Firm Foundation

PUBLISHED: 11:53 27 July 2006 | UPDATED: 10:34 06 May 2010

I am responding to a letter from Marlene Gray and Caroline Hardy which appeared in your paper on July 13 and which the writers subsequently forwarded to me personally, as a board member of the Foundation. As a board member, I simply want to say that I am,

I am responding to a letter from Marlene Gray and Caroline Hardy which appeared in your paper on July 13 and which the writers subsequently forwarded to me personally, as a board member of the Foundation.

As a board member, I simply want to say that I am, as I believe all board members and governors are, very much aware of how important it is to get this project right. Board members are involved in all aspects of life in the town, as are governors, and we are being regaled from all sides by people with views, both for and against the proposals. I welcome this, as I welcome the correspondence in this newspaper.

I do believe that a major regeneration of the town centre is desirable if we are not to lose ground as against other competing centres. It is inevitable that any such major change would cause disruption to some traders and that, while there will be views both for and against, those against are likely to be expressed more vehemently and in a more organised way. Nevertheless, it will be vital to give full and balanced consideration to all views. I cannot, of course, speak for other board members but I believe we all accept that, in reviewing proposals, the need a) to keep Letchworth unique and with an appropriate mix of major outlets and specialised shops, b) to ensure that the project is clearly viable and does not put the Foundation's finances at risk and c) to minimise the disruption to current traders and improve their future prospects, are among the principal considerations to be taken into account.

GUY OSBORNE, Norton Road, Letchworth Garden City

* The people who persuaded Mr Kenny to stay in Letchworth should be run out of the town along with Mr Kenny as soon as possible. There was no popular demand for him to stay.

Since he came to Letchworth the town centre has become a nightmare. He opened up pubs where shops should be and the pubs have, in turn encouraged their drinkers out onto pavements to get drunk, wave their glasses around, swear and get in the way of people trying to do their shopping.

In the evening it is worse, my husband and myself went for a meal in one of the town's restaurants. When we came out we were followed by five young people who had obviously been drinking and they swore at us, called us foul names and generally intimidated us as we walked home. Am I right in thinking we have a law in Letchworth against alcohol being consumed in the street or has that been forgotten along with the ones about riding bikes on the pavement, driving cars over verges and parking on greens and verges (a £200 fine I believe)?

I would like to also say that I like Letchworth shops as they are. The traders are hard working, know their customers and the customers know them and I am sure they will not be able to afford the inflated rents a new shopping centre will want. We will end up like all the other towns with shopping malls, bored staff and inflated prices.

PATRICIA SPENCER, Western Way, Letchworth Garden City

* If I had known that the results of the Heritage Foundation questionnaire about the fate of the Arena area were confidential, I would not have filled it in. I do not mind who knows that I think this grandiose scheme is ridiculous. Improvement yes, demolition, no! As to the question of the Post Office moving to the bottom of Station Road, another daft idea, I can see that keeping such a big office open must be expensive, but there are much more sensible alternatives. How about having a brand new Post Office on the corner of the precinct where the sports shop is closing down, at least if you have to wait twenty-five minutes to be served, which is the minimum waiting time I personally have had to wait since Spring Road corner Post Office was closed where you could wait under cover.

ALICE WAND, Bowershott, Letchworth Garden City

* There must be hundreds of people in the Garden City who are in possession of letters from me which include the phrase 'I look forward to hearing from you' or 'I look forward to seeing you soon'. Forgive me, but it has never meant that I was salivating at the prospect.

Those who portray my use of the phrase 'I look forward' in the context of the Foundation's regeneration plans as meaning that I do not understand or care about the reticence of retailers affected, are therefore mistaken.

Of course these retailers are nervous; change is always challenging and the do nothing option has a superficial appeal. It certainly did to the thousands who signed petitions opposing the Spirella and Broadway Cinema restorations. However, had we been swayed by their reticence, I suspect that Spirella would now be in ruins and the Garden City, like Hitchin, Baldock and Royston, would have no cinema.

Do not be misled by those who argue in petitions, masquerading as surveys, that refurbishment is an option for the Arena Parade area. As we know only too well from our roofs refurbishment a few years ago, the original construction was of very poor quality and substantial refurbishment is not an option. Also, of course that way forward would fail to provide the size and quality of units our target national multiples - the shops our core and secondary catchment area customers want to shop in - demand.

Let me remind readers of events to date:

1. Footfall has been falling in Letchworth town centre - surveys by the Town Centre Partnership have indicated that. Retailers have indicated concerns at falling levels of trade.

2. We responded to that by bringing together a team of independent experts in all the key fields - planning, retail marketing, highways, etc. to advise us on how to address the problem.

3. Through this work, we have established the need for further, substantial investment in the town centre and also the form such investment should take.

4. We have then gone out to lengthy, extensive public consultation on our outline proposals and have had a positive response.

5. We have taken concerns/ideas from the public into account in working up our detailed proposals.

6. In parallel, our property team have been working, face-to-face, with businesses/individuals affected by our proposals. Some have chosen to engage in that more fully than others. The former are therefore more aware than the latter that the Foundation is doing everything it possibly can to achieve relocations with minimum disturbance and due compensation.

7. In sharp contrast to what is being portrayed in the two retailers' 'surveys', the Heritage Foundation is looking to retain our existing retailers, not desert them, and indeed, supplement our speciality retail offer.

Our proposed developments in The Wynd, Arena Parade/Eastcheap/ Broadway will only go ahead if the board approves the proposed planning applications, we get the necessary planning consents and Compulsory Purchase Orders and, the schemes (once fully worked up) are shown to be financially viable - including pre-lets.

In the meantime, rest assured that we understand both the nervousness of retailers and the challenges which lie ahead in giving them the reassurances they need. I would ask them to work with us, visit the dedicated web site they have secure access to, but also, against the backcloth of the proposed Compulsory Purchase Orders that we need in order to bring our plans to fruition, take independent advice.

Our outline plans have the support, in principle, of the Town Centre Partnership, the Garden City Society, Letchworth Garden City Town Council, and many other organisations in the Garden City. We are working immensely hard to translate these into detailed development proposals which will help create the vibrant sustainable town centre our Garden City deserves.

I look forward to that.

STUART KENNY


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