Disused Foxdells could become centre for shows, events, conferences, nursery and dance and music studios
An abandoned farmstead on the outskirts of Bishop’s Stortford is set to become a community complex suitable for hosting shows, events and conferences.
East Herts Council is considering a strategy to transform dilapidated buildings at Foxdells – at the end of Foxdells Lane, off Rye Street – into facilities including a multi-use hall, a nursery and foyer, with a mezzanine floor to accommodate dance and music studios.
A grade II listed barn at the site – formerly the home of ARC, Animal Rescue Charity, which has new headquarters in Farnham – is at the heart of the ambitious proposals.
The developers behind Stortford Fields – which together with St Michael’s Hurst forms the Bishop’s Stortford North (BSN) estates – have commissioned consultants to come up with the strategy as part of their Section 106 obligations to provide benefits as part of planning permission for around 2,500 homes.
Almost £2m has been allocated to provide community facilities for the BSN eastern and western neighbourhoods along with just over £1m for a sports ground at Hoggate’s Wood, likely to be operated by Bishop’s Stortford Swifts Football Club, in the west.
The experts have recommended that to optimise the outcome at Foxdells, where up to £4m of work has been estimated, the sports pavilion should include other activity space.
The report says: “This is a common model that enhances the income for private sports clubs.
“The pavilion would be equipped with changing rooms, washing and toilet facilities for sports, a main hall for serving food and which can also be used for functions and meetings.
“There might be a bar which is open at weekends when adult matches are taking place on the playing fields and on occasional weekday evenings, for instance on training nights.
“During the rest of the week, however, the main space can be used for children’s activities.”
It is estimated that almost 800 youngsters will live on the BSN estates by the time the 500th home is built.
The council is told in a lengthy report that four options have been costed for conversion of the barn – a good example of an 1850s covered cattle-yard – and other buildings around a typical U-shaped courtyard.
However, the consultants conclude: “The opportunity to create a well-designed and flexible hub of facilities in Foxdells Farm is too good to miss.
“To reconcile the requirement for a western neighbourhood facility with the funding available, we recommend that the option of converting the Foxdells Farm complex to as high a specification as possible is pursued.”
That means additional funding must be found, but the consultants advise that the historic nature of the buildings and the extensive restoration they will require to satisfy conservation experts was an advantage in applying for heritage grants.
The development strategy, which includes a new north-east access road, has already attracted a potential operator for the cafe. Rosey Lea, which has branches in Market Square and in converted farm buildings at Wickham Hall, near Stortford Fields, has expressed an interest in the new outlet.
Bishop’s Stortford Town Council’s planning and development committee had a chance to scrutinise the strategy at its last meeting but members decided they did not have the expertise to challenge the consultants’ conclusions.