Regeneration plans mark an ‘exciting time’ for town centre

Artist's impressions show how the redeveloped shopping area of Marlowes could look
Artist's impressions show how the redeveloped shopping area of Marlowes could look

Dacorum Borough Council is ‘moving on’ from the town centre setback suffered by the pullout of supermarket giant Morrisons as plans for the regeneration of Hemel Hempstead continue to take shape.

At a meeting of the cabinet last week, a report on the latest developments within the public service quarter and town centre renovations was submitted to portfolio holders.

Within the document was a recommendation to increase the budget for the area currently occupied by the Civic Centre and West Herts College by £1.75million, which would be transferred from exisiting budgets and reserves.

Council leader Andrew Williams warned it was ‘very unlikely’ that the public service quarter plans would proceed any earlier than 2017, which is when West Herts College aims to modernise its campus by. This could lead to the college plans being furthered under a separate procurement.

But Margaret Griffiths, cabinet member for housing, said: “I am glad that we are moving on from the Morrisons pull-out. I am pleased to see what is in the report and happy to agree with the recommendations.”

The updates to the projects come as planning applications for the awaited demolition of the original Marlowes Methodist Church and part of the West Herts College campus are submitted, which are expected to be formally decided on by the end of the month.

It was also revealed by assistant director of planning, development and regeneration James Doe that the council is ‘very close’ to agreeing the contract for the regeneration of the shopping end of the Marlowes, which would include a redesign of the ‘food court’ outside Boots, with new seating areas, modern public toilets and possibly a ticket kiosk to serve the new bus interchange.

Additionally, further improvement plans could soon receive the go-ahead as results of a £2.5million Heritage Lottery Fund application to revamp the Water Gardens is expected next Monday.

Mr Williams said: “This is an exciting time for the regeneration of the town, and hopefully we will get a good decision from the Heritage Lottery Fund so we can start on the betterment of the town centre.”