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    An update on the Hockerill Junction – a Planner’s Nightmare October 2012
    Hockerill junction is generally considered to be one of the most congested in East Herts District and has been a thorn in the side of Highway Planners (as well as frustrated drivers) for a number of years.
    Various solutions have been tried: on paper, in computer-aided simulations and by actually adjusting the light phases, but when an answer is found for one area it throws up difficulties in others.
    The problems lie with traffic accessing the crossing via the London and Stansted Roads and wishing to turn right.  At rush-hour few of these vehicles actually manage to turn at each phase of the lights, holding up vehicles that want to go straight ahead.  The problem is exacerbated when lorries and buses wish to turn right.
    The junction has clear road markings in the centre and the situation could be eased somewhat if vehicles turning right stopped in accordance with the markings.
    Hertfordshire Highways are running a further computer-simulated test on a new idea for the junction, so there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.  Hockerill Residents’ Association is following this with interest and, as soon as we have the result of the simulation, we will let you know.
    Les Pinnell – Hockerill Residents Association

    Phil Tripp’s comment (Chairman - Hockerill Residents Association)
    Hockerill grew as a community around the crossroads where the road from Stortford to Dunmow crossed the Hockerill Turnpike which was built in the 17th century as part of the road from London to Newmarket.
    It is ironic that in the 21st century the crossroads cause so much trouble. It has been suggested by members of the association that providing separate Northwards and Southwards traffic light phases would avoid the delays caused by turning traffic.
    Perhaps this suggestion will be adopted by Hertfordshire Highways.
    Traffic Lights Experiment – your feedback required 
    Cllr John Barfoot email: john.barfoot@hertscc.gov.uk
    For the next few weeks I would value feedback from members of the public regarding travelling North & South through Hockerill Lights. Every week I receive reports of the lights only allowing two or three cars through at a time. Each time the engineers look there is nothing wrong. In a bid to isolate the fault I have arranged for one of the phasing features to be turned off for an experimental period.
    This should help us to diagnose where the fault lies. Please contact me if you notice a marked improvement or if the North South intermittent, two to three car, fault happens to you.

    1 - SCHOOLS RELOCATION - planning permission was refused  October 2012
     
    The four week public inquiry concluded on 14 October (with site visits taking place in the following week). The Inspector now has until 11 February 2012 to complete his report and make his recommendation to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – Eric Pickles. Mr Pickles is scheduled to take his decision on or before 24 April. The report and his decision will be published at the same time.
     
    The main parties to the inquiry were the appellants (HCC/the two schools/Countryside Properties); the local planning authority (EHDC); BSCF and Thorley Parish Council. BSCF’s evidence on the key issues was also supported by Martin Peachey on noise and by eight of our member residents’ associations on local issues. We were also supported by the former head teacher of Leventhorpe School, Peter Janke, the four head teachers of the other Bishop's Stortford secondary schools represented by Dr Ingate of Birchwood, Bishop's Stortford Town Council and the Friends of the Hertfordshire Way.
     
    At the end of the inquiry, our case appeared to have been maintained very largely intact and in some ways strengthened. Its main features were
     
    Failure to engage with the local community
     
    On the many occasions on which local people have expressed their view it has been overwhelmingly hostile to the proposals. This includes the only time when the developers actively sought the views of the public – at the public exhibition in 2008. The appellants wrote to the parents of JMI children on the last day of the summer term in 2011 threatening that if the appeals were refused, large numbers of Bishop's Stortford children would have to be bussed to other towns in the county in a few years time and urging them to write to the Inspector. This produced a very similar result to previous letter campaigns, with around 1000 letters of objection and only about 50 in support of the scheme. We hope that as part of the Government’s localism agenda, Mr Pickles will attach great weight to the consistent and clearly expressed view of local people.
     
    Harm to the Green Belt
     
    The massive and irreversible harm to the Green Belt which these proposals would cause was not disputed. The appellants were therefore forced to rely on arguments of educational need to advance a case of ‘very special circumstances’ which would outweigh the harm the proposals would cause. These educational arguments were clarified at the inquiry.
     
    Educational need
     
    Key features to emerge were: There is no shortage of secondary places now or prospectively (even if the ASRs to the north of Bishop's Stortford were developed) to meet the demand from local children in the Education Planning Area (EPA) which covers Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth, and a large number of East Herts villages. Local JMI schools produce about 700 pupils at the end of year 6, and the EPA has about 1000 secondary places to meet the demand in year 7.
    Instead, the apparent shortage of places arises from so-called cross area flows, demand arising from more distant parts of East Herts and from Essex.
    The method of forecasting cross area flows takes the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy – the higher the level of demand from this source in the past, the higher the model predicts it will be in the future. In reality, demand from more distant locations depends on how schools’ admissions policies work and how much capacity is available once local demand is satisfied. 
    If admissions policies prevent local children from gaining access to a local school, then the answer is to change admissions policies so that we bus fewer pupils in, rather than bussing local children out, or building more capacity for the cross area demand to fill up.
    The proposals provide only 45 extra places – this suggests that the appellants do not believe their own forecasts which predict a much higher level of demand. However, other schools in the area, particularly Mountfitchet College, fear that the magnet of two brand new schools would destabilise their provision of secondary education.
    The scheme is not self-financing – on the appellants’ own figures it generates a shortfall of £1.75m rising to £7m if the two schools subsequently expanded from 6 to 8 forms of entry.
    The risks of this multi million pound scheme overshooting its budget are much greater than alternative incremental expansion which might take place – for example at Leventhorpe – if extra capacity of 45 places really has to be provided to meet demand from cross area flows.
    The relocation scheme relies on the transfer to the schools of a capital receipt of over £20m from the sale of the Hadham Road site for housing. Selling the site for housing would preclude its possible use for educational purposes and we therefore objected to it. But if it were sold, then the money would be available for other, cheaper expansion options.
    Housing
     
    Under the existing local plan, Bishop's Stortford has designated sites to provide around 3500 new homes – mostly on the ASRs – in the period up to 2031. If this were to happen, it would represent about a third of the total number of homes to be provided within East Herts over the period, or about 5 years’ worth of East Herts’ total housing supply. By contrast the rest of East Herts has sites identified for only about 400 homes – only about two thirds of a years’ housing supply. If the schools relocation scheme were to go ahead, this would be paid for by another 690 houses on the vacated sites – another year of East Herts’ housing supply, all of it in Bishop's Stortford and all of it additional to the sites identified in the local plan. No justification was advanced for this wholly disproportionate allocation of housing to Bishop's Stortford. 
     
    Traffic
     
    Evidence from EHDC’s traffic expert and from BSCF showed that there were errors in both the assumptions and details of the modelling which meant that the predicted benign results of the relocation could not be relied upon. No comparison was made with traffic conditions as they are now, but only on the basis that the whole of the Bishop's Stortford transportation strategy had been implemented, for which no dates or financial commitments have been made.
     
    Aircraft Noise
     
    Following our previous criticisms, fresh surveys were carried out of noise conditions at Whittington Way. These suggested that, if Stansted Airport were to expand to the limit of its currently permitted capacity, the site would still be on the margin of unacceptability for compliance, particularly with the external teaching noise requirement of the relevant Building Regulations.
     
    BSCF
    November 2011 




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