Future of Churchgate regeneration to be decided next month as funding application drawn up
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
The future of Hitchin’s Churchgate regeneration will be decided at a North Herts District Council meeting next month – but a bid for the government’s Future High Streets Fund faces competition.
A meeting involving Hitchin & Harpenden MP Bim Afolami, Hitchin Bearton ward councillor and chair of the NHDC Hitchin Committee Ian Albert, Hitchin BID, and the Churchgate Resurgence PB group was held on Friday, where the details for an expression of interest application to the council were finalised.
NHDC can only put forward one application for the Future High Street Fund – which provides co-funding for capital projects – and Labour councillor Mr Albert confirmed that there may be a rival bid, although he is confident in securing funding for Churchgate.
“There seems now to be another possible bid emerging and NHDC can only put forward one application,” he told the Comet.
“I hope that the Churchgate bid will command the support of all NHDC councillors, not just those in Hitchin.
“I believe it has a strong chance of success. The bid already has the support of many local stakeholder groups, the general public and our MP – those voices need to be heard.”
High streets minister Jake Berry was given a guided tour of Hitchin last month to discuss plans for Churchgate.
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Town centre manager Tom Hardy is also confident that the Churchgate application will be chosen, saying: “As the scheme is restricted to one town per district, it’s up to NHDC to decide which submission they put forward to central government.
“Hitchin has always been the commercial and economic centre of North Hertfordshire, and we should therefore ensure that our market town is sustainable for the 21st century and continues thrive.”
MP Mr Afolami was pleased with the progress made on the bid and is looking forward submitting it to NHDC.
“We all agreed our aim in applying to the Future High Streets Fund is to create a sustainable 21st century market town which future proofs the Hitchin economy.
“We are in the process of finalising the expression of interest and I look forward to presenting this to NHDC in the coming weeks.”
Built in 1971, Churchgate was described at the time as a “space-age development to keep up with Luton and Stevenage”.
But, after calls for refurbishment first being made in 1986, its redevelopment has been on the cards for more than 30 years.