Today is the day many Old Town traders and shoppers have been waiting for – the official end of roadworks in Hemel Hempstead’s High Street.
The scheme has come under fire over the last year, as the project’s initial end date of September spiralled into a seven-month delay.
Setbacks including the discovery of 18th century tombs under the St Mary’s Close car park and the failure of supplies from abroad to show up on time accounted for the later-than-expected finish date.
Civil engineering firm Jackson, contracted to carry out the works, has also been plagued with complaints from traders about losses to their businesses as a result of the ongoing saga.
Leader of Dacorum Borough Council Andrew Williams said: “We know there are a couple of things to be sorted out but all the traffic management and roadworks on the High Street itself have been finished.
“This is much later than we expected and the delays have been disappointing, for ourselves and, more importantly, for the traders and residents of the Old Town, but this does mark the end.
“Hopefully now we are looking forward to the positives – the improved street signs, better parking and the opportunity to hold events will make the High Street the vibrant place we want it to be.”
There is new granite and York stone paving along the length of High Street, and a new events area overlooking St Mary’s Church.
Feature lighting under the arches of the Old Town Hall, restored railings, and improved lighting also feature in the newly restored High Street.
Jackson confirmed that while the schedule of roadworks has finished for good, its contract allows for a year of general repairs. A spokesman for the contractor said: “As with all contracts of this nature, we will now enter into a standard defects correction period. We do not anticipate these works having any significant impact on the general public.”
A combined launch event planned for Saturday, July 19 will celebrate not only the new layout of the High Street but also the changes to the historic Old Town Hall, which will see the reopening of its Cellar Club along with improved access and facilities allowing for a greater range of events at the venue.
The day will feature activities within the Old Town Hall as well as well as a stage area in the St Mary’s Close car park and street attractions.
Monday marked the first day that penalty charges can be enforced on the now one-way High Street, as new parking rules have been in place for a fortnight. Mr Williams said: “The scheme has been designed with conservation area status in mind, but there is signage appropriate to the site. There are no yellow lines but all parking has been clearly marked. We would urge people to read the signs carefully.”