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Arts Centre takes centre stage in proposals for Old River Lane

East Herts Council has unveiled a first look of the proposed use of land around Old River Lane in Bishop's Stortford.

The initial recommendations include a brand new arts and cultural centre with a 500 seat theatre, 3-4 screen niche cinema, shared reception space, the potential relocation of the Bishop's Stortford library, a one-stop-shop for Council services, hot-desking work space, cafe/bar, as well as housing, public spaces, retail and parking.

These recommendations follow the work commissioned last year to create a vision for the future of Bishop's Stortford. The framework, looking at future options for the town, including Old River Lane, was shared with residents and visitors for them to comment on, and these comments have helped to shape the initial proposals for how the site could be used.

Included in the framework were the recommendations for a better cultural offering. 65% of respondents told us they rated these recommendations as excellent or good.  A number of respondents also told us that they felt the town lacked a good music venue, that the Rhodes Art Complex felt a little too far out of the town and that there was a lack of entertainment for teenagers. While Rhodes is hugely successful, space on the current site is limited, which is why a new arts centre has been recommended in the land use proposals, and it may also include the relocation of the Rhodes centre within it.

56% of consultees thought that the suggestions to develop retail in the town were excellent or good and were keen to see a greater range of independent stores, which is why the land use recommendations include units for small- medium size retailers and restaurants. Also included are pedestrianised areas to improve the shopping and leisure experience. 62% of consultees rated the ideas for new or improved public spaces as excellent or good and were excited by the potential of the site to encourage people to use Castle Park. Town centre car parking is also being reviewed, with a recommendation for increased capacity at a new multi storey car park to the north of the site.

East Herts Council has met with members of Bishop's Stortford Town Council, the Rhodes Birthplace Trust and HCC to discuss the proposed use of the site to make sure it meets the needs of the residents and helps to improve and grow the cultural offering of the town.

Cllr Linda Haysey, Leader, East Herts Council said:

"We are committed to investing in the future of East Herts and making our district and Bishop's Stortford the best they can be for our residents and visitors. We are really excited about the potential of Old River Lane and the fantastic opportunities this site brings. We have listened to your feedback and will continue to work hard to create something that the people of Bishop's Stortford can be proud of."

Cllr John Wyllie, Bishop's Stortford Town Council said:
"I have met with East Herts Council to discuss the proposed use of land and ensure that proposals meet the needs of the current and future residents and visitors of Bishop's Stortford. Arts and leisure, in particular, are something that our residents care about, so it is important that we look to grow and improve this offering as we move forward. We will continue to meet  with the council to get the best solution for the town."
Deirdre Glasgow, Chair, Rhodes Birthplace Trust said:
"The Rhodes Birthplace Trust and staff have been involved with these proposals and will continue to work with East Herts Council as we aim to grow the vision we have for the arts in our town.  We, along with the Town Council, have made a huge investment in the arts, entertainment and the local museum in Bishop's Stortford, and we hope to see this work continued over the coming years.
"In light of the proposed relocation of the Art Complex, the Trust will continue to work with the Town Council to ensure funding for the Bishop's Stortford museum and its facilities are supported, and the vision for the arts and heritage of the town continue to be developed and maintained for future generations".
The land use proposal will be discussed at the East Herts Council Executive meeting on 28 November and, if it is recommended for approval, it will then go to Full Council on 13 December to be approved. If it is approved, the next stage will be to develop a more detailed masterplan for the main site and a planning application for the multi storey car park, alongside work with partners on the arts centre funding.

The full report on the recommendations for the site can be found here under item 12:

East Herts Council will also be at the Christmas Fayre in Bishop's Stortford on December 2 to answer any questions and to hear your thoughts on the proposals.

Map of the Old River Lane land use proposals, see below:

OLR plan [1Mb]

November 23 2017