Library set to move as part of Stortford town centre transformation?
Bishop's Stortford library could be relocated as part of ambitious new plans to transform a key town centre site.
East Herts Council has given residents a first look at its Old River Lane vision for the Causeway and the authority’s executive was due to debate the proposals at a meeting in Hertford last night as the Independent went to press.
As they consider the options, the cabinet members have been told: “The key placemaking challenge for Bishop’s Stortford – and the signal it needs to send to the market – is the fact that this is a vibrant and distinctive town with a clear sense of its own identity and not a staid, sterile town defined by its ‘convenience’ or connectivity.”
They were being asked to back a £225,000 feasibility investment.
In addition to moving the library across the road from its current Causeway site, the initial recommendations include a brand new arts and cultural centre with a 500-seat theatre, a niche cinema with three or four screens, shared reception space, a one-stop-shop for council services, hot-desking workspace, cafe/bar, as well as housing, public spaces, retail and parking.
Cllr Linda Haysey, East Herts’ leader, said: “We are committed to investing in the future of East Herts and making our district and Bishop’s Stortford the best they can be for our residents and visitors. We are really excited about the potential of Old River Lane and the fantastic opportunities this site brings. We have listened to your feedback and will continue to work hard to create something that the people of Bishop’s Stortford can be proud of.”
Cllr John Wyllie, the leader of Bishop’s Stortford Town Council who is also an East Herts member, said: “I have met with East Herts Council to discuss the proposed use of land and ensure that proposals meet the needs of the current and future residents and visitors of Bishop’s Stortford. Arts and leisure, in particular, are something that our residents care about, so it is important that we look to grow and improve this offering as we move forward. We will continue to meet with the council to get the best solution for the town.”
The scheme has been formulated after East Herts consulted residents on their views of the town’s facilities to create planning framework and was told that the town lacked a good music venue and entertainment for teenagers and that the current Rhodes Art Complex in South Road was too far out of town. Space on the current site is also limited, which is why a new arts centre has been recommended which may also include the relocation of Rhodes within it.
Deirdre Glasgow, chairwoman of the Rhodes Birthplace Trust, said: “Trust and staff have been involved with these proposals and will continue to work with East Herts Council as we aim to grow the vision we have for the arts in our town. We, along with the town council, have made a huge investment in the arts, entertainment and the local museum in Bishop’s Stortford, and we hope to see this work continued over the coming years.
“In light of the proposed relocation of the arts complex, the trust will continue to work with the town council to ensure funding for the Bishop’s Stortford museum and its facilities are supported, and the vision for the arts and heritage of the town continue to be developed and maintained for future generations”.
East Herts Council bought the proposed development site in 2015 for £19.95, five years after it was accused of selling it to Henderson Global Investors for the knockdown price of £6.25m.
It bought back the land, plus three homes, after Henderson’s ill-fated plans for a £105m retail, restaurant and residential complex were abandoned.
However after 56% of consultees told East Herts they were keen to see a greater range of independent stores, small and medium-sized retailers and restaurants have been added to the council’s scheme.
The district council is also keen to encourage people to visit Castle Park, being developed with more than £2m lottery cash and as part of a parking review, a multi-storey facility is being recommended at Northgate End. The Causeway building has already been demolished and its footprint is currently being made into a temporary car park with 100 bays, set to open before Christmas.
East Herts Council representatives will be at the Christmas Fayre in Bishop’s Stortford on December 2 to answer any questions and to hear residents’ thoughts on the proposals.