£3.5m cost to revamp town’s Water Gardens

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PLANS for a £3.5 million overhaul of Hemel Hempstead’s Water Gardens have been given the green light.

Under the scheme the formal flower gardens will be revamped to include a play area and cafe with better links to a reconfigured Bank Court.

The current playground, along with the entrance into the car park off Combe Street, will be turned into parkland and a new ‘community facility’ will be built including public toilets.

Trees will be pulled out and terraces reinstated to bring the listed gardens back into line with the original vision of renowned designer Geffrey Jellicoe.

A meeting of Dacorum Borough Council’s cabinet agreed to send the plans to the next stage, which will involve a public consultation.

The project hinges on obtaining cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund, though the council faces having to stump up £1 million in match funding.

If the bid is successful work would start in summer 2014.

Councillor Neil Harden, cabinet member for residents and regulatory services, said: “I think it’s extremely positive. I think it will be a major benefit to the town centre.”

Councillors were warned the restoration will not comply with the European Water Framework Directive, which would require the Water Gardens to be returned to a natural chalk stream.

However, it may be possible to strike a deal with the Environment Agency to make an exception given the gardens’ listed status.

Last year the gardens were heavily criticised by eminent landscape designers for becoming ‘a complete slum’ because of a lack of maintenence.