The Bishop’s Stortford Independent
20 April 2020
Surely it’s time you stopped describing the Independent columnist, Chas Gill, as an independent columnist. Those of us with long enough memories will recall Chas telling us that he had been invited to join the steering committee to work up plans for the proposed new arts centre in Old River Lane. So of course he has a personal interest in supporting East Herts Council’s plans for Old River Lane. But whenever, like last week, he writes another promotional piece about it, he somehow forgets to declare that interest. And whatever he knows about the plans for the site is news to the rest of us, because none of these plans have been shared with the public.
The District Plan’s policies for the centre of Bishop’s Stortford make no reference either to an arts centre at Old River Lane or to the provision of a multi-storey car park on the other side of Link Road. But the District Plan does require the Council to publish and consult on a Supplementary Planning Document for Old River Lane. Its purpose is to guide the masterplanning process for the site, although that already appears to have started, and of course, to gauge the public attitude to the proposals. Until that happens there can be no basis for Chas’s claims about what the majority of residents want or whether those opposing the multi-storey car park are simply a vocal minority.
So, since the middle of January, the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation has been pressing East Herts Council to say when it is going to publish and consult on this document. To date, we have not received a coherent reply. Perhaps the Council are worried that the public will not support what they already appear to have decided. Perhaps, since this scheme is said to be for the benefit of all the extra residents of our new housing developments, they are waiting for them to turn up before consulting the public.
But, until there has been a genuine test of public opinion – and whatever Chas may think, there has been none so far – the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation does not think that the Council should be embarking on construction of a multi-storey car park which could turn out to be both irreversible and unnecessary. Like Mr Middlemiss in your last letters column, we think that when the pandemic is eventually brought under control, the Council will need to re-examine its all plans and priorities, including those for Old River Lane.