The document that sets out a clear path to a better town centre for everyone in Bishop's Stortford
In a new six-part series, columnist Chas Gill sets out to communicate to Indie readers the major points of a document called the Bishop's Stortford Town Centre Planning Framework. Part 1: Walking and cycling...
For as long as I can remember, the people of Bishop’s Stortford have wanted pedestrianisation of the town centre whilst insisting on use of their private cars to get there. Roads designed for the horse and cart, not the horseless carriage, are ideal for the former but hopeless for the latter.
Herts County Council wants us to leave our cars at home. It has gone on record as supporting a policy of deliberately making it difficult for us to use our cars, to ‘encourage’ us to consider alternatives. To shift to a different mode of transport.
In the Allies & Morrison Town Centre Planning Framework (TCPF), walking and cycling are recognised as effective means of getting about. They say that the quality and effectiveness of pedestrian and bike routes need to be carefully considered if they are to be used.
How refreshing! The county council wants to beat us with a stick until we concede, whereas the TCPF suggests that if these routes are implemented in a quality way we might actually use them because we want to.
The TCPF also discusses the unappreciated asset that is our mostly-hidden river. Whilst it deals separately with proposals to give the river back to us, it recognises that in terms of walking and cycling there can be no better way of improving the experience than by exploiting the river wherever possible.
The TCPF proposes new or upgraded town centre pedestrian circulation routes and a network of outer walkways and cycleways connecting our peripheral residential neighbourhoods with the centre and to our existing and planned schools – routes which are of sufficiently high quality and interest to encourage a voluntary reduction in car usage without the county council’s big stick.
Not all of us will regularly use them, of course – some will always need to use a car to access the town and its schools – but if the majority can be persuaded then it makes management of the few that have little choice much simpler.
Creating quality routes means working to a defined set of design criteria in the refurbishment of our town:
- The streets we use must be streets that we consider ‘great’ and that we want to be in. A desirable footpath or cycleway is not one that passes between blank high walls and fences, which will attract litter, flyposting and crime.
- The routes should give pedestrians and cyclists priority. The argument against pedestrianisation of South Street has always been the issue of servicing and delivery to retail premises. Time-restricted vehicular access could minimise discomfort for pedestrians, both in terms of space sharing and vehicle emissions. There will be opposition to this from retailers and it will need firm planning policy changes for it to be achieved, but quality doesn’t come cheap.
- Pedestrian routes should recognise the river as an asset and provide direct connection to it from both North Street and South Street.
The practical realisation of these principles in Stortford includes:
- The Old River Lane development (which is conceptually intended to be a pedestrian area). This will be designed to enable clear routes from North Street to Castle Park and the river, via existing lanes such as Florence Walk and Barrett Lane.
- A new footbridge, crossing the river adjacent to Wetherspoon's Port Jackson pub, could link South Street to Dane Street via the mill site, providing an alternative pedestrian access to and from the railway station.
- Linked to this, it has been suggested that one of the large through shops with entrances in South Street and Adderley Road could be converted into an open-both-ends multi-unit mini mall or market that invites pedestrians to explore the riverside, which would thus be made visible and readily accessible from South Street.
- A new footbridge or wider pavements on the Station Road river bridge could provide improved, safer pedestrian access to and from the station.
- A new route, linking London Road with ‘Station Square’ within the Bishop's Goods Yard development, would improve safe access for pedestrians.
- A further route from Station Square to the towpath would provide pedestrian access to the river, the town centre and the south.
- A new direct route from the station to the maltings, via the existing white footbridge, would give easy access to the Rhodes centre and museum and greatly improve pedestrian access to the railway from the south of the town.
- Improvements for pedestrians can also be achieved on Hockerill hill, from the Causeway to Hockerill junction, by widening the pavement and providing better pedestrian crossings.
All of this is possible, but it is only a part of the full scope of the TCPF.
It is reflected in master plans that have been drawn up for Old River Lane and the Bishop’s Goods Yard as well as the major housing developments to the north and south, and layouts of the new build have been carefully planned to enable these pathways to be provided.
Achieving the pedestrian and cycling objectives has benefits beyond modal shift, including a slowing of the pace in our town centre, to give us the opportunity to pause and enjoy our inheritance at close quarters and to value it.
In doing so, we become its guardians and a greater voice in ensuring that our historic town continues to be a very pleasant place to live.
* For more on the Bishop's Stortford Town Centre Planning Framework, click here.