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Developers bid to build on Bishops Stortfords Old River Lane site

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Old River Lane
Old River Lane

A shortlist of developers who have bid to build on Bishops Stortfords Old River Lane site is being drawn up.

Old River Lane
Old River Lane

Potential partners for East Herts Council’s development scheme – which comprises a new £20m arts centre, shops, restaurants and homes – are waiting to find out if they have made it through to the next stage of the procurement programme for the 5.2-acre (2.1-hectare) site in the Causeway.

A tight timetable – in which the deadline for submissions expired on September 4 – means the dialogue stage will begin in the middle of this month, after the applications have been scrutinised, and the dialogue stage – which stretches until December – can begin.

The final tender and evaluation stage is set to begin in January, with interviews and presentations in February and evaluation and recommendation of the council’s preferred bidder in March.

Contract documents would be finalised between April and June, clearing the way for detailed planning applications.

New car park on Old River Lane, Bishops Stortford. Pic: Vikki Lince
New car park on Old River Lane, Bishops Stortford. Pic: Vikki Lince

The keystone of the scheme – a new multi-storey car park at Northgate End with commercial space and flats – has already been given planning permission.

The district council currently expects to begin building the car park in spring next year, with completion 15 to 18 months later. Its best guess is that the main development would take up to three years to construct.

In the prospectus, EHC leader Cllr Linda Haysey makes the council’s commitment clear: “We are delighted to bring forward this exciting project to bring new investment into the heart of Bishop’s Stortford. This project and its strategy has the full support of the council.

“We look forward to a transformational change to Old River Lane with a development partner who can offer the very best in placemaking, design and innovation.”

The council has backed its rhetoric with cash. Most recently, its executive voted to spend up to £161,893 on a specialist project manager for the scheme over three years and to ringfence £100,000 for further legal costs.

These are in addition to the initial £470,000 budget – including £180,000 for project management support – allocated in February 2017 and a further £225,000 for consultancies for the multi-storey car park and homes at Northgate End.

The Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership has awarded a £6m grant and a £3.6m loan to progress the plans.

To ensure the new arts centre – including a 500-seat theatre, café, bar and a niche cinema – can open in 2022-23, Bishop’s Stortford Town Council, East Herts Council and the Rhodes Birthplace Trust are appealing for volunteers to join a steering group.

Six of the nine members have already been appointed – two from each of the three partner bodies. Three vacancies remain to help shape the physical brief for the building – which may also incorporate the town’s library – and its management and governance.

Candidates for the “exciting role which will shape the centre of Bishop’s Stortford and its provision for the arts for the next 50 years or more” should submit a CV and a covering letter to: Project Manager, Old River Lane, East Herts Council, Wallfields, Pegs Lane, Hertford, SG13 8EQ or email old.riverlane@eastherts.gov.uk

Those with experience or knowledge in accountancy, legal matters, organisational development, human resources, property or the management of cultural facilities are especially welcome.

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