£4.5m regeneration project planned for Hitchin Westmill estate

John Barker Place shops. It is proposed to demolish them and replace with bigger, better facilities

John Barker Place shops. It is proposed to demolish them and replace with bigger, better facilities - Credit: Archant

A MULTI-MILLION pound project which would regenerate a housing estate by bringing a host of new facilities to the area looks set to move a step closer to reality next week.

John Barker Place in Hitchin’s Westmill Estate could benefit from new affordable homes, bigger and better-stocked shops, a new community centre, a revamped multi-games area and a new playground for younger children.

North Herts District Council’s Cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss the proposals, and is asked to approve a raft of recommendations which will allow the £4.5m project to proceed to the next stages.

They include entering into a development agreement with social housing landlord North Hertfordshire Homes and supporting the use of £1.33m from the Community Benefit Fund to finance the new community centre.

Kevin Thompson, chief executive at North Hertfordshire Homes, said: “This is a very exciting project, though regeneration is not quick and will take a full three years to complete.

“We are working with the local shopkeepers to keep them open for business as we go through the phases. First we will build a new community centre and youth facilities, then replace the shops and flats above, then finally build new houses and a playground for younger children.”

He added: “We have made a positive start on the plans for the regeneration of John Barker Place.”.

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A public consultation will be held at the end of September – around the same time a planning application is expected to be submitted.

And a council report prepared by NHDC officers, which was published this week, says the development could pave way for future works.

“Should this scheme be successfully implemented, opportunities to regenerate the area around Freemans Close would be reviewed in future years to assess whether a further regeneration scheme could be brought forward,” it says.

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