Hitchin Churchgate plans go on show

HUGELY anticipated plans for the future of Hitchin s historic town centre go on public display today – showing a radical rethink of the Churchgate area. The plans, by North Herts District Council s chosen developer Simons, would sweep away the current

HUGELY anticipated plans for the future of Hitchin's historic town centre go on public display today - showing a radical rethink of the Churchgate area.

The plans, by North Herts District Council's chosen developer Simons, would sweep away the current Churchgate Centre, the market and surrounding car parks to create new shops, a department store, flats, town houses and a multi-story car park.

Designed on what the developers are calling a "traditional street layout", the new scheme would relocate the market to its historic home in Market Place, demolish Churchgate shopping centre and move the current Church Gate thoroughfare northwards to make room for sizable retail units.

A department store would sit on the current St Mary's car park, mirrored in design by a multi-story car park with spaces for 387 cars to the north as far as Portmill Lane. A view of St Marys Church from Queen Street would be preserved by an opening between the two buildings.


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Residential buildings would occupy the current Biggin Hill car park and to the north of the church.

The cost of the project would not be revealed by the developers, who said "the value of the project" would be �60m. The cost of the redevelopment will be borne by Simons who will then look to sell it on.

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Simons project director Charles Vyvyan accepted there will be points of contention with residents and businesses, especially market traders, who far outnumber spaces available in Market Place. Traders in the current Churchgate shopping centre were also an "important issue". He hoped they could be relocated either within the new development or in empty retail units in the town.

He added however that this is the first stage in design and "all suggestions are welcome".

Regarding Hammersmatch, who have an 88-year lease on the Churchgate Centre, he said: "We look to have an early discussion with the owners and hope to come to an agreement."

The project will first go through a year long public consultation, before a planning application can be made, followed by a further round of consultation.

It is anticipated the project could be completed by 2015, if as Cllr Tom Brindley, portfolio holder for planning and transport, said: "the economic conditions are right."

The display can be seen in St Mary's from 10am to 8pm today (Wednesday), Thursday from 2pm to 8pm, Friday 10am to 5pm and Saturday 10am to 4pm. Representatives from Simons and the council will be on hand to answer questions.

It will then go to Hitchin Library from May 24 for two weeks.

The plans are also available to view online at the NHDC website where comments can be left.

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