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Old River Lane: Survey launched on idea for further education college instead of arts centre on town centre site

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A cross-party group working on plans for a further education college for Bishop's Stortford has issued a "call for evidence".

The Old River Lane Working Group, chaired by Labour's Elif Toker-Turnalar, wants East Herts Council to reconsider its plans for an arts centre as part of the wider Old River Lane scheme for a cultural quarter, including new homes, shops and restaurants at The Causeway site.

Financial pressure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and changes to Government loan rules for local authorities has forced the district council to abandon ambitious plans for a theatre at the heart of the project and propose a five-screen cinema instead. Arts groups are lobbying for the auditorium to be built.

United in opposition to East Herts Council's Old River Lane scheme – members of the local Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties
United in opposition to East Herts Council's Old River Lane scheme – members of the local Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties

The revised scheme will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the council on Thursday March 18.

Elif said: "For the first phase of the study we are asking the residents, businesses, schools and community groups of Bishop's Stortford and the surrounding villages for their initial thoughts on the council's plans for ORL and on our alternative proposal."

The survey asks:

  1. Do you agree with the proposal to build a five-screen cinema on the Old River Lane site?
  2. Do you support the alternative proposal to retain Charringtons House (instead of demolishing it) and use it for mixed retail, commercial and educational purposes?
  3. If a college is established on this site, what subjects or types of courses and qualifications do you think should be offered, and to what age groups?
Old River Lane. (44770083)
Old River Lane. (44770083)

The survey will be open until Sunday March 14. The results will be considered by the working party, set up by the town's Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties. Its 12 members are:

  • Daniel Barnett – sixth-form student at The Bishop's Stortford High School
  • Peter Brady – planning law solicitor
  • Yvonne Estop-Wood – planner and urban designer
  • David Jacobs – IT business engagement manager
  • Adrian Mee – lecturer and researcher in education at UCL Institute of Education
  • David Middlemiss – advisor, ARC Centre of Excellence, Monash University in Melbourne
  • Richard Philipson – mature student
  • Jane Skinner – retired facilities manager
  • Stephen Skinner – marketing professional
  • Jill Sortwell – Labour town councillor
  • Elif Toker-Turnalar – interdisciplinary lecturer and researcher at Regent's University, London
  • Oya Wilkes – has a BA in journalism, a BSc in psychology and an MA in social work.

To take part in the survey, residents can email the working group at orlworkinggroup@gmail.com or complete the online survey.

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