Bishop's Stortford South: 24/7 logistics centre developer seeks to allay residents' fears over lorry movements
The developer of a controversial 24/7 logistics centre at Bishop's Stortford South have sought to allay residents' fears over traffic by stating that lorries using the site will be "encouraged" to use the A120.
The £50m warehousing and distribution centre on Countryside's 750-home St James Park estate was announced in March. When details of the scheme were revealed, residents' groups and local councillors said it would have a "catastrophic" effect on the local road network.
Critics are angry that the original plan of a business park with high-value jobs in the tech centre has been changed to a distribution centre, which they claim will generate large numbers of HGV and van movements.
But centre developer Wrenbridge insists the new "speculative" proposal is in keeping with planning consent granted two years ago.
In a statement to the Indie this week, director James Feltham said: "Our submission is entirely consistent with the outline planning permission granted by East Herts Council in 2019.
"A new development of some 21,000 sq m [226,042 sq ft] with any flexible combination of office, industrial, logistics and storage, and showroom uses has been approved.
"There has been no shift from a business park to a logistics centre as the outline planning permission did not specify exact uses or the proportions of those uses.”
Mr Feltham added: “The precise nature of the end users for this development is not yet known, but based on our extensive experience we expect a range of businesses within the consented uses and not a single focus on one use.
"This proposal is speculative, but we are confident that it will have wide market appeal. We are currently marketing the scheme and will update when tenants are signed so local people can get a better understanding of the end occupier line-up.”
Broaching fears over vehicles using the site, Mr Feltham said: “We fully understand and appreciate the concerns about traffic generation which result from any new development.
"Our proposals have less floorspace than considered under the approved outline permission and as a result will generate less traffic movements. These movements are completely within what was previously approved by East Herts Council and were considered acceptable in terms of impact on key routes.
“As the proposed development is the same as the employment site permitted in outline, there will be little or no difference in the type of vehicles accessing the site.
"A delivery and servicing plan will be produced and used by all occupiers of the site. This will encourage all HGV movements to be made via the A120 and [the A1184] St James Way, off the new dedicated roundabout.”
A St Michael's Mead resident who launched a petition against the scheme branded the statement by Wrenbridge that HGV traffic would be encouraged to use the A120 "irrelevant".
Dr Becky Scott, of The Shearers, said: "It doesn't mean anything. You can't stop anyone driving down an open road. It's not mandatory and there's no way you can make it mandatory."
She urged East Herts Council to take note of the protests from local people, which includes her petition of 1,300 names.
"The council need to listen to the many objections and decide if they want to do something about it. This goes down to the moral judgement of the council," she said.
The scheme has also attracted criticism from Sawbridgeworth Town Council, with fears raised over the effect on traffic and air quality.
Former mayor Cllr Annelise Furnace said this week she was "very concerned" about HGVs and associated traffic travelling through Sawbridgeworth to access the new M11 junction 7A as well as the existing junction 7 at Harlow. She carried out a sat nav test to highlight the concerns.
"If I were an HGV or van driver looking to travel from this site to London or the Dartford Tunnel, I would look for the quickest route," she said. "I'm looking at 27 minutes to get to junction 7 on the M11 if I go north via the Bishop's Stortford bypass and get on at junction 8. But it's just 15 minutes if I go through Sawbridgeworth. Which would I choose? Which direction would my sat nav choose?"
Mr Feltham concluded: “As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, new employment proposals like this one are essential for the local economy and will provide new jobs within easy travelling distance for the new residents of St James Park.
"A mix of uses encompassing residential, retail, community and employment is critical for the future success of this new neighbourhood.”