Hitchin shopping centre owner could review redevelopment plans

Churchgate shopping centre

Churchgate shopping centre - Credit: Archant

The owner of a shopping centre has said if he cannot come to an agreement over its refurbishment by the autumn he would have to review the project.

The latest drawing, released exclusively to the Comet, shows a refurbished Churchgate centre

The latest drawing, released exclusively to the Comet, shows a refurbished Churchgate centre - Credit: Archant

David Payne, director of Hammersmatch, which owns the Churchgate development in Hitchin town centre, hosted a meeting at Hitchin Priory with community groups and North Herts District Council Hitchin councillors.

Mr Payne who was accompanied by project manager Mike Moult of Moult Walker, and the architect for Churchgate, Max Lyons, senior partner of Lyons Sleeman Hoare, spoke about how far the proposals had come since an application to refurbish the centre by developers Simmons was turned down last year.

Mr Payne said: “We have agreed terms with a major cinema operator to open a five screen cinema and we have a queue of restaurants and retailers wishing to be in our scheme.

“Within two months the council will have my company’s formal proposal. My planning consent to refurbish expires in July next year. I will not let it expire unless we have signed the proposal with the council well before then – time is of the essence.”

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Mr Payne added: “If we cannot come to an agreement with NHDC by the autumn of this year we will then come to a decision as to the future of Churchgate.”

Mr Payne wants to refurbish the precinct, relocate the market and build a cinema in the town centre.

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Mr Moult said plans would not progress further until terms are agreed with the council.

Norma Atlay, strategic director of finance, policy and governance at NHDC, said: “Officers have been involved in extensive dialogue with Hammersmatch and that is ongoing. The discussions have been on a non-exclusive basis regarding their development opportunity from both a land owner and service provider perspective. We have responded to all communications in a timely manner. Hammersmatch have also entered into pre- application discussions with the planning authority.

“As landowner we have provided Hammersmatch with the key elements that any proposal would need to address.”

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