The sixth in a series of articles providing an overview of how Stevenage's regeneration is going, what you can expect from the town centre when it’s completed, and hearing from some of the people at the heart of the project. 

In the articles so far, we've answered some of your biggest questions about the regeneration, explored the projects that have already been completed and are still to come, and spoken to Labour and Conservative party representatives. 

This week, we’ve been speaking to Adrian Hawkins, the independent chair of Stevenage Development Board, about his role in the project. 

The Board was set up in 2020 to oversee the regeneration and to place a bid for government Towns Fund money – the result being an award of £37.5 million, the joint second highest in the country.

This money will be used to help deliver nine projects, including a sports and leisure hub, heritage centre, and improved cycling and pedestrian connectivity.

The Comet: An artist's impression of the new sports and leisure hubAn artist's impression of the new sports and leisure hub (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

Adrian was born in Stevenage in the 1950s, and founded Weldability SIF, a Letchworth-based manufacturing firm.

After serving as deputy chair of Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, he was delighted to be appointed chair of the development board in 2020 and to get involved in the regeneration project. 

“For a number of years the residents of Stevenage have been looking for a 75-year-old town to catch up with modern living. 

“The plan that we’re currently working through isn’t like it was 75 years ago. Then it was a big piece of land that the designers were able to draw separate zones upon… Now it’s a complete tapestry of different things happening in the town, different landowners for example, so it’s quite difficult to do a regeneration plan when you’ve got all those different pieces in place. 

“The masterplan is that, at some stage, we’ll be able to stand at the clock fountain and look towards the railway station which you’ve never been able to do in all the time I’ve lived in the town.

The Comet: Artist's impression of the town centre regenerationArtist's impression of the town centre regeneration (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

“There’s always been times where there’s been lots of conversations about what could happen, but this is a time where we’re saying what will happen and we’re in that position because of the Towns Fund bid and the work by the council in securing SG1.” 

Asked if he’s confident that all the Towns Fund projects will go ahead as planned, with construction costs rising and inflation high, Adrian says: 
“Well, I’m extremely hopeful, having driven the plan from the very beginning, even down to the narrative, I’m very keen that they all go ahead as planned. 

“There has been a massive surge in pricing, but we are heading into a recession and we are seeing prices tailing off a bit now. 

“We are really just waiting for things to settle a little bit, but we’re not actually waiting, the team is pushing forward with all of these things at the moment. 

“I’m very much keeping the pressure on for us to get the money spent because government expects when we ask for money to actually get on and spend it, because ultimately what it does is deliver work and distribution of cash into this society. 

“We have a strict period of about five years to get the Towns Fund projects delivered in, which is the period the government gives us to draw the funding. So, you can imagine there’s a bit of a snap in our step when it comes to making sure they do get delivered.”

Science and innovation

One of the upcoming projects is SITEC, the Stevenage Innovation and Technology Centre, with stage one opening in early 2023. Adrian says this will be “an important piece for driving the aspiration of people in the town”. 

“There is a disparity between the people who work in some of our wonderful businesses – Airbus, Glaxo, MBDA – what they earn in relation to what the average earnings are for the residents of the town. 

“For me, it was about trying to bring some of the real earning opportunities to the people that live here because there are great jobs out there and what I’d like to see them doing is to get into those companies and earn that sort of money, that way we drive up the GVA of the town, and that improves the economy for everybody.” 

“So, we came up with the idea that we needed level 3, 4 and 5 qualifications to enable local residents to get themselves the opportunity of employment with those sorts of companies. 

“Those companies are crying out for local people so it’s just a question of how we cross that void. SITEC was very much something that I wanted to put on the map in terms of focusing on improving skills in Stevenage and inspiring people to aspire. 

“I come from my parents' council house, went off and created a multi-million pound business so I know the advantages of being able to inspire and aspire as time goes on.”


Adrian also supports efforts to change Stevenage’s transportation network. 

“We’ve got additional funds coming in to extend in parts of the cycle way … which will mean better health for everybody. 

“We could look like the most sustainable town in the country given the headstart we’ve got with 44km of sustainable cycle paths. 

“And we’re hoping that something can happen with the railway station to bring it into the 21st century but we’ll have to wait and see how all the other things we’re doing at the moment transpire and where we can get the appropriate funding from.” 

The Comet: Artist's impression of the multi-storey car park at the railway stationArtist's impression of the multi-storey car park at the railway station (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

Public criticism

Adrian isn’t put off by the criticisms of the regeneration project that are often aired by members of the public on social media platforms, saying his “epitaph is judge me in ten years’ time”. 

“We are living in a democracy and we are spending taxpayers’ money so everybody has a right to have an opinion. Unfortunately, sometimes the comments maybe come without full appreciation as to the broader plan that’s coming along. 

“But I’m not about to criticise anybody for expressing an opinion because we want people to take an active part in delivering what’s best for them and our town … I’m overjoyed that they’re taking an interest in what we’re trying to deliver.” 

Next week, we’ll be speaking to local businesses to find out what they make of the regeneration project.