FRESH redevelopment plans for Hemel Hempstead town centre reveal how the existing civic centre will be sold off to a supermarket to help pay for the rest of the ambitious scheme.
Council chiefs hope the sell-off will ‘kick start’ a wide-ranging revamp including a ‘renaissance’ for the old town, restoration of the Water Gardens and new uses for the market square.
A new ‘public service quarter’ – including a library, police station, health services and council offices – will be created either where the Pavilion once stood or in a car park in the Water Gardens.
Despite the economic gloom, £50 million released by selling the current Civic Centre plot, the library and police station for retail and housing is expected to get the plans off the ground.
The magistrates court, earmarked for closure a year ago, shut its doors at the end of September.
A report to a meeting of Dacorum Borough Council’s cabinet last night said: “The location and scale of the civic block means that it offers a huge regeneration opportunity and one that will kick start investment in the rest of the town centre.”
Councillors were expected to agree that work begins on the project, dubbed Hemel Evolution, which has a timescale stretching over the next five years and beyond.
The scheme hinges on deciding the location for the new public service quarter, with the north car park site in the Water Gardens having more advantages than the alternative in Marlowes.
Under the proposals the High Street will be made one-way with on-street parking, an ‘events space’ and gateways. In Marlowes a food court will be created with renovations to planters and market stalls. Bids will be made for help finding millions of pounds to start work restoring the Grade II listed Water Gardens.
The cabinet was expected to set aside £445,000 to get the ball rolling on the project.
A publicity brochure for the plan says: “In 2031 Hemel Hempstead town centre will be an appealing, attractive and sustainable destination with a thriving economic centre and a high-quality environment. The regeneration and evolution of the town centre will emphasise the natural and cultural assets of the town and celebrate its new town history and rich heritage. Hemel Hempstead town centre will evolve into a vibrant place where people want to shop, work, live, learn and visit.”
The latest plans follow the collapse of the Waterhouse Square project last year when the council’s development partner went bust.