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Northgate End multi-storey: Residents' concern at East Herts Council's plan for 19ft lighting columns on top deck

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Bishop’s Stortford’s new multi-storey car park is set to be topped with lighting columns almost 20ft high.

East Herts Council has submitted a planning application to itself as planning authority to erect four lighting posts on the sixth storey of the building at Northgate End.

The authority’s expert, Calford Seaden, evaluated three options for lighting on the open-air, top deck of the 546-space car park before recommending the controversial scheme for the conservation area. Instead of going for lighting bollards or columns around the edge of that level it has plumped for them in the middle.

Multi-storey car park at Northgate End (47985287)
Multi-storey car park at Northgate End (47985287)

The first option, to install low-level lighting bollards along the perimeter with four 4m (13ft) columns, was rejected because it would not provide "uniform illumination".

Option two would also have limited the height of 12 lighting columns to 4m (13ft) and achieved “a good level of uniform light output”. However, those around the perimeter would have been “prominent”.

Instead, the favoured configuration is to increase the height of four central twin lighting columns to 5.75m (18ft 10in), which allows eight columns around the roof perimeter to be removed.

Multi-storey car park at Northgate End (47985285)
Multi-storey car park at Northgate End (47985285)

Calford Seaden said in a design and access statement supporting the application: “The option three lighting proposal, despite having the highest projection above the uppermost floor level, can be seen to have the least visual effect between the two viable options. This is due to the lighting columns’ set-back position, whereby in reality they are only just visible in minor instances from the surrounding areas.

“The illumination at roof level is not seen to adversely affect the character of the building or the Bishop’s Stortford Conservation Area, where a number of other semi-illuminated buildings as well as car parking areas already exist.”

The lighting will be time-controlled so that it switches off when the car park is closed, but the operating hours have already been a subject of contention, with midnight closing considered appropriate for visitors to the new £15.5m arts centre and five-screen cinema planned at Old River Lane.

One Yew Tree Place resident has already voiced their concern, saying 5.75m-high columns would be “extremely disruptive” for householders.

Multi-storey car park at Northgate End (47985283)
Multi-storey car park at Northgate End (47985283)

The car park is the keystone of the council’s wider aspirations to create a cultural quarter for the Causeway and provoked vehement objections and repeated legal challenges from neighbours led by Clive Risby and Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation before planning permission was confirmed by a High Court judge at the start of 2020.

Earlier this year, contractor Rydon was forced to demolish a four-storey building on the siteafter faults were found in the concrete. It will offer commercial use on the ground floor with 15 flats on the upper three floors.

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