Voice of the Paper: Investment bodes well for bright future

Gazette deputy editor Damien Lucas
Gazette deputy editor Damien Lucas

In the last couple of weeks an astonishing amount of money has been pledged to improve our town, the county and our local healthcare services.

Yes the figures are a drop in the ocean compared to big national projects like HS2 but we are not talking peanuts here and it is something all of us living, working in or even occasionally visiting Dacorum and particularly Hemel Hempstead should be very excited about.

The board in charge of Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans hospitals has signed a major new multi-million contract that will see up to £25.5 million being invested into its IT systems over the next five years. Some might scoff, ‘IT pah’. But this investment could prove crucial and will undoubtedly improve patient care. It also comes just weeks after more than £203.4 million was pledged to develop the town and county – with potentially another £200m to follow that from the private sector.

Around £3.4million of this will rejuvenate Hemel’s Water Gardens and bring it back to its ‘full glory’ we are told. What a sight that will be, what a lift for the town coming off the back of the Old Town revamp (yes I know that wasn’t without major problems).

But still some people aren’t happy. ‘What a waste of money’, ‘It could be better spent on other things’ are just some of the lines I have seen from disgruntled residents.

But let me put this in perspective. Down the A41 in Aylesbury a few years ago they got rid of an old bridge crossing a railway track which connected the town centre to one of the town’s big housing estates. They replaced it with a huge fancy bridge, beautifully designed and lit with lifts and a much longer and wider walkway. All told it cost more than £8million. Many people were furious that such a figure was being spent on a bridge. Now it is one of the best-looking and most impressive sights in a town on the up after years in the shadow of the likes of Milton Keynes. New business, shops and industry has followed and more are on the way.

To me Water Gardens is Hemel’s answer to that bridge. It is a wise investment to smarten up the place and attract people and businesses to keep the town thriving. A large portion of the £200m will be spent on West Herts College’s local campus. It is sorely needed and much welcomed.

So in a matter of weeks the Old Town is finished and more town improvements promised and a major education facility and our hospitals have secured vital funding. If you were going to choose three areas for investment, those would be high up, if not at the very top, of the list. Dacorum Borough Council leader 
Andrew Williams said in his recent Gazette column that there were ‘exciting times ahead’. Well I am inclined to agree.