Solum travelling in right direction with revised Goods Yard plans for Stortford.
Plans to transform the area around Bishop's Stortford's transport interchange are travelling in the right direction but traffic is still an issue.
That was the verdict, according to residents, the town’s civic federation and elected representatives after Solum Regeneration revealed its revised plans for the Goods Yard site next to the train and bus station with a presentation viewed by more than 200 people at Saturday’s market.
In May this year, East Herts Council members defied officers who recommended approval and voted to block the developer’s detailed application to build a first phase of 122 flats in two blocks with 31 parking spaces and outline approval for the rest of the 5.82 hectare site and a further 558 flats plus a hotel, retail units and multi-storey car parking.
Development management committee members made it clear that the style of the scheme simply did not suit Stortford and there were other serious issues. Since then Solum has been working with the council and groups like the civic federation to come up with a more complimentary blueprint for the land, which has been earmarked for building since the 1990s.
A new architect was engaged to take a fresh look at the opportunities to protect the views of landmark buildings like St Michael’s Church and reflect the town’s heritage.
Solum set out its stall in Market Square to gauge public reaction to the changes which include:
o A two-way road for all traffic from London Road to the station;
o Reducing the height of apartment blocks;
o Reducing the number of new homes;
o Introducing office space for local businesses;
o Additional station car parking;
o Better pedestrian and cycle links;
o A new riverside walk.
Solum’s senior development manager Matthew Serginson said: “We are committed to the site and the development of it and if we have a scheme people like, it’s much better. We want to deliver a scheme people can be proud of.
“It’s been a major redesign of the site.”
Innovations include “podium parking”, where gardens are planted on top and residents live in duplex apartments where their living rooms look out onto the green space. He also promised current station parking capacity would be maintained at all times during the project.
In all, the total number of homes will be up to 600 – the final number is yet to be confirmed - and there will be approximately 966 station car parking spaces.
He hoped that with further consultation, it would be possible to submit a new application in spring 2018, with construction potentially beginning this time next year and extending over the next five to six years.
Solum’s willingness to engage was appreciated by the mayor, Cllr Colin Woodward, who is a town, East Herts district and Herts county councillor.
He said: “I think it’s very encouraging they are doing this consultation and have engaged with councillors and the wider community.
“I think the new plan is a great improvement and they are still listening to people and they are not yet at the stage where anything is set in concrete – there can be some further adaptation.”
He had some reservations about the new link road exacerbating congestion with a knock on effect.
He added: “No one wants to see lots more flats in the town but there’s a certain inevitability
“What we do want is good quality and sensitivity and adequate parking.”
Cllr George Cutting is a town and district member and also chairman of the Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation.
Speaking in the latter capacity, he said the organisation had invited Solum to present its new proposals to members and there had been constructive input from both sides.
He stressed there were still issues – such as how the “public realm” outside the station would work with the new link road and the landscaping and planting for the new development as well as enduring concerns about the height and density of buildings.
But he said he too was heartened by Solum’s positive approach and commitment to listen: “It’s very much an ongoing process.
“You are never going to satisfy 100% of people, but you can manage expectations if you can demonstrate to people that the developer is engaged.”
Mary Bramley has lived in the town for 28 years. She told the Bishop’s Stortford Independent: “I feel very strongly that the traffic arrangements in Bishop’s Stortford need to be addressed. The current gridlock is bad enough and we now have a further 2,300 new residences being built at Bishop’s Stortford North and a proposed 600 here.
“It is great that the proposed new development uses the river as a feature. The landscaping and wider path looks nice but surely there should be a two-way cycle track along the river which could then be developed by the council and continue as far as Grange Paddocks and ideally link with a network of cycle tracks throughout the town. This would ease congestion on all the roads and encourage people to cycle rather than drive, especially to the station.
“The new development takes cycling seriously by providing lots of storage for bikes so this could work.
“The road through the centre of the proposed development is much needed and very welcome, but appears to be a narrow two-way road and will get very congested with station and residential traffic. A bus lane through the centre would encourage people to use the bus to save time both in traffic and having to park. This is an ideal opportunity to kick-start an efficient public transport system for the town. Let’s not waste it.”