The redevelopment of Bishop’s Stortford has moved a step closer after councillors voted to approve a £30m budget for an arts complex. The decision made at the East Herts Council meeting on 5 March means they are now in a position to appoint a developer to transform the Old River Lane site.

Hertfordshire LEP awarded £9.6m from the Local Growth Fund towards the regeneration of the town centre. The Old River Lane site, which currently serves as a surface level car park, will be transformed into a pedestrianised leisure quarter comprising restaurants, bars and cafes, a focal arts and public sector hub, a new public square, green spaces, and managed workspaces for small businesses. 

The new arts and entertainment centre will include a 500 seat theatre with four cinema screens and café/bar, and the potential to relocate the library as well. 

At an earlier meeting last month, the Council’s Executive Team were asked to confirm a developer following a recommendation from the Old River Lane Delivery Board. The selected bidders had presented their interpretation of the vision for the site, with partners invited to attend to ensure support from everyone involved in the project.

Councillors agreed with the recommended option and approved the decision to invest in Bishop’s Stortford. The successfully awarded bidder will be announced following the completion of the mandatory 10 day standstill period.

Linda Haysey, Leader of East Herts Council and Hertfordshire LEP Board Member, said: “At last night’s Full Council, we agreed the £30m budget for the arts centre and are now ready to appoint a developer to bring our vision for Old River Lane in Bishop’s Stortford to life. This is an exciting next step in the journey for Bishop’s Stortford town centre and will allow us to provide the best facilities for current and future residents of the town. We look forward to sharing further details in the coming weeks.

“Later in the year we will start detailed masterplanning of the site, and we will be asking residents and stakeholders for their input as the plans evolve.

“We’d like to thank our partners, Bishop’s Stortford Town Council, Rhodes Birthplace Trust, Hertfordshire County Council and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, all of whom are critical to the successful delivery of the project.”

This is the latest in the journey to redevelop the site, following the approval of the plans for the multi-storey car park by the development management committee last month. LEP funds will be used to support the Northgate End development to replace the surface car park on the Causeway, offering additional short and long stay spaces and freeing up the space on Old River Lane to make the vision a reality.