What's happening with the Stevenage town centre regeneration?

This is the first in a series of articles which will provide an overview of how the project is going, what you can expect from the town centre when it’s completed, and hear from some of the people at the heart of the project.

Since 2016, change has been afoot in Stevenage town centre with the 20-year regeneration project. 

A lot has already happened – construction of more than 700 new flats, changes to the town square and other pedestrian spaces, the expansion of the railway station, and the opening of a new bus interchange – but there is a lot more to come. 


This article provides answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the project. 

What is the vision behind the project? 

Stevenage Even Better, run by Stevenage Borough Council, says that its vision “is to transform the centre of our town so that it once again represents the aspirations of its people, and makes it an attractive proposition in which to live, work, play and relax".

It aims to make the town centre future-ready, using principles from recent studies to create a space that offers “a combination of retail, residential and commercial facilities in central spaces in order to create a greater natural demand for services from the larger population of people living, working and shopping here".

The Comet: Katie, a pupil from Stevenage, won a competition to name the new Event Island - one of the green spaces in the town centre.Katie, a pupil from Stevenage, won a competition to name the new Event Island - one of the green spaces in the town centre. (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

That means more homes, improved retail and office units, new green spaces, bringing together various public services, and encouraging restaurants and leisure facilities to open.

Ensuring that the town centre has a functioning night time economy and does not shut down after 5pm is a key part of the vision for the regeneration.

Who is involved in the project? 

A number of organisations are involved in the project, including Stevenage Borough Council, Stevenage Development Board, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce and Hertfordshire Growth Board. 

Other organisations involved include developers Mace and Reef Group, architects David Lock Associates and consultants Cushman and Wakefield. 

How much does it cost and how is it funded? 

The regeneration will cost approximately £1bn, and brings together funding from multiple sources. 

The headline figure of £1bn is being invested over 20 years and includes more than £600m in private investment, and £71.5m of public funding that has already been secured – £34m from the Local Growth Fund, and £37.5m from the Government’s Towns Fund.

The Comet: A new leisure centre is one of the projects that has secured money from the Towns Fund.A new leisure centre is one of the projects that has secured money from the Towns Fund. (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

101 towns have been awarded money from the Towns Fund, and Stevenage’s award was the joint second highest nationally. 

What do Stevenage residents think about the project? 

A consultation took place in 2019 and showed strong support from residents and businesses for the view that regeneration was much needed. However, some residents have taken to social media to share concerns.

You can give us your views on the regeneration project in a survey at the end of this article. 

How will it affect the amount of residential, commercial, leisure and office space available in the town centre? 

Before the regeneration project began, there were approximately 150 homes in Stevenage town centre. After completion, there will be more than 3,000 homes. 720 have already been built, with 2,393 more to come.

The Comet: Vista Tower (right) houses some of the new flats in the town centreVista Tower (right) houses some of the new flats in the town centre (Image: Google Streetview)

‘Affordable homes’ are included in each project within the regeneration, but remain expensive. There is no agreed definition of ‘affordable housing’, and the Affordable Housing Commission found that “many” homes branded as affordable were “clearly unaffordable to those on mid to lower incomes.” 

‘Affordable housing’ can be used to describe properties that are for rent or sale at 20 per cent below local market value, or that are available to purchase through shared ownership schemes. 

Looking at commercial use, there will be 33,500 square metres of space for this purpose after the regeneration – this includes shops, restaurants, offices and leisure facilities. 

As of September 2022, just over eight per cent of ground floor retail units in Stevenage town centre were empty. That compares favourably with April 2021 amid the Covid pandemic, when over 14 per cent of units were empty. 

How will it change the way we get around Stevenage? 

The number of car parking spaces in Stevenage town centre will be roughly similar after the regeneration project, while the amount of secure bicycle storage will have increased.  

Some residents have expressed concerns about whether the amount of car parking space available will be able to cater for the influx of new homes in the town centre.

The Comet: Marshgate car park in 2021 - a science laboratory is now being built on the site.Marshgate car park in 2021 - a science laboratory is now being built on the site. (Image: Google Streetview)

Currently, around 1,000 car parking spaces are empty each day in the town centre. Season tickets for these car parks cost £91 per month, or £1,092 per year. 

According to the 2011 census, cars were by far the most popular mode of transport for the 42,738 working residents. 

70.9 per cent of people commuted via car, van or motorcycle. That compares with 9.3 per cent travelling on foot, 7 per cent by train, 5.9 per cent by bus, and 2.5 per cent by bicycle.

Next week, we'll look at the projects that have already been completed and those that are currently ongoing.