Regeneration of New Towns like Stevenage should take centre stage in the 2018 autumn budget, according to a group of MPs representing such communities.

The Comet: Telford MP Lucy Allan, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on New Towns. Picture: Chris McAndrewTelford MP Lucy Allan, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on New Towns. Picture: Chris McAndrew (Image: Archant)

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on New Towns, chaired by Telford MP Lucy Allan, has urged the chancellor Philip Hammond to give New Towns “the national attention and focus they need and deserve”, and set out how it will help them regenerate.

It has also called for the government to review the tools and powers local authorities need to transform town centres, including the renewal of shopping areas.

Town & Country Planning Association chief executive Kate Henderson, whose organisation acts as secretariat for the New Towns parliamentary group, said the new resources and powers proposed would help Stevenage Borough Council “lead the renewal process with innovative projects and approaches that will benefit the whole community”.

This would, she said, include capacity funding for councils along the lines of the government programme for garden villages, towns and cities.

The Comet: Stevenage town centre.Stevenage town centre. (Image: Danny Loo Photography 2017)

Stevenage was the first New Town, in 1946, and is currently facing deadlock on plans to regenerate its town centre amid disagreement between its Conservative MP Stephen McPartland and its Labour-controlled borough council.

The borough council plans a £350 million scheme to create 600 new homes, boulevards, town squares, and a public service hub including a library, health services and council offices.

It and international developers Mace hope this revamp will make builders and retailers more interested in bringing new shops to Stevenage.

But Mr McPartland says regeneration should start with a “retail revolution” centred around the shops in Queensway. He has also condemned “punitive parking charges” levied by the borough council, which he says “choke the town centre”.

The Comet: Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland. Picture: Chris McAndrewStevenage MP Stephen McPartland. Picture: Chris McAndrew (Image: Archant)

He said: “I have persuaded the government to earmark £31 million for Stevenage town centre regeneration through the growth deals, but Stevenage Borough Council want to spend it on fancy new council offices instead of new shops at the heart of our town in Queensway.

“They will not give up their addiction to car parking charges and accept we need a retail revolution to make Stevenage town centre a destination again.”