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Bishop's Stortford South: Residents' traffic, noise and environmental concerns over 24/7 trucking centre

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A councillor has criticised developers of a 24/7 logistics centre for Bishop's Stortford South amid residents' fears of a trucking hell for the town.

The proposal for the £50m centre was announced in March by Fiera Real Estate (FRE UK) and Wrenbridge, with the promise of an estimated 1,000 jobs in the employment area on the 750-home St James Park estate being developed by Countryside.

But the developers are being accused of going against the original outline brief of a business park with high-value jobs in the tech sector and of downgrading the jobs boost projection to 300-450.

Cllr Graham McAndrew, executive member for the environment and sustainability on East Herts Council and Herts county councillor for Bishop's Stortford Rural
Cllr Graham McAndrew, executive member for the environment and sustainability on East Herts Council and Herts county councillor for Bishop's Stortford Rural

The scheme has prompted concerns over the impact on air quality and traffic flow in the area, from what now appears to be a distribution park which it is claimed will generate hundreds of HGV and van movements.

Cllr Graham McAndrew, executive member for the environment and sustainability on East Herts Council and Herts county councillor for Bishop's Stortford Rural, told the Independent he was concerned at the close proximity of the centre to schools and a care home.

"I have serious concerns with the scale of HGVs and smaller vehicles proposed to use the site 24/7, especially being situated next to an eight-form-entry secondary school, primary school and care home," he said. "It lacks a duty of care by the developers."

He said the site was equidistant from junction 8 of the M11 and the new junction 7a due to open next year, "exacerbating" the air quality management area (AQMA) in Sawbridgeworth.

Cllr McAndrew highlighted the refusal by Uttlesford District Council for a similar centre for Wren Kitchens at Start Hill following discussions with Essex Highways and Highways England with regard to the impact on J8 of the M11.

He concluded by branding the scheme a "toxic combination" which "goes against everything that we are working to achieve".

A petition against the centre set up by Becky Scott has more than 900 names on it and Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation has issued a statement lambasting it.

In a letter to the Independent, civic federation committee member Colin Arnott said the centre could not be in a worse location and its impact on the town's congested road network would be "catastrophic".

However, Wrenbridge director James Feltham insisted the plan for the centre was "entirely consistent with the outline planning permission" granted by East Herts.

"The outline approved a new development of some 21,000 sq m with any flexible combination of office, industrial, storage and distribution uses," he said.

“The proposals represent a reduction of approximately 11% in the extent of floorspace assessed by East Herts Council as part of the outline application.

"Since the range of permitted uses are the same in the permitted outline and our detailed application, the vehicle trips generated by our proposals are reduced and an improvement on what was deemed acceptable in the permitted outline.”

Mr Feltham added: “We do not have signed-up tenants yet, although early market interest indicates that the project will be highly attractive to a range of end users that fully comply with the permitted uses at the site and will provide accommodation for a wide variety of businesses.

"Our job creation estimates of between 300 and 450 are based on our extensive experience and these jobs will provide a real boost to the local economy.”

READER'S LETTER 'Distribution park generating hundreds of HGV truck and van movements could not be in a worse location'

At Countryside’s recent community liaison group (CLG) on the Bishop’s Stortford South development, we learned that a planning application for a 200,000 sq ft warehousing and logistics facility at the south-eastern corner of the site will be submitted shortly by Wrenbridge Land Ltd.

I attended meetings two years ago when East Herts Council gave outline approval for the overall development. We were assured that this site would be a business park attracting high-value jobs in the tech sectors. This is not what is now on offer.

A few weeks ago the Independent reported that this development was set to create 1,000 new jobs, but before the CLG even opened, Wrenbridge said it did not know where this figure came from and its estimate was now 300-550 jobs. But the norm for this size and type of distribution activity would create only around 250-300 warehousing and trucking jobs at best.

Our main concern, however, is that, as a distribution park generating hundreds of HGV truck and van movements, it could not be in a worse location.

Its impact on the town’s congested road network will be catastrophic, with 24-hour operations and 7-mile articulated truck trips to the M11 at junction 8 or, more likely, using the much shorter routes through Hockerill or the rat-runs round the south-east of the town.

It will also see even more HGV trips through the AQMA (air quality management area) in Sawbridgeworth to access the M11 southbound at the new junction 7A. The impact of HGVs through Sawbridgeworth during the current overnight closures of the M11 is a taster of what can be expected 24/7 when the park is operating.

Despite these clear threats to the environment, district and county councillors are only now becoming aware that they have already granted permission in principle for this use in the small print of Countryside’s outline planning consent in the face of nearly 1,500 objections.

This will be a reserved matters application and, as things stand, Wrenbridge does not believe it should be required to carry out a transport assessment nor need to mitigate the impact on the local highway network. It will simply need to show that it complies with the now wholly discredited transport assessment carried out five years ago – which was for ‘business and light industry’ use, not a trucking centre.

East Herts Council and Herts County Council’s transport planners – supported by the town and parish councils affected – need to find ways to make the developers think again if they are not to be guilty of culpable negligence in granting such a “just do what you like” planning permission for Bishop’s Stortford South in 2019.

Colin Arnott, committee member, Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation

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