Timeline of protecting Water Lane Hall from casual demolition

July 2022 – Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation applies for registration of the Water Lane Hall as an Asset of Community Value.

16 September 2022 – The hall is formally registered as an Asset of Community Value.

20 September 2022 – East Herts Council property team notify their intention to make a relevant disposal of (sell) the United Reformed Church Hall, Bishop’s Stortford. They advise:

‘The leasehold is likely to be purchased by Cityheart along with other land and assets as part of the Old River Lane development. Therefore ownership will be changing hands along with the wider site.’

According to the Localism Act 2011, as the nominating community group, Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation has the right to make an expression of interest for acquisition of the property.

30 October 2022 – Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation formally notifies its intention to submit a bid for the hall, and invoke a six month moratorium on disposal of the property to anyone else.

Timeline of the ORL planning guidance 2021 – 2022

December 2021 – the Local Planning Authority set up a community steering group for preparation of a supplementary planning document to guide the masterplan for the whole ORL area.

May 2022 – the Local Planning Authority produce a draft SPD for Executive approval.

July 2022 – A four-week public consultation on the draft SPD.

25 October 2022 – The revised SPD is presented to East Herts Council Executive for approval. Following representations by Friends of Water Lane Hall, new text from the ‘Council as landowner’ about what an arts centre might offer, is drastically reduced at the Executive meeting.

9 November 2022 – Cityheart stage a half-day public exhibition announcing their imminent outline planning application, after failing to reconvene the community steering group or notifying District councillors.

16 November 2022 – Full Council adopt the SPD.

ORL Timeline 2010 – 2021

2010 – East Herts District Council own property assets at the Causeway comprising Charringtons House office block; the adjacent offices (now demolished); the Causeway car park; and 1, 2 and 3 Old River Lane – three houses with tenants.

2010 – The District Council sell all this property, estimated to be worth £9.9m, for £6.25m to Henderson Global Investors, to take forward a development strategy.

2011 – Henderson receive outline planning permission for a new department store; 35 shops, restaurants; a digital cinema, a hotel, 670 parking spaces and 100 new residential units.

2015 – The District Council spend £19.55m buying back Henderson’s enhanced holdings. The council argue the deal makes sense because rents and other incomes mean the site could generate a return on the investment of 5 to 6 per cent.

2017 – After a competitive tender process, the council appoint Cityheart Ltd as its preferred developer for the ‘main’ Old River Lane site.

2018 – The statutory District Plan is adopted, including the policy allocation of Old River Lane as a major development site (Policy BISH 8)

2019 – Old River Lane is split into two: the ‘main development’ to be led by Cityheart; and the ‘arts centre development’ to be led directly by East Herts Councillors and property managers.

2019 – East Herts Council buy the Water Lane Hall from the United Reformed Church.

2019 – The arts centre vision is announced, based on a 500 seat, fully specified theatre.

2020, The theatre-based arts centre concept abandoned as not being viable. It is replaced with an arts centre vision based on a five-screen cinema.

2021 – The District Council’s property service consulted the public on whether they would like a cinema, and what kind of seats they would prefer.