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East Herts Council appoints developer to create cultural quarter in Bishop's Stortford town centre

A £30m arts centre incorporating a 544-seat theatre, a four-screen cinema and art displays will bring culture to Bishop’s Stortford town centre.

East Herts Council has appointed Chester-based Cityheart Ltd as its preferred developer for the project to transform the Causeway.

The 5.2-acre (2.1 ha) Old River Lane scheme also includes an open space called Waytemore Square, around 150 new homes alongside retail and commercial space and a new woodland area.

Artist's impression of Waytemore Square (28329596)
Artist's impression of Waytemore Square (28329596)

East Herts Council leader Cllr Linda Haysey said: “We are delighted that we’re now in a position to progress our vision and that we can move forward with the next stage of this project to transform and revitalise this part of town.

“Everyone in the town and further afield can look forward to quality arts of all kinds in a superb space, while the multi-storey car park [at Northgate End] will contribute towards supporting the local economy and the ambitions of the town.

“The new public square will be a space to be enjoyed by the town’s residents and visitors.”

Key to the scheme is construction of a 597-space, six-storey car park at Northgate End. The existing car park on the former cattle market will close on April 20, following the end of a protracted legal wrangle between the council and objectors. Building will take 15-18 months.

The new £30m arts centre can then be built on the temporary car park constructed after 1 The Causeway was demolished in 2017.

It will also offer food and drinks. and space to hire for community and private events to help cover costs.

When the district council carried out a town centre consultation in 2016, some 65% of respondents said Stortford lacked a good music venue, Rhodes Arts Complex was too far out of town and there was not enough entertainment for teens.

The transformation is supported by £9.6m Local Growth Fund investment from Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), made up of a £6m grant and £3.6m interest-free loan.

Adam Wood, head of infrastructure and regeneration, said: “The Old River Lane project will bring vibrant new public amenities to Bishop’s Stortford town centre to benefit the local community, attract new visitors and help the historic and strategically located market town live up to its full potential.

“With the help of £9.6m LEP funding, under-used land which previously served as surface-level parking will be transformed with a new arts centre, cinema and town square to increase footfall, with plentiful parking provided in a new space-efficient multi-storey car park. We look forward to seeing this much-awaited scheme come to fruition.”

Bishop’s Stortford has a population of around 38,000 which is expected to reach 50,000 by 2031.

The Old River Lane development is expected to take up to three years to complete. Developer Cityheart was founded in 2005 by managing director Mark McNamee and specialises in working with the public sector and regeneration projects.

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