75 years of growth in Stevenage - and more set to come

Stevenage welcome signs

Marking the 75th year of Stevenage new town, we take a look at the past, present and future of development in the town - Credit: Stevenage Borough Council

Stevenage has seen an immense amount of growth over the 75 years since the designation of the new town - and there's potentially plenty more to come as Local Plans for both Stevenage Borough Council and North Herts District Council start to come to fruition.

As well as the opening of the new town in 1946, families began moving into shiny new housing developments, Monkswood and Bedwell, in 1952.

Lewis Silkin, the Minister for Town and Country Planning, said at the time: “Stevenage will in a short time become world famous. People from all over the world will come to see how we in this country are building for the new way of life.”

The town grew at a rapid pace from the designation as the demand for services surged, and between 1955 and 1965 a new school opened for almost every year.

Patient safety incidents recorded by the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust in 2020/21 include t

Lister Hospital has seen development over the years since opening in 1972 - Credit: East and North Hertfordshire NHS

In 1972, purpose-built Lister Hospital opened its doors to patients for the first time, after its relocation from Hitchin. Residents were also able to enjoy the town's swimming centre.

Original building work at Stevenage Swimming Pool

Original building work at Stevenage Swimming Pool - Credit: Archant

The leisure centre and Gordon Craig Theatre, opened in 1974, and remain staples of our community to this day. 

Stevenage Swimming Centre

Stevenage Swimming Centre - Credit: Archant

Development in the historic St Nicholas area of the town was also a main effort for the Stevenage Development Corporation in the 1970s - the Wellfield and Rooks Nest areas, in particular. In Ripon Road, Wellfield Wood Junior Mixed School, and separate infants school, opened in 1973. 

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The two schools merged in 1993 into The Leys Primary School.

St Nicholas Church, which is the oldest building in Stevenage. Picture: Trevor Coultart

St Nicholas Church, which is the oldest building in Stevenage - Credit: © Trevor Coultart 2016

Planning for the Poplars area began in the late 70s, while works on the Chells Manor development began in 1986. When the site was threatened with a new housing development, Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust moved in.

Archaeologists turned up an incredible hoard of silver coins which were embossed with the names of the gods and emperors.

Pat of the coin hoard found at Chells Manor in 1986. Picture: Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust

Part of the coin hoard found at Chells Manor in 1986 - Credit: Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust

Now, the east of Stevenage is set for another major development at Gresley Park - just on the outskirts of Stevenage - under plans by East Herts Council. 

A view of the proposed Gresley Park site in Beane Valley, Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO

Gresley Park site in Beane Valley, Stevenage - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Plans will bring 618 new homes - 40 per cent of which will be affordable - a primary and pre-school, an 80-bed care home and up to 50 assisted living homes. 

By the 80s, the Stevenage Development Corporation's work was done and it made way for Stevenage Borough Council to continue the work serving a population which had grown to more than 75,000. 

Growth has not stopped since. By the 2011 census, Stevenage was home to 83,957 people. 4,500 homes have been built in, or on the edge of, the town since the turn of the century. 

Dubbed "the great extension", work on the Great Ashby development began in 1999. The development to the north of the town - close to St Nicholas and the Pin Green Industrial Area - brought thousands of new homes to Stevenage. 

It formed its own civil parish in 2011 and has been designated a community council. In the 2011 census, the population in Great Ashby alone was 5,706. 

Plans for 360 homes to be built on Green Belt land on the outskirts of Stevenage have got people hot

Roundwood development off Back Lane in Great Ashby - Credit: nhdc

The area is also not immune to further development. In North Herts District Council's Local Plan, - for which a consultation on modifications is under way - 1,075 new homes have been earmarked for Stevenage - including 600 dwellings off on Green Belt land off Mendip Way, known as GA2. An additional 330 homes are also planned for the Round Wood area, off Back Lane. 

The GA1 and GA2 sites as earmarked in North Herts District Council's Local Plan. Picture: NHDC

The GA1 and GA2 sites as earmarked in North Herts District Council's Local Plan - Credit: NHDC

Stevenage Borough Council's own Local Plan for 2011 to 2031 was adopted in 2019, and is set to bring 7,600 new homes - some of which are already under way - as well as revamping neighbourhood centres and creating jobs.

Plans will bring 2,950 homes for in and around the town centre, alongside the wider regeneration. An application for a new neighbourhood, comprising of 1,500 new homes, a primary school and more have been submitted for land west of Stevenage - also earmarked for development in the Local Plan.

An additional 1,350 homes are expected to be built on previously Green Belt land to the north and south east of the town. Approval has also been given for 800 new homes and a primary school on the land between North Road and Weston Road - fondly known as Forster Country.

Among all the growth and development in terms of housing and infrastructure, many opportunities for the people of Stevenage have arisen within the employment areas, allowing many to work and live in the town.

As part of our coverage celebrating 75 years of the town, we have spoken to some of our biggest employers who have shaped Stevenage.