UPDATE: HGGT and our council partners are aware of false information circulating locally around the River Stort Crossing proposals

We can confirm:

  • The proposed River Way roundabout will be the same level as the current road surface
  • Local water supplies will not be contaminated by construction
  • Deep excavations will not be part of the proposed Stort Crossing construction
  • Pole Hole landfill site is not an unknown entity and was first licensed in 1971
  • Noise assessments do not indicate an impact on the Stort Navigation or Harlow
  • Proposals include avoiding and minimising impacts on protected species habitats
  • New suitable habitats will be created within the Stort Valley to replace areas lost

For official information on the Stort Crossing proposals then visit our FAQ below:

The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town will connect Harlow’s communities with four new garden neighbourhoods, each of which will bring forward new, well-designed and affordable homes to the local area.

The Gilston Garden Town will be made up of seven new garden villages delivering 10,000 new homes with supporting community infrastructure, travel and mobility infrastructure and set within a sensitively landscaped environment.

The villages will be connected to Harlow Town Centre by a new sustainable travel network comprising of dedicated bus, walking and cycling links, which is planned to commence alongside the development of the first villages.

These are called Sustainable Transport Corridors, or STCs for short.

We aim to fully integrate the STCs with a network of public and active travel routes with an overall objective of achieving 60% of journeys from the new villages being made by walking, cycling or public transport rather than by private vehicles.  For the whole Garden Town area the target is 50% of journeys to be made by walking, cycling or public transport in the longer term.

The Gilston Garden Villages will respect the natural assets of the River Stort and its floodplain as a green corridor, preserving its current flora and fauna and providing an opportunity to enhance the biodiversity of the river and its flood plain habitats by supporting a sustainable and well managed future.

There are two proposed River Stort Crossings which are identified in Development Plans as being critical to provide the public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure required to connect the seven Gilston Garden Villages with the Harlow Town Centre. The first of the Crossings will expand the current inadequate A414 bridge with an enhanced crossing (the Central Stort Crossing).

The second new crossing is proposed to the East of the A414 crossing and will  connect Pye Corner with Eastwick Road (the Eastern Stort Crossing).

The construction and engineering activities will be designed to avoid disturbing  the river and its bank habitats. Should planning permissions be granted for the Crossings, it is anticipated that conditions will be applied to both projects to ensure the environment is protected.

To mitigate the loss of floodplain used in widening the existing A414 bridge crossing, it is proposed that new areas of wetland and floodplain habitat will be created by converting two areas of land from grassland to wetland.

This will be created by lowering ground levels and planting with species more suitable to the wetland environment.

The new Eastern Stort Crossing has been designed to work with the floodplain by being located on land between waterbodies but raised on elevated structures (large culverts and an open span bridge). As proposed the bridge then spans over the Stort Navigation.

The initial funding for the crossings will come from a government grant and this will forward fund the infrastructure work that is required to enable the housing growth and the active and sustainable travel initiative. The local authority partners will then collect planning contribution money from developers to forward fund the next round of infrastructure and complete the STC network. The money collected will create a Rolling Fund that will be available to benefit the residents of the Harlow area for years to come.

It is important that residents submit any comments they have to make about the potential impact of the Crossings with the Planning teams at East Herts and Harlow Councils.  This is so the Planners can ensure that appropriate conditions, commitments and mitigation can be clearly set out, as part of any permissions, to ensure that the River Stort and its flood plain are not only protected but enhanced where possible, if it is determined that planning permission can be granted for the developments.

East Herts and Harlow Councils will comprehensively assess the planning applications for the Crossings against adopted planning policy and comments raised by the local community, in order to make an informed recommendation on the proposals for the Crossings and to enable democratic and objective decision making by their planning committees.

Although the formal consultation stage ended in January you can still make a comment on the Stort Crossings via the East Herts Council planning portal:

https://www.eastherts.gov.uk/planning-and-building/object-comment-or-view-planning-application-or-decision

Use the following reference numbers 3/19/1046/FUL – expanded A414 crossing (also known as the Central Stort Crossing) and 3/19/1051/FUL – new crossing (also known as the Eastern Stort Crossing).

