Bishop's Stortford town councillors split over East Herts Council's wildlife area plan as part of Northgate End multi-storey car park project
The felling of four trees next to Bishop’s Stortford’s controversial new multi-storey car park divided town councillors.
At a special meeting, members endorsed East Herts Council’s plans for an enhanced wildlife area next to Northgate End – but not before some heated debate.
Improvement of the town council-owned scrubland, known as the Osier Bed, is part of mitigation measures imposed on EHC by the Environment Agency as part of planning permission for the 546-space, six-storey car park.
The development is the first phase of ambitious plans for a cultural quarter called Old River Lane, in The Causeway. The car park project also includes a four-storey building with commercial space at ground level and 15 flats above, plus surface-level parking for 27 vehicles. There will also be 21 spaces for residential and commercial use, making 594 in total at the site.
The district council has planning permission to de-culvert a watercourse running under the bed to create the wetland, which will be completed by the felling of about 22 mature trees and replanting with 48 indigenous species and 288 native shrubs.
Three bat boxes, three bird boxes and four wildlife mounds will complete the project, which was praised by all members of the town council.
But the sticking point for some was the axing of four trees of “low ecological value” on the western boundary of the town council’s land to enable car park construction as part of the package.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Bob Taylor said: “It appears these four trees are not required to be felled as part of the reculverting. They are needed to be felled so they do not interfere with construction of the monstrosity of a car park, and in that case I totally object.
“I’m totally opposed to anything that makes life easier for East Herts to build that monstrosity.”
He was backed by Labour’s Cllr Jill Sortwell, who said: “It’s an excellent project but it facilitates the building of the car park.”
Lib Dem Terence Beckett, who is also an East Herts district councillor, questioned whether it was responsible to try to derail a project which already had planning permission, particularly during the Covid-19 crisis.
The mayor, Conservative Cllr Norma Symonds, said: “Although I don’t like trees being felled, I think this will be a great improvement and I’m very happy that it goes ahead.”
Fellow Tory John Wyllie, leader of the town council and a district and county councillor, agreed: “I see it as a massive positive.”