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Bishop's Stortford North: Residents' shock as work begins on new phase of development

New earthworks for the Bishop's Stortford North development have shocked residents of Foxdells Lane and Whitehall Lane.

Contractor Breheny has moved onto a field that forms part of the Stortford Fields estate of 2,200 new homes and constructed a platform, ready for a new phase of dwellings to be built.

Residents Kirsten Russell said that the contractor's notification that work would be taking place came as a complete shock because detailed planning permission for the field had not yet been granted.

The Eastern Neighbourhood of Stortford Fields (58949111)
The Eastern Neighbourhood of Stortford Fields (58949111)

She stressed that she understood that the site was designated for development as part of the outline permission granted for 130 hectares (321 acres) of land bordering the Bishop's Stortford A120 bypass.

But she said residents had received no warning from the consortium of housebuilders behind the Stortford Fields estate – currently Vistry (the group which owns Bovis Homes), Taylor Wimpey, Tilia Homes (formally Kier) and Persimmon.

She said: "My neighbours and I ended up having an informal meeting with Breheny who told us they would be digging the field out by two metres alongside my property in preparation for houses.

View from Kirsten Russell's home (58949140)
View from Kirsten Russell's home (58949140)

"So you can imagine my shock when I came back and found they had actually pushed at least two metres of earth up the field so that effectively my 6ft fence is now level with the surface of the field. Originally the field was at the same level as my garden.

"The works have been hugely disruptive for many people in the surrounding area and a lot of people are asking questions as to how this could fall under the radar without us having an opportunity to be consulted before these massive works began.

"My neighbours and I are very concerned at how overlooked our homes will be when new houses are built at this level.

"This is a very popular area for walkers, and I believe people will be shocked at how quickly a once beautiful wild field can be destroyed."

View from Kirsten Russell's home (58949143)
View from Kirsten Russell's home (58949143)

Like Kirsten, neighbours Mark and Carolyn Hoffman understood the land would be developed when they moved to Foxdells Lane last year. They also shared her belief that Breheny would be lowering the ground level.

"Since moving in, there has been absolutely no communication from the developers about its proposed plans," said the Hoffmans. "Clearly the developers don't seem to care about the potential impacts to property owners adjacent to the field.

"We would like to know why East Herts Council's planning and control have not been more involved. There are no approved plans for the houses, so why would they prepare the fields without this approval?"

Flooding in Whitehall Lane (58949179)
Flooding in Whitehall Lane (58949179)

Neighbour Anthony Young said: "By raising the level of the field they will increase the level of flooding to all our properties, as has happened numerous times in the past since 1976 when I moved here."

Cllr David Snowdon, who represents Meads ward, has raised residents' concerns with East Herts Council. A district council spokeswoman said: "We appreciate residents' concerns and have passed the case onto our enforcement team to establish whether the works carried out to date are a breach of the permissions granted."

A spokeswoman for the Stortford Fields consortium, Stephanie Moffat from Ellipsis, said Breheny had notified residents about the work.

She said: "No planning has been received for housing in that part of the site yet, no homes are under construction. Breheny are a civil engineering contractor and do not, and will not be, building any houses. Their contract is to undertake groundworks, enabling works and infrastructure.

"Applications for housing will be made to the council at the appropriate time by the separate housebuilders – all four have submitted applications but none are yet approved – and these are/will be submitted to East Herts Council for their consideration and members of the public will be able to make comments via the planning portal in the usual way.

"The outline planning application in 2016 considered the environmental and visual impact of the development, and raising of levels to create development platforms was approved in that outline application. Further, this was given detailed consent in the infrastructure application approved in 2021."

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