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Woman who launched petition against 'toxic' scheme for distribution centre in Stortford South urges East Herts Council to give people a voice

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A woman who launched a petition against a controversial scheme in Bishop's Stortford South is appealing to East Herts Council (EHC) to ensure people are allowed a voice.

Becky Scott, of The Shearers, St Michael's Mead, started the petition after learning of the plan to build a 24/7 distribution centre and warehousing unit on the 750-home St James Park development.

Some residents fear the centre will generate hundreds of lorry and van movements affecting air quality and traffic in Stortford and Sawbridgeworth. East Herts district and Herts county councillor Graham McAndrew described it as a "toxic combination".

In a letter to the Indie a committee member of the town's civic federation said the impact of the centre on the congested road network would be "catastrophic".

Development and building work on the new St James Park site. Pic: Vikki Lince. (48441107)
Development and building work on the new St James Park site. Pic: Vikki Lince. (48441107)

Much of the protest revolves around the fact that the outline planning application was for a business park, providing high-value jobs in the tech sector. Then in March, plans for a £50m logistics centre were announced by developers Wrenbridge and Fiera Real Estate, bringing fears that such a scheme would impact negatively on residents.

In a statement to the Indie last week Wrenbridge director James Feltham said the centre was "entirely consistent with the outline planning permission granted by East Herts" and suggested vehicle trips generated by the new proposals would be reduced.

On Friday, June 18, a planning application for "reserved matters" for the scheme was submitted to EHC for layout, scale, appearance and landscaping, following outline planning permission being granted in 2019.

Becky was keen to stress she was not against development of homes and employment, but the apparent change from a business park to a distribution centre had come as a surprise.

"I didn't realise when I saw the building work that there was a plan for an industrial warehouse," said Becky, who works as chief of staff for a pharmaceutical company.

Becky Scott (48578253)
Becky Scott (48578253)

"I was looking forward to a nice new community, but I was concerned to know what's going to be there. I'm all for employment, but there must be a better way to use this area."

The mum of two, whose 11-year-old son has a place at The Bishop's Stortford High School, which will relocate to St James Park and open in January 2023, says some of her concerns are for the safety of students and residents of a new care home due on the site.

She is also critical of the way the application for the development has been aired to the public. "It's been quite under the radar," said Becky. "There hasn't been enough visibility from the start."

Although her petition has reached its initial target of 1,000 names and she has set a new goal of 1,500, her concern is that the views of residents are taken seriously by the council.

"I don't want this petition to disappear into the ether and I want to know what is the best way to get through to the council," she added.

And in response to some residents' views that it is a done deal and there is no point in protesting she had this to say: "I want to show my children that you can try to make a change – you may not always win, but I'd much rather we did everything we could."

To sign Becky's petition see https://bit.ly/2SuDKnk

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