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East Herts Council elections: Parties set out plans on leisure and the arts, including the Old River Lane development





Bishop’s Stortford’s growing population is putting pressure on leisure facilities, so the Indie probed the four main parties vying for control of East Herts Council in the May 4 elections on their plans for provision. We specifically asked them to set out their stall on the Old River Lane (ORL) arts centre plans and the future of the Water Lane United Reformed Church (URC) Hall currently earmarked for demolition...

"Conservative-run East Herts Council has a very strong record in delivering high-quality leisure facilities in Stortford"
"Conservative-run East Herts Council has a very strong record in delivering high-quality leisure facilities in Stortford"

CONSERVATIVES

Conservative-run East Herts Council has a very strong record in delivering high-quality leisure facilities in Bishop’s Stortford.

Over the last four years we have delivered the all-new £24m Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre, which has been very favourably received by residents.

The new swimming pools, gym, studios, community room and football changing rooms are being very heavily used, which reflects the very strong sporting credentials of our town.

The joint EHC and town council £3m Castle Park investment project is also delivering significant new and refreshed facilities. These include tennis courts, a skate park, pump track, café and new community centre.

East Herts is also developing a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which will support the case for more cycling provision in Bishop’s Stortford.

Cycling is one of our most popular pastimes and deserves further investment from local councils. Additional cycle tracks will help to encourage more young people and adults to safely participate in cycling.

Your Bishop’s Stortford Conservative councillors will continue to push for the best possible redevelopment scheme for Old River Lane and the best possible arts centre, perhaps even including outdoor performance space.

Bishop’s Stortford councillors will soon meet with EHC executive members to discuss options for the Water Lane URC Hall.

All arts provision at ORL must support the wider arts community in Stortford and complement the offering at South Mill Arts.

Labour: "Adapting the Water Lane URC Hall to arts use will enable revision of the Old River Lane masterplan"
Labour: "Adapting the Water Lane URC Hall to arts use will enable revision of the Old River Lane masterplan"

LABOUR

Labour will work for a balance of sport, health, arts and culture for community wellbeing.

Grange Paddocks and South Mill Arts are highly valued leisure assets, alongside dual use of churches for live music, halls and school halls for performance and the rich network of diverse artists, songwriters and designers.

Labour will keep the URC Hall in EHC ownership. It will repurpose it for creative activities, performance and all-age learning through a simple scheme of improvement and adaptation. This will be attuned to our existing arts groups, be community-led and complement South Mill Arts.

Adapting the hall to arts use will enable revision of the ORL masterplan. It will be made to work alongside Waitrose parking, scaled down for the Meads context, with a community square at its heart.

Ground-floor business spaces, shops and restaurants must strengthen the existing leisure economy of the North Street area, as well as linking with shopping in Bridge Street.

Labour will create a Stortford arts strategy, with an action plan supporting the town’s rich creative activity. Through community engagement, it will add substance to the existing East Herts Cultural Strategy.

The Conservatives’ threadbare and unviable vision for the arts at ORL has let everyone down.

Labour believes there must be full disclosure of the agreements and finances leading to the shutting down of Charringtons House and Cityheart’s brazen assumptions about the amount and type of development.

Labour will keep an easy-to-reach council office in Stortford, for local people to speak to staff in our own town.

Lib Dems: "We would put a 'pause' on development of the Old River Lane site and arrange for full public consultation on its future use."
Lib Dems: "We would put a 'pause' on development of the Old River Lane site and arrange for full public consultation on its future use."

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

We fully supported the rebuilding of Grange Paddocks swimming pool and gym and are delighted they are being so well used.

We have parks and children’s playgrounds, and our policy would be to continue to support and maintain all of them.

But there is a lack of other sporting facilities and we rely too much on private clubs for tennis, squash and badminton. We would seek to improve on the public provision if possible.

We would put a “pause” on development of the Old River Lane site and arrange for full public consultation on its future use. This is a fantastic opportunity to provide something amazingly good for the town and we should not squander it.

We have heard from residents that they really do not want another cinema. Nor do they want 225 new homes built as blocks of flats that are six to seven storeys high.

We would retain the URC hall in Water Lane. We would work to ensure it is refurbished for community use. It has been registered as an Asset of Community Value and should be treated as such.

We would cancel plans to demolish Charringtons House and the URC Hall. Demolition of any building is contrary to the council’s own sustainability policies. Demolition is bad for the environment by the release of so much embedded carbon. We would keep both buildings and refurbish them for the benefit of the community.

"The Green Party believes the ORL site must be renewed without an overwhelming and unsustainable housing build to increase congestion and air pollution."
"The Green Party believes the ORL site must be renewed without an overwhelming and unsustainable housing build to increase congestion and air pollution."

GREENS

East Herts Green Party opposes the demolition of the URC Hall in Water Lane. Our heritage is a core part of what gives the towns in our district their identity.

This, and a redeveloped Old River Lane site, must be done sympathetically with the character of the centre of Bishop’s Stortford, and as part of a process in which residents determine what they require from arts, culture and leisure facilities in the town, not as something dictated by a small group of council leaders.

The Green Party promises genuine consultation to build public support and believes the site must be renewed without an overwhelming and unsustainable housing build to increase congestion and air pollution.

East Herts has to do a better job of leisure provision throughout the district as well.

Ware has Fanshawe Pool, a facility in desperate need of refurbishment. It has the Southern Maltings Community Arts Centre, which the district not only does not assist but from which it tries to take money while doing no repairs to the building it owns.

This and the tens of millions pumped into facilities like Hertford Theatre and the Grange Paddocks facility have led to an unbalanced leisure provision across the district.

East Herts should work with town councils to enable them to take over and better use parks and play facilities, and concentrate on things it can do well without building unsustainable debt levels.



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