All comments are read, recorded and published.

ABOUT THE STORT CROSSINGS

The Central Stort Crossing (CSC) comprises the widening of the existing Fifth Avenue (A414) Crossing, when finished it will retain the same highway capacity as the existing bridge alongside a new Sustainable Transport Corridor (STC) with dedicated public transport lanes and segregated walking and cycling routes including a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge.  This would represent a major investment in healthy and climate friendly active and sustainable travel and helps to support travel choice for new and existing residents.

This will be achieved by creating a new northbound carriageway, with a dedicated bus lane and single lane for other vehicles and the existing bridge will be amended to become a southbound carriageway with a dedicated bus lane and a single lane for other vehicles. The existing bridge currently has one lane for all vehicles in each direction. The current Eastwick roundabout will be turned into a traffic signal-controlled junction

The Eastern Stort Crossing (ESC) is a new crossing across the Stort Valley and will create a new road and new walking and cycling paths that runs west to east from the existing Eastwick roundabout, across the valley to River Way in Harlow next to the Templefields Enterprise Zone and connecting to Edinburgh Way.

It is made up of three parts:

  • Road 1 – a realignment to Eastwick Road where it runs eastwards from the Eastwick roundabout, including a new junction into the first of the seven new villages (Village 1). The existing alignment of Eastwick Road will become the access into Terlings Park. Moving Eastwards there will be a new junction allowing access into Pye Corner. The road then runs across Pole Hole Hill to a new roundabout which connects to Road 2 and Road 3.
  • Road 2 – would run from the new roundabout northwards up to Eastwick Road north of Pye Corner, where there will be an access into the second of the new villages (Village 2) and allow onward connection to High Wych.
  • Road 3 would run from the new roundabout eastwards through Hollingson Meads, over the Stort Navigation to River Way at a new roundabout junction. Further south on River Way, the existing substandard bridge over the railway will be replaced by a new bridge with separate dedicated provision for pedestrians and cyclists.

All three sections of the road are a single lane in each direction with the exception of the junctions.

Places for People, recognised in the industry as one of the UK’s leading place makers and developers for new homes and neighbourhoods.

As the two Crossings applications cross the border between East Herts and Harlow Districts, planning applications were submitted to both councils. East Herts Council is leading on the administration of the two applications but both councils, as Local Planning Authorities, are  required to determine the applications on their merits in due course through their respective decision-making processes.

HGGT is a partnership of local authorities involved in planning for development within and around Harlow. It comprises East Herts, Epping Forest and Harlow District Councils together with Hertfordshire and Essex County Councils. The partnership came together in 2017 to support the designation of the Garden Town, the delivery of sustainable development and transformative investment in transport and community infrastructure.

Working together as a partnership means that a holistic approach to planning and delivering the growth can be taken within and around Harlow ensuring that each Council and each development plays a part in achieving these objectives and supporting each other to achieve the Vision for Harlow as the Garden Town.

The land for the Gilston area development was removed from the Green Belt as part of the East Herts District Plan in 2018.

This was done to support the development of the Garden Town.

The Stort Valley remains within the Green Belt.

The Central Stort Crossing between the Eastwick Road junction and Burnt Mill Roundabout is partly within the Green Belt

The section of the Eastern Stort Crossing eastwards of Pye Corner/Terlings Park is partly within the Green Belt.

There are  strict policies which regulate new development on Green Belt land and specific policies regarding essential infrastructure but those policies do not mean that certain appropriate development cannot take place.

National planning policy allows particular types of development such as essential infrastructure to be located within the Green Belt subject to meeting strict criteria.

Both the East Herts District Plan and the Harlow Local Development Plan which have been adopted following public examination by an independent inspector consider that in principle the two river Crossings are required.

 

 

 

 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE GARDEN TOWN?

