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East Herts presses ahead with Old River Lane project and £30m pledge for arts centre

Old River Lane in Bishop's Stortford
Old River Lane in Bishop's Stortford

A developer for Bishop’s Stortford's new cultural quarter at Old River Lane was set to be approved last night (Tuesday, February 26) as East Herts Council’s cabinet put £30m in its budget for a new arts centre for the town.

Debate by the executive about the decisions took place behind closed doors to protect commercially sensitive details but those papers which were made public before the meeting show the authority is determined to press ahead with its flagship project.

The cabinet also discussed a revenue allocation of £250,000 to cover East Herts’ share of the running costs for the new arts centre. The town council is expected to find a similar amount, alongside a £3m contribution to the bottom line. Contributions from section 106 planning conditions will add a further £1.4m, with £0.2m from Herts County Council and 0.1m from the National Lottery.

The district council has also pencilled in £430,000 to cover borrowing costs if required “once all

other funding bids/strategies have been exhausted” to deliver what it describes as “an ambitious town centre scheme which replaces a dated office building and sizeable surface car park in the middle of Bishop’s Stortford with a vibrant new quarter for the town”.

It will feature a 5,500 sqm modern multipurpose arts and entertainment venue, 4,220 sqm commercial/retail space, enhanced public realm including a new town square and 137 residential units.

The arts centre is the cornerstone of the plans. According to East Herts: “The new venue has the potential to transform the centre of Bishop’s Stortford, creating a public space which will bring new life and vibrancy to the town centre.

“Open 14 hours a day, seven days a week, high footfall is expected throughout the day by visitors of the library, cinemas and café, while the theatre, studio and cinemas will also create a nighttime destination that will bring added value and diversity to the town’s night time economy. “The professional artistic programme will be mixed, appealing to a wide and varied audience, and the new centre will also offer the opportunity for young people and amateur groups to perform in state of the art facilities, whether in the main or studio theatres.

“Incorporating the library into the arts and entertainment centre is an exciting opportunity to create potential new audiences for both the arts centre and the library.”

East Herts began looking for a developer to realise that vision in July last year and final bids were submitted in January to be scored by the council and its property advisors Montagu Evans.

Each hopeful also presented its proposals to the council and the Arts Centre Steering Group earlier this month.

After scoring, a winner emerged with the best draft masterplan and financial offer combining to produce the best overall package.

Old River Lane. (7340227)
Old River Lane. (7340227)

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