Fears that closed town centre car parks in Bishop's Stortford will become eyesore
East Herts Council has less than five weeks to find a new use for two car parks in Bishop's Stortford town centre – which must close to make way for the new Northgate End multi-storey – or risk creating an eyesore.
Drivers will be banned from 241 spaces at the Causeway when the new 546-vehicle, six-storey facility opens on Monday June 13.
The general public will also be unable to use 47 bays next to Charrington’s House although its tenants will retain access.
East Herts predicts it will be six months before the site is handed over to its development partner CityHeart at the start of 2023 for the first phase of the Old River Lane project.
The district council is determined to create a “cultural quarter” with a new arts centre, a public square, homes, restaurants and shops on the Causeway.
However, a planning application has not yet been submitted, prompting fears the council’s estimate is unrealistic and that the land could become a wasteland for far longer without firm alternative proposals.
The same month the car parks close, the authority is expected to begin public consultation on its supplementary planning document. This blueprint will guide long-term development of the site.
Retailers had called for the car parks to remain open in the interim for use by their staff and shoppers. However, their closure is a condition of planning permission for the multi-storey, which adds 197 extra general parking spaces to the town’s overall capacity.
The future of the site is a particular concern for Bishop’s Stortford BID (Business Improvement District), which supports shops and services on the high street.
Manager Gina Thomas said: “Following our conversations with East Herts about the development plans for this area of the town centre, we were keen to understand what will happen to the Causeway car park during this interim period.
“This is a key corner of the town, and with the new car park opening, it's important that this space is not just abandoned and left unused.
"Unfortunately, due to planning conditions, it's no longer able to be used for car parking, so we're currently supporting the council in exploring other ways they could make the best out of the space to benefit all users of the town centre.”
East Herts Council leader Linda Haysey said she expected building work to begin in mid-2023 and continue until 2025.
In the meantime, she said: “Given its prominent town centre location, we’re discussing ideas with the BID to see how the space can be used to encourage people to visit and shop local up until Christmas.”
The new Northgate End multi-storey replaces 143 long-stay bays on the site of the former cattle market. It shut in June 2020 to make way for contractor Real, formerly Rydon Construction Ltd, to start work.
The £21.5m development on the site also includes a further 27 surface-level spaces and a four-storey building with commercial units on the ground floor and 15 flats above. They are to be marketed by Savills shortly.