High Street revamp chiefs promise rethink on seven week Old Town closure after meeting with traders

Bosses behind Hemel Hempstead’s controversial Old Town redevelopment have pledged to go back to the drawing board to rethink their plan to close the High Street for another seven weeks.

Worried traders say they would prefer the over-running works to go on for even longer rather than face the closure in the run up to Christmas.

Roadworks to make High Street, Hemel Hempstead, one way

Roadworks to make High Street, Hemel Hempstead, one way

Herts County Council, Dacorum Borough Council and contractors Jackson Civil Engineering had planned to shut off the road from Monday until the end of November in a bid to get the works done as quickly as possible.

But at a meeting this morning, traders said the move would kill them off.

“Everybody has been hacked to pieces by this,” said one trader.

“It would be nice to be here when you finish.”

Some even suggested that the works, which have over-run due to a delay in the arrival of materials from China and the discovery of Victorian tombs under the St Mary’s Close car park, should be abandoned completely until the new year.

Business owners said an earlier two week closure of the High Street saw the area become a ghost town.

Dan Busson from cycle shop Leisure Wheels said: “The whole point is it can’t shut for seven weeks.

“Over the two weeks we were dead, no-one coming through my door whatsoever – and that was replicated throughout the High Street.”

During the heated meeting some threatened to sabotage the road closure and others said they would not be paying their business rates because they simply cannot afford it.

Jamie Boast from Jackson Civil Engineering said: “As we understood it we wanted to get the work done as soon as possible, we understand that the closures are going to have an effect.

“We need to come back with a plan B.”

Speaking after the meeting Dacorum Borough Council’s assistant director of planning, development and regeneration James Doe said: “We are taking this really seriously.

“We want to do our very best for the businesses, we want to make the Old Town better. We are listening carefully.”

Traders are due to meet with council officials and contractors again on Monday from 8.30am at the Old Town Hall to discuss alternative options to the seven week closure.