The two Crossings together provide opportunities to create a dedicated Sustainable Transport Corridor connecting the new community at Gilston via Harlow Town Station to the town centre of Harlow and beyond towards other the strategic sites that make up the wider Garden Town.

Our aim is that these corridors will provide high quality sustainable connectivity between the existing and new communities plus key destinations across the Garden Town.

The Sustainable Transport Corridors will fully integrate with a network of public and active travel routes with an overall objective of achieving 60% of journeys from the dew development to be made by walking, cycling or public transport rather than by private vehicles.  For the wider area the target is 50% of journeys in the longer term.

 

There are seven Gilston garden villages to be created which will enable building of a total 10,000 new high-quality homes along with supporting community and landscaping infrastructure, 3,600 of which are planned to be delivered by 2033.

Associated infrastructure plans include proposals for two new secondary schools and up to six new primary schools.

The new communities will also incorporate new places for work, five hectares of land for employment within and adjoining the new village centres plus open space, leisure and health facilities.

There will be a mix of housing types, sizes and tenures provided to cater for a range of housing needs and affordability.

The garden villages will provide homes for those who are able to buy their own home including through the various help-to-buy schemes.

The Garden Town Partnership and the Councils are working with landowners and developers to ensure that a significant proportion of the new homes are made available for affordable housing.

The Garden Town project includes the planning for new community facilities and employment opportunities, with the Garden Town partnership supporting the great work that Harlow Council has been leading on, bringing major employers to the town and ensuring there is a bright future for the economy of the town.

LOCATION FOR THE CROSSINGS

A series of alternative options were tested by the developer and applicant for permission prior to and following the submission of the application.

These included upgrading existing roads such as Eastwick Road and Redricks Lane.

This route resulted in no improvements to traffic within Harlow, in particular Edinburgh Way. It did not allow for the creation of direct links between the Gilston development and employment areas along River Way and would have a greater level of impact on residential properties in Terlings Park, Pye Corner and Redricks Lane.

The Eastern Stort Crossing as a whole creates a bypass to existing settlements with the least extent of new road building.

The Central Stort Crossing is located on the line of the existing Fifth Avenue Crossing, utilising additional land immediately to the west.  This minimises the amount of land required for the additional structures. Improvements will be made to the junctions to the north and south of the crossing to better manage vehicle movement.

DESIGN RATIONALE

The Central Stort Crossing is located on the line of the existing crossing, utilising additional land immediately to the west minimising the amount of land required for the additional structures. Improvements will be made to the junctions to the north and south of the crossing to better manage vehicle movements. A separate route is proposed for walkers and cyclists that will be designed through a design competition process.

Originally an elevated bridge of more than double the proposed length and several metres higher in elevation was proposed for the valley section. Following pre-application engagement with the Environment Agency amongst other parties it was considered that a lower impact form of design would be suitable and achievable, whilst retaining a distance above the ground to minimise disturbance on mammals and birds species and enabling the floodplain to function in extreme weather events.

To mitigate the loss of floodplain used in widening the existing Fifth Avenue Crossing, new areas of wetland floodplain habitat will be created by converting two areas of land from grassland to wetland.

This will be created by lowering ground levels and planting with species more suitable to the wetland environment.

The ESC has been designed to work with the floodplain by being located on land between waterbodies, but raised on elevated structures (large culverts and an open span bridge). The bridge then spans over the Stort Navigation.

stort crossing

Air quality assessments have been undertaken and submitted with the application.

The assessment indicates negligible changes to air quality as a result of the development of the Crossings.

Idling and stationary traffic is the most common cause of traffic related pollution. The scheme will allow for the distribution of vehicle movements that would otherwise route along Edinburgh Way which already suffers congestion, and allows for the creation of a dedicated Sustainable Transport Corridor along the Fifth Avenue Crossing to enable travel by active and sustainable means.

