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East Herts proposes new layout after multi-storey car park plan hits roadblock

Northgate End car park planned entrance and exit
Northgate End car park planned entrance and exit

Controversial plans for a new multi-storey car park in the heart of Bishop's Stortford have been redrawn after hitting a roadblock.

Herts County Council’s highways department told East Herts Council that its original scheme to close the 143-space Northgate End car park and replace it with 546 spaces over six levels – alongside 35 surface bays and a four-storey building with commercial use at ground level and 15 flats above – was a threat to pedestrian safety and should be refused.

The district council’s traffic data supporting the scheme was also scorned by the civic federation and the authority faced opposition from Waitrose bosses over proposed changes to the supermarket’s access.

The car park is the first step in EHC’s plans to transform the Old River Lane site into a “mixed-use cultural quarter” including up to 100 new homes, and the authority has made it clear the development of any new arts centre on the land cannot go ahead until extra parking has been provided. If the multi-storey wins approval, the 214-space Causeway car park will close.

In order to overcome the objections, EHC has now amended its plan so that the existing Waitrose access from Old River Lane will be retained.

The mini roundabout at the junction of Link Road, Hadham Road and Northgate End will still be replaced, but instead of the four-arm signalised junction originally proposed, with the southern limb serving the supermarket, three arms are now proposed.

Right turns into the Waitrose delivery and servicing yard will be facilitated by the relocation further west of the stop line on the A1250 western arm.

To make the junction safer for pedestrians to navigate while accessing the car park, the lights will have a cycle time of 90 seconds rather than the three minutes previously planned and there will be upgrades for footpaths and crossings.

The council has also amended its layout for the site to ensure its own refuse lorries can access the commercial and residential area. The vehicles currently in use are 10.4m long but the original plan was modelled on a 10.1m long truck.

In response to the civic federation’s criticism that the scheme did not take account of new homes in the town already under construction – like St Michael’s Hurst and Stortford Fields, and developments approved such as the Goods Yard, where a total of 3,315 dwellings are planned – plus those in the district plan including Stortford South, EHC has updated its assessment but continues to argue: “Residents in the majority of the sites can access Bishop’s Stortford town centre by bus or on foot.”

At the request of the county council, consultants also factored growth at Stansted Airport into the model and again concluded the impact would be mitigated by public transport.

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