The opposition parties in Bishop’s Stortford have today launched a petition calling upon East Herts District Council to halt plans for the development of Old River Lane. The petition is online at https://www.change.org/HaltOldRiverLane and reads as follows:
“We the undersigned residents of Bishop’s Stortford and the local area call upon East Herts District Council to:
Halt the development generally known as Old River Lane (ORL), and
Publish the business case for ORL.
Organise a full public consultation, to be held over several weeks, with the residents and businesses of Bishop's Stortford in order to ascertain the community's views on the whole ORL scheme.
Plans to invest in the infrastructure of Bishop’s Stortford are welcome, but that does not mean they should be passed without scrutiny. In this instance the ORL development is likely to cost tens of millions of pounds of public money which could be spent on much needed social housing or other public services. Bishop’s Stortford already has a successful arts centre (South Mill Arts - SMA), The ORL development, if it goes ahead, will damage SMA by drawing custom away from it. It will also damage our already precarious high street by driving customers and shoppers away from the high street.
Calvin Horner, Chairman, Bishop’s Stortford Liberal Democrats, said "Many of the District Council's capital projects are having to be reassessed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. So, it would be wise and responsible for the Council to halt the ORL project so that a full re-evaluation can take place. Such a pause would be an opportunity for consultation with the whole community, to find out whether the development has the support of all residents and meets their needs.”
Elif Toker-Turnalar, Chair, Bishop’s Stortford Labour Party, agreed, saying “The plans to develop a new arts centre for Bishop’s Stortford in the Old River Lane area are misconceived and need to be re-examined in the light of the dramatically different circumstances we now find ourselves in. Bishop’s Stortford already has an arts centre – South Mill Arts – and there is no evidence that the town can support two such centres. The development of Old River Lane will likely sound the death knell for SMA, and probably the Anchor Street cinema as well. The planned development is in the middle of a conservation area; the council has approved a series of poorly designed developments in recent years – for example the Goods yard car park – and we are concerned that ORL will be another modernist monstrosity. I am delighted that this petition has the support of all three progressive parties in the area, which so far as we can tell is unprecedented.”
Alex Daar, Chair of the East Herts Green Party, added, "It is vital that at a time of such change we stop and take stock. This development is going to be with us for a long time and has to work for our future needs too."