Plans for former Hawkins of Hitchin department store revealed at public exhibition

PUBLISHED: 07:03 21 February 2019

Hawkins of Hitchin, Hitchin. Picture: DANNY LOO

Hawkins of Hitchin, Hitchin. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2019 Archant

Plans for the rejuvenation of former Hitchin department store Hawkins were revealed at a consultation event last week.

Hawkins of Hitchin, Hitchin. Picture: DANNY LOOHawkins of Hitchin, Hitchin. Picture: DANNY LOO

An exhibition was held at the site in Bucklersbury last Wednesday to show off architectural plans for the site, drawn up by Cooley Architects.

In a Facebook video, Daniel Selt of AdenRock – who are overseeing the project – explained that the historic building will become multiple commercial units.

“What we’ve attempted to capture here is the history of the Hawkins parade whilst reinvigorating certain features and paying homage to the ones that are already there,” he said.

“We have a ground floor plan of proposed commercial units, small unit one, unit two and unit three.

Architectural plans for the former Hawkins of Hitchin department store. Picture: Cooley ArchitectsArchitectural plans for the former Hawkins of Hitchin department store. Picture: Cooley Architects

“We have a restored carriage arch which is from the 19th century, opening up to three new residential units.

“On the first floor we have an additional set of units in the middle part of the parade and then one unit at the end.”

Public feedback from the exhibition will be taken into account before a planning application is submitted to North Herts District Council.

Hawkins of Hitchin closed last January after a 155 years of trading.

Architectural plans for the former Hawkins of Hitchin department store. Picture: Cooley ArchitectsArchitectural plans for the former Hawkins of Hitchin department store. Picture: Cooley Architects

The department store passed through five generations of the Hawkins family, starting with George who opened a pawnbroker in 8 Bucklersbury in 1863.

By 1990, the store had grown to 8,000 sq ft – stretching up to 2 Bucklersbury.

But, when Peter Hawkins decided to retire aged 61, the decision was made to close.

Hitchin town centre manager Tom Hardy was invited to the exhibition by AdenRock

Hawkins of Hitchin, Hitchin. Picture: DANNY LOOHawkins of Hitchin, Hitchin. Picture: DANNY LOO

He was delighted with the rejuvenation plans for Hawkins and the investment into the project.

“It’s great to see companies investing in Hitchin town centre,” he said.

“The new owners have put a lot of careful thought in to the rejuvenation of the Hawkins building to not only satisfy planning regulations, but to recognise the buildings icon history and place in the town.

“I’m delighted to have been invited to last week’s consultation and really looking forward to seeing the planned restorations and rejuvenation.

The rejuvenation exhibition was also met with a positive reaction from the people of Hitchin.

One person commented on the Facebook video, saying: “We are so lucky to have this type of investment in Hitchin when other towns are struggling so much.

“Can’t wait to see the finished site - very exciting.”

Another added: “It’s great that they are looking to develop the town!”

“Thank you, lovely to be kept in the loop about things like this,” said another user.

Some residents were left with questions, with one saying: “Always good to see investment but given the number of empty units in the town centre and the ongoing saga trying to sort out Churchgate, is this likely to happen and are more units really needed.”

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