The fourth in a series of articles providing an overview of how Stevenage's regeneration is going, what you can expect from the town centre when it’s completed, and hearing from some of the people at the heart of the project.

In the articles so far, we've answered some of your biggest questions about the regeneration, and explored the projects that have already been completed and are still to come.

This week, we’ve been speaking to Baroness Taylor of Stevenage, the former leader of Stevenage Borough Council (SBC), about her role in the project and why residents should support it.


Baroness Taylor says that the project started because the town “had all started to look a bit rundown at the same time”, and “that was coming up on a lot of doorsteps”. 

Work started on a regeneration project around 2007-08, but was soon derailed by the global recession. 

When work began on the current project, Baroness Taylor and SBC had learned lessons from the false start – “things like not to put all your eggs in one basket, so you don’t just have one developer, you have a group of developers. 

“With big regen schemes like this one, it’s a bit like decorating – you have to spend three times as long in the planning and the preparation, than you do in the delivery.”

The Comet: An artist's impression of what Stevenage town centre will look when the regeneration project is completedAn artist's impression of what Stevenage town centre will look when the regeneration project is completed (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

There was a focus from the start on making this project “a really forward-thinking programme generating more footfall, making sure we have much more diverse uses in the town centre – more people working there, more people enjoying leisure activities there, and more restaurants, cafes, bars.” 

Bringing “more people physically” into the town centre will, Baroness Taylor hopes, ensure “the retail is sustainable and would survive” in an age of internet shopping. 

She thinks that “some fantastic progress” has been made on bringing plans to fruition, though she can’t pick a single project as a particular favourite - “it’s always the latest thing we’ve done”.


Amidst all the excitement, there have been two big challenges – securing funding from the government and the private sector, and building partnerships with other organisations. 

She pays tribute to the “fantastic regen team” at SBC who “are literally burning the midnight oil to get bids done”, and to Adrian Hawkins, chair of the town development board, as well as the other board members who bring expertise from a range of sectors. 

She thinks that greater devolution would enable support for the “absolutely thriving life sciences” sector in Stevenage and that local politicians “are far better placed to make decisions about our places than people in Whitehall” - quickly adding “I probably shouldn’t say that now I’m in Westminster myself”. 

The Comet: Baroness Taylor was recently nominated for a peerage by Labour leader Sir Keir StarmerBaroness Taylor was recently nominated for a peerage by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Image:

The other challenge mentioned by Baroness Taylor is building partnerships with organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors. 

She says that “making sure that we’ve got that commitment from everybody” has been a focus. 

“I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve got us, as a Labour council, delivering with a Conservative county council … we’ve had everybody working together on this, and when I hear senior county councillors saying what’s good for Stevenage is good for Hertfordshire, that really makes me happy.

“We’ve been fortunate in Hertfordshire, we’ve had three successive [Conservative] county council leaders in a row who really believe in supporting us in the work we’re doing."

Feedback from residents

Baroness Taylor pays tribute to “the people of Stevenage, who constantly give us their feedback”. 

“We welcome that because we want to drive a scheme that’s right for the people of Stevenage. 

“If there are things they don’t like, they’re not afraid to tell us … they can be very constructive and give us some really good ideas.”

Housing - and flats...

One topic that receives much comment from residents is the number of flats being built in the town centre – there were 150 flats there before the regeneration, and there will be more than 3,000 following completion of the project. 

What does Baroness Taylor make of criticism about the number of flats going up? 

“We need more people living and working in the town centre to make the retail viable, so having people in the town centre is a good thing.” 

She says “we’ve got a desperate shortage of housing” and questions the “received wisdom” that these flats cater for “people who have come in from outside Stevenage”. 

“That’s not the case, I think it’s about 65-70 per cent of the people in the [110 flat] Queensway North development actually are Stevenage people. 

“I think there are a generation who came to Stevenage in the early days of the town that were fortunate because they went into 3-bedroom houses initially. 

“You find that amongst younger people, while they might aspire to that eventually, they’re quite happy to live in flats when they’re younger." 

When asked if she’s worried that the number of flats may change the character of Stevenage, she says “it might change it a bit but I think the changes will be for the better”.

The Comet: Bird’s eye view of proposed development on former Matalan site, with Lytton Way in the foreground and intended SG1 masterplan in background Bird’s eye view of proposed development on former Matalan site, with Lytton Way in the foreground and intended SG1 masterplan in background (Image: Guinness Partnership)

“The town centre would shut down about 5pm, and it would be a pretty bleak place in the evenings – we want to make sure there’s things going on there into the evening.” 

Does she think there’s enough affordable housing as part of the regeneration? 

“There’s the government definition of affordable which … a lot of people I know couldn’t afford, so I talk about social housing as well as affordable housing. 

“We could do with a considerable number more in terms of social housing and I’d like to see as high a percentage of social housing as we can possibly get … but at the moment the funding’s not there."

She thinks it is “probably true” that if funding was devolved to the local level, it would be possible to build more social housing in Stevenage – with a "key issue being SBC not receiving all the money from right-to-buy sales".


SBC is aiming to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and Baroness Taylor says that she’s “particularly pleased to see the sustainable transport part going so well”, with SBC “trying to encourage people not to use cars and to use public transport, cycle or walk”.

The Comet: The new bus interchange opened earlier this yearThe new bus interchange opened earlier this year (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

Summing up why Stevenage residents should back the regeneration, she says: “There’s a lot to look forward to in Stevenage, it’s a great place, very passionate, and we want a town centre that is sustainable, that is forward-looking and that reflects the nature of the place – which is a place with world-beating science and technology, so I hope we can create something that does reflect that.” 

Next week, we'll be speaking to Conservative councillor Phil Bibby and Adrian Hawkins, chair of Stevenage Development Board.