Churchgate resurgence gathering pace, says Hitchin residents’ group

Members of Churchgate Resurgence PB, who have come up with a new plan for the market area. Picture:

Members of Churchgate Resurgence PB, who have come up with a new plan for the market area. Picture: CRPB - Credit: Archant

The group of Hitchin residents who have drawn up plans for a regeneration of Churchgate have given a presentation to Hitchin councillors ahead of a meeting this evening on the shopping centre’s future.

Churchgate Resurgence PB have come up with plans of how a ‘New Churchgate’ should be built now, in response to “slow progress” by North Herts District Council.

CRPB project director Robin Dartington said: “The call for the council to pause the proposal for a limited refurbishment of the Churchgate centre is really gaining pace.

“CRPB has been working unpaid to explore the new opportunities to re-energise Hitchin’s market that would be opened by completely rebuilding Churchgate as more of a community hub than a shopping centre.”

The proposal includes open-plan space where shops can pop-up, a new market with a level riverside walk from Hermitage Road, and an auditorium.

“There is no developer’s proposal as yet for direct comparison with the council’s refurbishment scheme. But it would be only good practice for the council to pause and consider alternatives before resolving on at the full council meeting this evening whether or not to proceed with investing the proposed £23m in refurbishing a worn-out shopping centre.

“Would it really be wise to fix the use of Churchgate as shops for the next 50 years at a time when so many stores were closing down across all the UK, and in Hitchin?

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“Any investment must benefit the whole district. Hitchin is the district’s largest town, with the most active economy and the council needs to make best use of its land.

“Although Hitchin would get the direct benefits, the whole district will have to pay the costs.

“The resurgence concept is to rebuild Churchgate around a wholly new market with residential units above to pay the costs.

“People will always need a roof over their heads but how many conventional shops will they need over the next 50 years?

“Public support for the best scheme will be vital. Our public exhibition last weekend attracted 131 visitors – and the exhibition in 5 Brand Street will reopen for one more day on Saturday.

“The opinion survey has raged away – 638 replies on line plus 170 on paper. This exceeds the response to the council’s survey on regenerating Churchgate. 84 per cent online agreed strongly or agreed that the council should pause and explore other options before proceeding with the current proposal for regenerating a conventional shopping centre and separated market.”

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