The town council and the civic federation have united in their condemnation of plans for a 24/7 logistics centre at St James’ Park.
Developer Wrenbridge has submitted proposals to East Herts Council for the £50m warehousing and distribution centre on 8.5 acres (3.44 hectares) of former farmland, arguing it is consistent with outline planning permission granted for Countryside’s entire Bishop’s Stortford South estate two years ago.
Residents strongly disagree and one of them, Dr Becky Scott, of St Michael’s Mead, has organised a petition, signed by more than 1,300, against the scheme.
Their concerns about traffic – especially lorries – causing congestion have been echoed by Sawbridgeworth Town Council. Its members Cllrs Annelise Furnace and David Royle attended the latest meeting of Bishop’s Stortford Town Council’s planning and development committee to hear their fears amplified.
Paul Dean, chairman of the civic federation, was allowed to speak before the debate began. He said: “It could not be in a worse location.”
Mr Dean said the centre did not deliver the “high-quality” jobs promised in the original outline application and its round-the-clock operation would cause noise, pollution and safety hazards.
Cllr Diane Hollebon, a Stortford South ward member who also serves on East Herts Council, said: “It’s an industrial mess as far as I’m concerned. It’s a total mess and it’s in the wrong place.”
Wrenbridge has said that HGVs will be encouraged to use the A120, but she pointed to the Haslemere industrial estate in Pig Lane as an example of a development that does not work next to homes and predicted “absolute chaos” on local roads.
Thorley Street is to the east and St James Way is to the south of the development site.
Town council leader and fellow East Herts member Cllr John Wyllie, who also represents the South ward and Thorley Park residents, said: “We were told this was going to be effectively a business park. It’s turned into an HGV operation more suitable close to the motorway or on the airport.”
He said he took any assurances from Hertfordshire County Council’s highways department “with a massive pinch of salt” and concluded: “Sawbridgeworth is going to grind to a halt.”
Cllr Shane Manning said the application was “disgusting” and argued it was “chalk and cheese” to what was originally envisaged.
In a statement to the Indie, Wrenbridge director James Feltham said: “Our submission is entirely consistent with the outline planning permission granted by East Herts Council in 2019.
“A new development of some 21,000 sq m [226,042 sq ft] with any flexible combination of office, industrial, logistics and storage, and showroom uses has been approved.”
Once complete, St James’ Park will be a mixed-use development delivering 750 homes, a neighbourhood centre with shops, a primary school, a care home and employment space. It will also be home to an expanded Bishop’s Stortford High School, freeing up the secondary’s current campus at London Road for further housing.