafes and street entertainment and improve the general ambience of that part of the town, while respecting the needs of residents and commercial deliveries. We accept there are many issues to address but we consider that none are without solution and that one way to identify and address them is to start on a trial basis, say on market days and for limited times. We intend to raise this with the newly established Town and District Councils and find a way to make it happen.
The Currey Award
Aim: To recognise high standards of design of buildings, landscape and the environment.
Education, Health and Other ServicesTop
Aim: To encourage the relevant authorities to ensure that the growing needs for health, educational facilities and other services in the town are met in a timely manner in suitable locations.
An inevitable consequence of another 5000 homes in the town (and a 25% increase in the population) is a pressing demand for more school places. Our schools are both successful and full, and the scope for further expansion of the existing ones is slight. HCC, the commissioning authority for new school places has had a poor track record both forecasting demand and devising appropriate solutions to meet it. In BSN this has been highlighted by the fact that while housing development is well under way, the process for identifying and appointing a new school sponsor has only just been completed, with construction and opening of the new facilities several years away.
In the case of BSS, HCC shows every sign of having learned nothing. If the development proceeds as planned there will be more than enough demand for a second new secondary school on the site. But instead of this, the plan is to relocate the Bishop’s Stortford High School to the site, a move which would of itself create only a few new places and, at the same time, deprive the town of the only remaining site on which a wholly new school could be built. We have therefore objected to the planning application to HCC, arguing that while the High School certainly needs new facilities, these should be achieved through redevelopment on site.
Open Spaces and Recreation
Aim: To retain and enhance all existing open amenity spaces in the town for the enjoyment and wellbeing of the residents and visitors to the town.
BSCF participated in the steering group which led to a successful bid for lottery funding and is looking forward to the regeneration of the area in the near future.
Aim: To minimise the adverse environmental and social impacts of the Airport and its operations on the town and the surrounding area.
We believe that the airport’s current planning application which would include increasing the permitted maximum number of passengers by 8 million per year and the annual number of flights by at least 25,000 is far too significant for it to be determined locally, by Uttlesford District Council. We have therefore supported Stop Stansted Expansion’s judicial review application to have to planning application determined in a national forum so that the wider impacts on the community, including our own, can be taken into account. We are pleased to see that the change in the Council’s political control has resulted in it deciding to refer the airport’s planning application back to its Planning Committee.
“Growing Pains – What Future for Bishop’s Stortford in Europe’s Leading High Technology Corridor?”
Responding to the debate about the growing pressures of the high current and planned levels of housing development in Bishop’s Stortford, the BSCF Committee invited the Director of the London-Stansted-Cambridge Consortium (LSCC), John McGill, to speak to this year’s AGM on the topic of “Growing Pains – What Future for Bishop’s Stortford in Europe’s Leading High Technology Corridor?”.
The intention was to put the growth in Bishop’s Stortford in the wider regional development context of what John demonstrated is the highly successful economy of the “UK’s Innovation Corridor”, from London Docklands in the south to Cambridge in the north. Economic output in the corridor – with Bishop’s Stortford and Stansted Airport in its centre – is growing 35% faster than the UK average and employment and business is growing at twice the UK rate. Also, 1 in 5 of these are in the “knowledge economy”. John also highlighted the high demand this has put on the Corridor’s physical and social infrastructure – particularly housing and transport – and while jobs growth is focused in London and around Cambridge, many pressures on housing, commuting and airport growth are in the centre. Indeed, of the 19 local authorities in the Corridor, East Herts’s target of nearly 15,000 homes is exceeded only by three London Boroughs.
The issues attracted interest and good debate at both the AGM and in the local press. The main concerns included:
- M11 and rail infrastructure upgrading needs – including linkages east beyond Stansted Airport – but concern about public funding procedures and sources for major investment and the reliance on developers’ contributions for local projects.
- Dispersing and diversifying growth to avoid overheating and unsustainability and encouraging growth of our own district-level economies.
- Further education needs, opportunities and facilities in Bishop’s Stortford, especially vocational, to get greater local participation in the “knowledge economy”
- The lack of a clear Corridor development and investment strategy or a delivery agency to coordinate the Plans and the multiplicity of public, private and other LSCC stakeholders.
BSCF is therefore asking itself what it can and should do in response to the opportunities and challenges the LSCC presents, and with whom. In the coming year therefore, we will not only respond to the plans and proposals of the developers and authorities but also try to be more proactive in bringing our community’s views to wider agencies such as the LSCC, LEPs, new Regional Transport Authorities, Stansted SACC and neighbouring authorities. This has started with our representation at the recent LSCC Conference 2019.