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We Were Right in the First Place!

September 20, 2012 4:44 PM
By Les Pinnell

We Were Right in the First Place!

At last, the result has been announced regarding the appeals over the Planning Applications for the Herts and Essex and Bishop's Stortford High Schools to move to green belt land at Whittington Way.

The local Liberal Democrats are delighted with the recent decision on the move of the two schools made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP. He has agreed with the inspector and upheld the refusal of East Herts Council to grant planning permission for five out of the six related applications (he allowed the Jobbers Wood application) - which torpedoes the whole idea of the schools moving to green belt land.

The LibDems can be justly proud of their robust opposition to the project from its inception. Together with the Civic Federation, the party arranged a public meeting that was held at the Rhodes Centre, consisting of a Power Point Presentation and many speakers, Councillors, Civic Federation members and the general public voicing their disagreement with, and concerns over, the whole flawed concept of the development. Most of the arguments brought forward at that initial meeting have been upheld in the Secretary of State's report.

The Conservatives came out just as robustly in the opposite direction, supporting their colleagues at County Hall. Gradually, however, they started to change their minds, not because they could see the obvious flaws in the plan but because they began to notice how a majority of the residents were opposed to the idea. The residents had always been aware of the detrimental effects and dire implications for the town should the schools' move go ahead. Over time the Tory attitude changed and came into line with LibDem, Civic Federation and public thinking, resulting in the Tory controlled Town and District Councils refusing planning permission on all six related applications.

At the Public Enquiry in September last year, many knowledgeable speakers, with years of experience in their field of activity, spoke convincingly against the plans. To give just a few examples of the items covered: future pupil numbers, invasion of the green belt, potential transport problems and the infrastructure required to take all the new dwellings planned within the town to pay for the project.

It was good to see the LibDems' and the Civic Federation's initial concerns being justified and agreed with with such force and conviction.

Bishop's Stortford then had to wait nearly a year for the result of the enquiry.

Throughout the long, protracted planning and appeals process, the LibDems have been consistent in their arguments, pointing out at every opportunity, particularly in their 'Focus' literature, the numerous defects in the whole idea of the two schools moving to a new campus on green belt land.

For the full, 250 page report, go to www.eastherts.gov.uk. (Information updates - Bishop's Stortford Schools Planning Application - decision)