Mione Goldspink's article for the Flyer, June 2018
By Mione Goldspink
Local Matters with Mione Goldspink June, 2018
I attended the Public Consultation on the possible closure of the Rhodes Centre and the possible building of an expensive new Arts Centre at Old River Lane. It was a disappointing experience. The Consultation was for 2 hours only, on just one day. One of the available leaflets made it sound as if the decision to close the Rhodes Centre had already been made. "After many months of discussions, the Rhodes Trust, East Herts Council and Bishop's Stortford Town Council all agreed to seize the opportunity which the Old River Lane site offers to deliver a significant new venue for the town." I asked what was the evidence of a need for a 500 seat Theatre and a bigger arts centre and was told that, since our Town is expected to grow over the next few years, there will be many more people and they will automatically need a bigger theatre. It seems that no proper survey or consultation with the public has taken place - it is just a guess, a presumption, that many new residents will support a new theatre.
One of my friends asked about Car Parking for the new theatre, as none was shown on the artist's impression - she was informed that there would not be any car parking on site, as the area would be pedestrianised. Patrons would need to park in the multi-storey car park and then walk. Another question was- "How will the Museum survive if the financial support from the Rhodes Centre is withdrawn?" There was no answer to this.
I am very concerned and alarmed that the Conservative District Council seems determined to press ahead with building this new Arts Centre, spending £20 Million of tax payers' money, without having held a proper public consultation.
Another Conservative-controlled Council which seems in a hurry, is neighbouring Uttlesford District. This is rushing to determine the Planning Application from Manchester Airports Group for permission to increase the number of flights from Stansted Airport - up from 35 million passengers per year to 43 million. The leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Uttlesford is calling for transparency in the decision making process. Uttlesford's planning decision will have a significant effect upon Bishop's Stortford. I submitted my own personal objections in April.
Modern life is challenging. It behoves us all to be vigilant and to make our views known when changes are proposed.
Chairman, Bishop's Stortford Liberal Democrats