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St James' Park: Developer accused of launching 'despicable' attempt to change planning conditions on HGVs at controversial business park in Bishop's Stortford

A developer has launched a "despicable" attempt to change planning conditions for a controversial business park which could see residents facing a barrage of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) trundling past their homes at all hours of the day and night.

Last September, East Herts Council gave Wrenbridge LLP permission to build a business park off Whittington Way, Bishop's Stortford, as part of Countryside's St James' Park development over 9.9 acres (4 ha), delivering 750 homes, a care home, a neighbourhood shopping centre, employment space, a primary school and the relocated The Bishop's Stortford High School.

Wrenbridge's initial proposals for a £50m "logistics scheme" caused a storm of objections from campaigners who feared it would generate a stream of HGVs with the resultant impacts on air quality and noise. They were backed by Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth town councils and Thorley Parish Council.

Permission for a revised scheme - which campaigners were also unhappy about - was granted but a condition was put in place ensuring HGVs visiting the site would travel via the A1184 and A120 bypasses when travelling to and from the M11 and A10.

But last month Wrenbridge applied to amend the wording of the condition to allow HGVs to travel to and from the south via all A-roads which link to the site. This would mean lorries would be able to use the A1184 through Sawbridgeworth to access motorways to the south, sparking a furious reaction from local representatives.

In a supporting document, Iceni Projects Transport, acting for Wrenbridge, stated: "While most of this is standard, the clause requiring all HGVs to travel via the A1184 St James Way/Bishop’s Park Way to access the A120 and ultimately the M11 and A10 is considered to be overly onerous."

It continued: "While this is perfectly reasonable for vehicles travelling to and from the north or indeed west/east, this is not the case for HGVs travelling to and from the M11 and Harlow to the south."

Wrenbridge admitted the concerns of members of East Herts Council's development management committee (DMC) over HGVs travelling through Sawbridgeworth and Stortford had led to the clause.

But it stated: "HGV drivers are unlikely to have routed through Bishop’s Stortford in any case given the signal junctions, on-street parking and reduced street widths.

"However, this is not the case with Sawbridgeworth, where it would be the logical route for drivers as well as being an A-road, which by its very nature is deemed suitable for carrying HGVs.

"Therefore, trying to prevent HGVs from using the A1184 to the south of the site will be very difficult to enforce and justify to future tenants/suppliers of the site."

The proposed amendment led to criticism from Sawbridgeworth Town Council's planning committee at its meeting on Monday, with one councillor launching a blistering attack.

Cllr Annelise Furnace. who is not a member of the committee and read a statement through the public forum, said: "This is a despicable attempt to change the conditions under which planning was granted."

She claimed it would lead to "increased pollution and even poorer air quality in Sawbridgeworth, which already has an Air Quality Management Area representing a danger to residents’ health and wellbeing".

Cllr Furnace questioned: "Why is it reasonable to mandate HGVs do not travel through Bishop’s Stortford town but that they can through Sawbridgeworth? Are our residents’ health and wellbeing less important than those of residents in Bishop’s Stortford?"

She insisted Sawbridgeworth "equally" has obstacles, including signal crossings for schoolchildren, roundabouts and multiple residential feeder roads, and challenged the developer's claim that preventing HGVs using the A1184 would be "very difficult".

Sawbridgeworth's planning committee registered its "stiff opposition" to the amendment and urged that the condition be kept in place or better wording be used.

Colin Arnott, who is Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation's advisor on the scheme, said the clause had been inserted following his objections and those from the DMC.

He warned that Wrenbridge had "put a lot of work" into the amendment and were setting it up for an appeal if refused.

"It now really depends on whether EHC planners and the DMC are prepared to uphold the amended condition and defend it on appeal," he added.

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