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Bircherley Green FAQs

Bircherley Green is owned by the Diageo Pension Fund.

Together with their development partner, Wrenbridge, they have been looking at redeveloping the site for a number of years. 

 

Who owns the land?

Diageo Pension Trust Ltd owns Bircherley Green. East Herts Council does not own any of the land or the car park or toilets.

 

What is the background?

The council granted planning consent to Wrenbridge for the re-development of Bircherley Green in January 2018 under planning reference number 3/17/0392/FUL. It followed a development management committee meeting in October 2017 which approved the application.

The planning permission was only granted following several months of meetings and discussions with Wrenbridge to ensure that the development would enhance this key part of our county town, providing the right mix of shops, homes, car parking and public space.

The consent was for a mixed-use redevelopment, including partial demolition of existing buildings, to provide up to 4,694 sqm retail floorspace (Use Classes A1 to A5), an 86-bed hotel (Use Class C1), 70 flats (Use Class C3), refurbishment of the  car park to provide 188 spaces -  143 pay and display spaces, 40 residential spaces for the flats and five for a car club -  improvements to the bus station, new public spaces and landscaping to the riverside, and associated works and improvements.

The planning permissions can be described as having two phases - phase 1 for the hotel and phase 2 for the shops, flats and other works.

 

What has happened since planning permission was given in January 2018?

Once planning permission was granted in January 2018, the Diageo Pension Fund/Wrenbridge could have gone ahead and developed the project. However, in November 2018, they chose to submit a new planning application which altered the mix of development. 

 

This new application was due to be considered by the council's development management committee (DMC) on 19 June and had been recommended for approval. However, the owners withdrew the application on 10 June 2019.

Council staff had been working closely with Wrenbridge on this planning application in order to be able to recommend the application for approval to the committee.

Prior to this application, Wrenbridge submitted a number of non-material amendments to the existing planning consent relating to phase 1, the hotel. However, the council did not consider the changes to be non-material given the extent of the changes and advised that a S73 application should be submitted.

 

What is a S73 planning application?

The applicant has submitted a variation of condition application (S73), to make amendments to the original planning consent. The amendments solely relate to the hotel element of the scheme and cover internal and external arrangements. You can see the amendments and make your comments by August 8. 

 

What is happening to the hotel phase - phase 1?

The applicants have planning permission to build a hotel on the corner of Railway Street and Bircherley Green in accordance with planning reference 3/17/0392/FUL.

Wrenbridge, who are acting on behalf of the owners, have said they are committed to building the hotel and will continue to have discussions with the council about this.

 

What is the council doing about the rest of the site - the shops and flats?

On June 28 the council learned that Wrenbridge were pulling out of phase 2 when they released a statement on their Twitter account. This took us by surprise as we had been engaged in what we felt was genuine discussion about working collaboratively to progress the Bircherley Green development following the withdrawal of another planning application in June.

We are hugely disappointed at this sudden change in their approach.

Our intention from the outset has been to work in good faith with a developer to support a scheme which will bring much needed facilities to the historic county town of Hertford within the confines of the original planning consent (granted some time ago). With that in mind we have invested considerable time and effort to work collaboratively with Wrenbridge for the greater good of those who live, work and visit Hertford. It is now clear this intention is not reciprocated.

At present it would appear that the applicant will not proceed with the development of shops and flats even though they already have a planning permission in place.

We have commissioned Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design to explore options for the use of Bircherley Green, as an extension to their original works on the recently completed improvements to Hertford town centre.

 

When will the car park re-open?

We have no control over when the owners of the site will choose to do this. We recognise the parking pressures on Hertford town centre and attempted to explore options with Wrenbridge around how it could be kept open during the construction phases of the development. Wrenbridge insisted this would not be possible and it needed to be closed to ensure demolition and building work could continue uninterrupted. Following Wrenbridge's announcement last week there is no further clarity on the status of the car park and we are trying to contact the landlord to discuss their intentions.

 In the meantime we are considering options for alleviating parking pressures in council owned car parks.

 

When will the toilets re-open?

We have no control over when the owners of the site will choose to do this. We recognise the toilets provided a useful facility for those visiting the town centre and attempted to explore options with Wrenbridge around how they could be kept open during the construction phases of the development. Wrenbridge insisted this would not be possible and they needed to be closed to ensure demolition and building work could continue uninterrupted. Following Wrenbridge's announcement last week there is no further clarity on the status of the toilets and we have  contacted the landlord to discuss their intentions

In the meantime we are looking into introducing a community toilet scheme in the town where local businesses like pubs, restaurants, shops and supermarkets let members of the public use their toilet facilities free of charge during normal opening hours.

 

Why did the council allow the closure of shops?

As Bircherley Green is privately owned, the council has no authority to require the shops to remain open. The council believed that the applicant had closed the shops in order to start the re-development of the site.

 

 

July 5 2019