Online petition fails to put brakes on go-ahead for Northgate End multi-storey car park
An online petition signed by more than 850 people failed to sway East Herts Council from granting planning permission for its own scheme to build a multi-storey car park of 546 spaces.
The planning authority’s development management committee gave the go-ahead for a six-storey car park at Northgate End at its meeting in Hertford on Wednesday evening (July 18).
The car park is seen by EHC as a key starting point for development of the Old River Lane area into an arts centre housing a 500-seat theatre, three or four cinema screens and possibly the town’s library, along with 180 homes, shops and restaurants.
Members of the development management committee deferred a decision when they last met on June 20, seeking clarification over a number of concerns. Because the planning application was not refused then, residents were not allowed to voice their objections again on Wednesday.
As a result, a group called Residents Against the Multi-storey Car Park set up an online petition, which has been signed by 854 opponents.
The campaigners believe the “destructive and ill-thought-out plan” will “destroy the town”, bringing congestion, pollution and noise.
The scheme also includes 27 open-air parking spaces to the north of the multi-storey plus a four-storey building with commercial use on the ground floor and 15 flats on the three levels above, along with associated highways and ‘public realm’ works.
The addition of a multi-use games area (MUGA) to replace open space at the back of the Northgate Youth Centre is a particular bone of contention.
The petition, which was directed at development management committee chairman Cllr Tim Page, a Stortford representative, asserts: “East Herts need to open a genuine dialogue with the local community about proposals for the Old River Lane site and related car parking, which should be discussed together and decided over a longer time horizon so that the town does not face major development at both ends simultaneously.”
On June 20, councillors complained that the affordable housing provision did not meet the council’s own 40% policy. As a result, the revised multi-storey plan added three units, taking the total to six and 40%.
The committee also wanted adequate provision of electric car charging points in the multi-storey. The council has clarified that the 20 proposed are dual and can serve 40 vehicles at a time. Officers warned that additional provision at this stage may lead to underuse of parts of the car park, but more can be “fairly easily retrofitted” in the future.
Opening hours were also a cause of concern. The council now says the car park will close at midnight rather than 11pm and a management plan will be set up to mitigate the impact on neighbouring residents, such as curbing surface parking.
The committee was told the council is confident in its predictions about pedestrian numbers and that the crossing provided is adequate.
However, the precise location and operation of the MUGA remains an issue. Youth service provider Herts County Council would prefer it shifted further to the east, with a north-south orientation, but that is not possible within the current site boundary.
The district council says it wants to negotiate about noise mitigation and work with the county council to come up with an acceptable compromise either by sacrificing parking spaces or submitting an additional planning application.