Bircherley Green Redevelopment

30 November 2016

I have commented elsewhere on this site the devastating effect the death of our grandson in October 2015 had on my family and myself. I stepped down from my last remaining position in town and took no more than a passing interest in events.

Family and friends said this was not good for me. To get back in the swing of things I have migrated my old web site to here. It still needs a bit of work and tinkering but one of the things I wanted to do was to bring these posts up to date on events in town, especially the future of the Bircherley Green Shopping Centre.

Elsewhere in town the change of use from prime A1 retail units to bars, hairdressers and coffee shops goes on. At a  recent public meeting a few people kept mentioning the fact that Hertford was the County town. It is but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

The consultation regarding the rail link between Hertford North and Stevenage appears to be lurching to a situation after 2018 when even a replacement bus link may not be in place following the extra platform space at Stevenage being planned for the London/Cambridge link.

Hertfordshire County Council’s Transport Plan for 2025 sees no necessity to involve Hertford other than a possible by-pass either north or south of the town. The main centres or hubs are the other major towns such as WGC, Hatfield, Watford and even Harlow gets a mention. The county town is just another spot on the map.

I have already commented on the loss of the Magistrates Court, the Police Station and Tax Office. House building continues apace but no schools, doctors, dentists, hospitals, nurseries but plenty of bars and gyms.

So, the proposed redevelopment of Bircherley Green is back on the agenda. It was originally called ‘Regeneration’ but this has been discarded in favour of the lesser option. Which is?

Plans for Shopping Centre
Plans for Shopping Centre

Wrenbridge have presented new drawings and proposals for the Shopping Centre which bear only slight resemblance to those exhibited to Hertford in 2014. The anchor tenant is to be Premier Inns (coloured orange above)  – as I have mentioned before this was not in the original plans but did surface in the Hertford Design and Vision Strategy as proposed by Tibbalds in February 2016.

Bircherley Green riverfront
Bircherley Green riverfront

Instead of 124 accommodation spaces there will now be only 70 but there is only likely to be no more that 8 prime retail units for the high end destination High Street names. There are of course more restaurants proposed (as well as one inside the hotel) to make the river front more attractive.

This is all fine and in line with the evolving District Plan. However no one seems to have mentioned or complained that Waitrose do not figure in these plans at all. In fact at two public meetings Wrenbridge referred to Waitrose in the past tense. Waitrose have maintained their stance that Bircherley Green is not for them. When their license (not extended lease) expires in December 2017 where will they go?

They were optimistic that Van Hages would be submitting a new application but this has not been forthcoming and after the fiasco of the precious applications it is unlikely that an attempt will be made unless the Government has made a drastic alteration to its policy on Green Belt being released for commercial development.

Those who have followed events in Bircherley Green will remember the shock and outrage expressed in the media and on the social networks when Serendipity was refused permission to move next door in to the premises vacated by Going Places (now absorbed into Starbucks).

Now there is not even a whimper that this too may disappear.

The strangest thing about this ‘redevelopment’ is that East Herts Council are hoping that a boutique cinema and NHS Walk-in centre can be incorporated into the plans. The only thing that appears to be on most people’s minds judging by the amount of time they have taken up at meetings is where everyone living in the new flats, staying at the hotel, shopping in town and coming in for a drink and a meal are all going to park.

I have seen no sensible answer to any of these questions but I do know from experience that an application when it comes in will be backed by expert research into peak and off-peak parking needs and traffic flows. Not sure about the cinema and the drop-in centre as I wonder who could possibly imagine such things being squeezed into a very tight commercial development. But I stopped worrying about District Council a long time ago.

Today being 30 November was the last day Wrenbridge were accepting comments from the general public. Once they have been digested they hope to be able to submit a planning application in mid December at which time I too, will inwardly digest and report back on here.