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Stortford Fields residents protest over enforcement 'failures' by East Herts Council against developers

East Herts Council is urging residents of Bishop’s Stortford’s newest estate to raise compliance concerns.

The local authority was responding to complaints from householders that developers have failed to deliver a raft of measures at Stortford Fields – and that the district council has not enforced planning agreements.

Jason Argent, who lives in Ambrose Close, wrote to Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson, East Herts Council chief executive Richard Cassidy, the authority’s head of planning and building control Sarah Saunders and Cllrs Alastair Ward-Booth and Tim Page to protest.

Alastair Ward-Booth is the Herts county councillor for Bishop's Stortford West. Pic: Vikki Lince
Alastair Ward-Booth is the Herts county councillor for Bishop's Stortford West. Pic: Vikki Lince

He was following up on a letter signed by 125 new householders in November 2020 asking for help. He said none had been received.

In response, Cllr Ward-Booth said: "I remain as frustrated as local residents with the lack of progress regarding Stortford Fields and have emailed council officers asking for a public meeting to be held to discuss these issues directly with residents of Stortford Fields.”

Mrs Marson brokered talks between residents and EHC representatives on Friday November 4 but subsequently cancelled the event at Bishop’s Park community centre, telling residents she would liaise with just one householder and other parties instead.

Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson (60534633)
Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson (60534633)

Stortford Fields residents pay community management trust charges for the upkeep of the 2,200-home estate as well as council tax.

Mr Argent said: “For four years we've been trying to get our local planning authority to simply enforce the planning conditions that the developers agreed to (in law). For four years we've been engaging with the local authority, who have, at every meeting, refused to undertake enforcement action.”

He was spurred into action again by a letter from East Herts which “enraged” residents by claiming progress had been made.

Mr Argent said that landscaping across the whole site, in accordance with the plans, had not been carried out and was “completely sub-standard” with missing footpaths and “greenways”.

He claimed energy efficiency commitments had been “breached in hundreds of plots” and communal areas were not being properly maintained. Residents also feared their charges were being used to pay for work that should have been funded by the developers.

East Herts Council told the Indie: “A letter was sent to all residents on Friday October 14 setting out how we are dealing with compliance matters at Stortford Fields.

“This explained that we use a range of methods to address complaints, always with the aim of resolving them as quickly and as effectively as possible.

“In some cases that means taking formal enforcement action. This summer we issued a Planning Compliance Notice, which gives the developer responsible six months to deliver a footpath/cycleway at the foot of the bund, next to the A120 bypass.

“The developer consortium has twice audited the landscaping. Improvements that could be made were carried out immediately. Other improvements had to wait until the planting season in November and we will monitor this closely over the coming months.

“Regrettably, progress on some issues has been slower than we hoped for. On the establishment of the community trust, one resident has come forward to join and the developer consortium will readvertise this again at the earliest opportunity.

“It is important to stress that the issues raised are extremely important to us. We have reiterated to all residents how to get in touch to raise concerns and will continue to review what more can be done to reach a conclusion as swiftly as possible.”

A representative of Vistry, Taylor Wimpey, Tilia Homes (formally Kier) and Persimmon, the consortium of builders responsible for developing Stortford Fields, has been contacted for comment, as has a spokeswoman for Gateway plc, the management company. Neither has responded.

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