Liberal Democrat Views by Mione Goldspink February 2023.
There are many different matters which are troubling the minds of Bishop's Stortford residents at the moment. One matter is undoubtedly the Cost-of-Living Crisis. The Liberal Democrat group at East Herts District Council proposed a Motion last November to call on central Government to request it to do much, much more to help all the people who were struggling financially. The Motion received cross-party support and a letter was duly sent off to the Prime Minister. Sadly, there has not been any action in response. Personally, I think that the restoration of the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit, which is Lib-Dem party policy, would be a good start, and I cannot understand why the Government has rejected this suggestion.
At a purely Local level, one of the matters which is causing concern is the proposed development of the Old River Lane site (previously the Causeway car park). After all the speculation, a formal Planning Application has now been submitted, showing the outline proposals for the site. These include 175 dwellings when the original number in the Supplementary Planning document was for "around 100". They show blocks of homes which are 6-storeys high when we were expecting 4-5 storey, and an ugly barn of an Arts Centre for a five-screen cinema (when the Town already has one). Separate Planning Applications have been submitted for the Demolition of Charrington's house, and for the demolition of the URC Church Hall, and for the demolition of 3 modern houses in Old River Lane. These applications have attracted a large number of objections. Many different community groups, including the Civic Federation and the Town Council have submitted detailed, cogent objections. The Liberal Democrats have also sent in strong objections. We object vehemently to the proposed demolition of the Charringtons building, and would propose instead that the Council should use it for its own offices, by bringing some departments over from Hertford, thus equalising its presence in Bishop's Stortford with its presence in Hertford. Demolishing good buildings is against all Sustainability policies and should not be permitted.
In relation to another Planning Application, I attended a meeting of the Development Management Committee (DMC) (Planning Committee) on 7th December, when the application for the new Lidl Superstore was debated. As one of the ward Councillors, I was allowed to speak, and I expressed my worries about the probable increase in traffic and congestion on the busy Stansted Road. I appealed to the committee to ask for traffic lights, to manage the situation and to ensure pedestrian safety. I was mindful of the real traffic problems at a similar superstore, Aldi, on the London Road. There, in spite of a Pelican Crossing nearby, there are frequent delays as drivers experience difficulty in turning into the site, and in getting out. But my pleas for Traffic Lights were in vain, and the committee settled for a Pedestrian-controlled Puffin Crossing instead. This will undoubtedly give protection to pedestrians, which is good, but I am doubtful if it will control the over-all traffic. The application was approved.
Planning applications are often extremely complicated and the decisions which are made can have an enormous impact on the local community. It behoves us all to voice our opinions.
East Herts District Councillor
Lib-Dem Group Leader, EHDC.