East Herts Council
SG13 8EQ 30 March 2020
Your ref: 3/20/0432/REM – Application for reserved matters in relation to appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for 163 one, two, three and four bedroom houses and apartments plus associated infrastructure and public open space, granted outline planning permission under ref: 3/14/2144/OP. Land To The South Of Hadham Road Bishops Stortford Hertfordshire.
Dear Sir or Madam
- I am writing on behalf of the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation to ask that this application should not be determined at the present time. We would not normally comment on a reserved matters application once the principle of development had been established through an outline planning permission. However, on this occasion we believe that there are important new issues which require consideration before development is allowed to commence on site.
Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic
- One result of the requirement for social distancing is that house purchase activity has virtually ceased, with the supply of mortgages being severely curtailed and construction activity greatly reduced where not entirely discontinued. With major developments already in progress at Stortford Fields, St Michael’s Hurst and the Station Goods Yard, this seems to be the wrong moment at which to open up another construction site in the town. Of course, once the pandemic is brought under control, we all hope that economic activity will resume, and it might be argued that this is primarily a commercial issue to be left to the judgment of the developers. However, there are some other issues which could usefully be addressed in a pause before finalising the grant of planning permission.
- The relevant policies applicable to this site are covered in BISH4 of the adopted District Plan. This notes
‘Outline Planning permission has recently been granted on appeal for the delivery of 247 homes on the site. However, it is considered appropriate to maintain a policy to guide the anticipated detailed application/s.’
- BISH4 II then states
A Masterplan will be collaboratively prepared, involving site promoters, landowners, East Herts Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Bishop’s Stortford Town Council, and other key stakeholders. This document will be further informed by public participation in the process.’
It is not clear to us when, if at all, this exercise has been carried out and if it has not been, delaying the approval of the reserved matters application would enable it to be carried out, and perhaps lead to some changes in the proposals.
Sequencing of Development with Stortford Fields
- We think that the development of ASR’s 1 and 2, including bringing into operation the community facilities to be provided on the site, should be completed before any development takes place on the south side of Hadham Road. Indeed we argued this when an appeal was lodged on grounds of non-determination of the proposals which have now been given outline permission, so that the developer was not able to complete all the housing before providing the other facilities meant to support it. Unfortunately, the Inspector was persuaded by the County Council that, as a matter of practicality, there was no risk of this occurring, and decided not to impose a condition to give effect to that requirement.
- It seems, however, that we were perhaps more prescient. Before work starts on this site, we believe that the new community facilities should completed and functioning to avoid unnecessary transport movements to other locations which then become embedded in the new residents’ travel patterns. Delaying final approval of this application will encourage the developers to get on with completing those essential facilities.
- The same consideration also applies to the provision of school places. While work has now started on a JMI school at St Michael’s Hurst, it is not intended to serve the residents of the Patmore Close development and will only be accessible to them by car on the existing road network for some time to come. Development of the JMI school at Stortford Fields and the new Bishop’s Stortford North secondary school are further behind and until they are both open and able to support pupils across the full age range, Patmore Close residents will have no choice but to send their children to our existing oversubscribed schools.
- This assessment, like the one for Bishop’s Stortford North as a whole, was provided by Mayer Brown. The main assessment was completed in 2014, and this one was produced as an addendum in February 2015, because we had pointed out that there was no guarantee that the new roundabout on the A120 to provide access to the secondary school would be in place before the school opened. In the meantime, the only means of access would be from Hadham Road and the addendum was meant to address this point. Since then, an application has been lodged for a further 67 dwellings next to the school site which are also intended to gain access from Hadham Road. All of this will add to pressure on the junction of Patmore Close with Hadham Road.
- The results of the overall transport assessment for Bishop’s Stortford North were viewed with considerable scepticism by the Development Management Committee at the time they were considering the application. They therefore asked for the actual results to be reviewed and compared with those predicted following completion of each stage of the development. When the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will have unwound sufficiently to enable this to take place is likely to be some time away.
- However, Mayer Brown’s assessments of the Station Goods Yard and Bishop’s Stortford South developments, for which similar absences of traffic generation were projected, have come under more recent scrutiny and have been found to understate the impacts so substantially that Herts Highways have recommended refusal of permission for the redevelopment of the Boys High School Site. There has been a significant passage of time since the transport assessment was completed for Patmore Close, and it would benefit from an updated forecast of background traffic growth as well as an assessment of the impact of other committed developments in the town, including the proposed multi storey car park, and the wider impact on the town centre road network. In the light of Mayer Brown’s track record on more recent development proposals, we suggest that there should be an urgent, independent re-appraisal of the impact of the Bishop’s Stortford North development as a whole on the town’s road network, and of the application now submitted for Patmore Close, before any further permission is granted for this or any other part of the Bishop’s Stortford North development.
- We recognise that development will eventually take place on this site but believe it is not appropriate to grant permission for reserved matters at the present time because
The Covid-19 pandemic makes it inappropriate at the moment to commence another major development in the town.
Delay will provide the opportunity to prepare a Masterplan in accordance with the requirements of Policy BISH4 of the adopted District Plan
It would provide the opportunity to complete and bring into operation the schools and other community facilities intended to support the housing on the site.
It will enable an independent assessment to be carried out of the transport impact of the Bishop’s Stortford North development as a whole and of this development on the road network of the town.