STAKEHOLDERS

Natural England

The Environment Agency

The Highways Agency

Lead Local Flood Authorities

Highways Authorities

Ecology Departments (Essex County Council & East Herts Council)

Archaeology Departments (Essex County Council & East Herts Council)

Minerals and Waste Authorities (Herts/Essex County Councils)

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Essex Wildlife Trust

The Canal and River Trust

Network Rail

Greater Anglia

National Aerodrome Safeguarding Team at Stansted Airport

LOCAL ARCHAEOLOGY

Archaeological surveys have taken place across the entire area and the Councils are aware of the historical monuments within the Stort Valley.

HGGT are working with the Archaeological departments of Hertfordshire County Council, Essex County Council and Historic England.  The advice of those experts is that the Stort Crossing proposals will not impact any of the physical structures.

Regarding historical artefacts below the ground, there would be a requirement for trial trenching and other investigative works to assess the extent of archaeological impact.

Given that there is evidence of human settlement within the Stort Valley, dating back hundreds of years, there is the potential to find additional artefacts.  This can be positive as new finds like these may help us understand the history of human activity in the area. Where any new finds are made they would be fully recorded and then either stored and possibly displayed or they may be preserved in situ where they occur as appropriate.

PROTECTING LOCAL WILDLIFE

Detailed species assessments have taken place across the Stort Valley but HGGT partners are aware that this is only ever a snapshot in time and that the majority of species affected are mobile birds and mammals so updated surveys will be done again ahead of construction.

Submitted surveys indicate that while no evidence of otters and water voles has been found in the area directly impacted by the bridge construction, there is the potential for otters and water voles to inhabit areas of the Stort Navigation and River Stort, particularly where banks are more natural such as the overflow channel adjacent to the lock and in backwater areas.

The Crossings have been designed to locate bridge supports away from watercourses and to allow for the continuation of wildlife corridors beneath structures. Strict measures to protect species and habitats will be required throughout construction, and before any work starts updated ecology surveys will be required so that specific species mitigation measures can be applied if needed.

There will be an impact on ground nesting birds around the Eastern Stort Crossing location but the plan is to mitigate this by creating a similar wetland habitat within the valley that they will move to naturally.

Ecology reports submitted with the application indicate that there will be the loss of small areas of local wildlife sites at:

Parndon Moat Marsh Local Wildlife Site and Local Nature Reserve
Eastwick and Parndon Mead Local Wildlife Site
Fiddler’s Brook Marsh Hollingson Meads Local Wildlife Site

The applicant has proposed to offset these losses through the creation of new habitat.

The code of construction practice and construction environment management plans that will be in place during the works includes a watching brief on habitats and species, and the Environment Agency will be consulted on species specific mitigation where needed.

A construction environment management plan will be provided by the developer and details of where construction vehicles, staff quarters, storage etc will be located during the construction phase will be agreed and monitored. In order to minimise disturbance as far as possible these activities will not be located in the Stort Valley.

Despite not being passed into law yet (as of July 2021), HGGT council partners and Places for People are already working to the policy laid out in the future Environment Bill which states that there must be a minimum requirement of 10% biodiversity net gain for local flora and fauna when development takes place. Places for People have undertaken assessments using approved methodologies which show that ,across the development as a whole, this target is exceeded.

Enhancing areas of poor habitat to species diverse wetland within the Stort Valley  will help support existing species and create habitats capable of supporting otters, water voles and ground nesting birds.

Natural England anticipate that the Environment Bill will be active by late 2023.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Although the formal consultation stage ended in January you can still make a comment on the Stort Crossings via the East Herts Council planning portal:

https://www.eastherts.gov.uk/planning-and-building/object-comment-or-view-planning-application-or-decision

Use the following reference numbers 3/19/1046/FUL (Central Stort Crossing) and 3/19/1051/FUL (Eastern Stort Crossing).

All comments are read, recorded and published.

All points made in the comments from residents will be taken into account in the decision making in relation to the planning applications for the proposed Crossings.

The plan is for the applications to be heard by the committees of East Herts Council and Harlow Council possibly in Autumn 2021.

 

Find out more about the Eastern Stort Crossing and why this route has been identified via these developer documents from Places for People.

Find out more about the Central Stort Crossing and why this route has been identified via these developer documents from Places for People.