Affordable town centre flats? You can bank on that

Work to transform offices at Stephyns Chambers into affordable homes has begun. Picture by Matthew Richardson
Work to transform offices at Stephyns Chambers into affordable homes has begun. Picture by Matthew Richardson

Shoppers who have spotted storeys of scaffolding surrounding Hemel Hempstead’s Bank Court may be wondering what all the work is about.

Stephyns Chambers – above the banking district of the town centre – is beginning its transformation into a development of affordable homes, according to town-based housing association Hightown Praetorian and Churches.

Currently used as office space, the building will be renovated to create 37 one and two-bedroom flats.

As well as completely refurbishing the former offices, Hightown will add an additional floor to the building, which overlooks the Water Gardens and Marlowes.

The development will include a mix of one and two bedroom apartments which will be let at affordable rents through Dacorum Borough Council’s choice-based lettings scheme.

The project is expected to be completed in late spring next year, but the housing association continues to work with businesses in the ground floor of the building, which continue to trade while the building work gets under way.

Hightown spokesman Emma Crump said: “This project provides a welcome boost to Hemel Hempstead and to the Water Gardens area.

“As well as bringing economic benefits, our residents will help to bring life back into the town centre especially during the evenings and when the shops and offices are closed.”

Hightown also says it is on track to build more than 900 affordable homes for people in the Herts and Bucks areas over three years to 2016. Of these, around 250 will be in Dacorum.

The new homes at Stephyns Chambers are supported by Dacorum Borough Council as part of their affordable housing programme, which will see more than 1,000 new affordable homes provided in the area by 2020.

The council’s masterplan for regeneration in Hemel Hempstead describes Bank Court as representative of new town architecture, though it recognises the area is ageing and in need of considerable attention due to lack of investment in recent decades, meaning it fails to meet modern requirements and support the town’s ‘economic aspirations’.