A ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to revitalise Bishop Stortford’s town centre and deliver a new leisure quarter has moved one step closer thanks to a £9.6m injection of funding from Hertfordshire LEP.

The decision to award a £6m grant and £3.6m interest-free loan from the Local Growth Fund (see below) to East Herts Council for the Old River Lane site was taken at Hertfordshire LEP Board Meeting on Thursday 21 June.

The Old River Lane site sits right on the edge of the town centre, which currently largely serves as a surface car park. In its successful bid for funding, the Council set out its bold ambitions for the site, which acts as a ‘lynchpin’ for further development. These include a vibrant new pedestrianised leisure quarter comprising restaurants, bars and cafes, a key focal arts and public sector hub, a new public square and green spaces. Managed workspaces will also provide much needed hot-desking facilities for start-ups and SMEs.

Site map of planned development across Bishop's Stortford town centre

Council leader Linda Haysey said, “I am thrilled that business leaders from across the county have recognised the importance of the opportunity to revitalise the Old River Lane site.  A £9.6m injection of funding is great news for Bishop’s Stortford.” 

Hertfordshire LEP Head of Infrastructure Adam Wood said, “The decision to award this funding was based on the strength of East Herts future-facing bid and the pivotal role this site plays in the overall regeneration of this market town. For too long this town has underperformed despite its excellent location and strategic links with London and Cambridge. Now we have a once in a lifetime opportunity here to reverse that trend and ensure that its growing population have somewhere vibrant and dynamic to live, work and play.”

The LEP funds will support the Northgate End phase of East Herts Council’s Old River Lane project – a key phase that will allow the council to progress on the site with new homes and ground-floor work space, representing an important step towards the council’s forward-looking vision for the site and the town centre.

In its application submission to the LEP, the council explained that the town is set to see rapid population growth which, coupled with previous under-investment in arts and culture, creates the risk that it becomes a commuter-belt dormitory, lacking a vibrant town centre and with a struggling transport network and a fading sense of place and community. The council is determined to change this position through the project which includes:

  • 186 high quality homes
  • A small number of high quality retailers
  • An iconic arts and entertainment centre
  • A multi-storey car park
  • A new public square
  • Green spaces and improved links to Castle Gardens, which is also benefitting from a £2.36m Heritage Lottery Fund rejuvenation.

Artist's impression of proposed Old River Lane leisure quarter

The Old River Lane site project is part of a package of measures by East Herts Council to revitalise the town centre and boost the local spend economy. This includes £20m towards a new leisure centre and a £2.36m rejuvenation of the historic town centre park and gardens supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. In addition to the 186 high quality homes planned for the Old River Lane site, a further 4,262 homes are planned (between now and 2028) within a fifteen minute walk of this area.

Cllr Linda Hayesy added, “The Old River Lane development is a lynchpin project to revitalise the town centre and improve the viability of these developments.  While the larger developments, for instance in Bishop’s Stortford North and South, would still go ahead in one form or another, without the revitalisation of the town centre that the Old River Lane development provides, the town would not be able to retain the spending power in the town that the increased population will provide.“

About the Local Growth Fund

Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth to help build a country that works for everyone. That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.

Key facts:

  • There are 38 LEPs covering the whole of England
  • Government has awarded £9.1bn in three rounds of Growth Deals to local areas to drive economic growth.
  • LEPs are investing in a wide range of projects including transport, skills, business support, broadband, innovation and flood defences.