Work begins on £20m John Barker Place regeneration

workers building construction

Pictures show the first work beginning at Hitchin's £20million John Barker Place regeneration. - Credit: Kevin Lines

Construction work has begun on the first phase of the £20 million John Barker Place regeneration project in Hitchin, almost one year on from planning permission being granted by NHDC.

Planning permission for the highly anticipated Westmill project was granted on January 24, 2020 - marking the end of a saga that spanned more than a decade.

On January 18, settle’s development partner, Jarvis Contracting, began preparing the site of the old playground for building work to start on Phase 1 of the redevelopment - after a new playground had already been installed in Swinburne Playing Fields last summer.

The redevelopment project - which is being led by North Herts-based housing association settle - has been broken down into three phases.

concept image new housing and shops

A concept image of John Barker Place, in Westmill. - Credit: settle

Phase 1 features a three to five-storey red-brick block of retirement living apartments and a supermarket and food takeaway unit.

Phase 2, scheduled to begin in Spring 2022, will be predominantly buff and grey bricks, is a mix of 83 affordable housing and open market units.

Phase 3, which is the largest redevelopment scheme and remains at the outline stage, involves replacing the whole of Freemans Close with 32 one and two-bed apartments, 14 three-bedroom houses and a children's play area.

Gavin Cansfield, settle's chief executive, said: “We’re delighted to have reached this exciting milestone on our biggest regeneration project to date. It’s a really important moment for residents and settle colleagues as we continue investing in the Westmill community.

John Barker Place is undergoing a £20 million regeneration project after funding from housing associ

Housing association settle say they are investing more than £20m into the regeneration plans. - Credit: Archant

“I would like to thank our partners including North Herts District Council, local councillors and residents for their ongoing support, and those affected by some of the changes that have been made in the local area in preparation for this development work.

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"We will continue to use all opportunities to hear from Westmill residents as we move forwards with the project to make sure this brings as many benefits as possible to everyone living nearby.”

The regeneration of John Barker Place featured in NHDC's commitment to provide good quality and affordable social housing in their 2020-2025 plan, indicating the wider council's support for the redevelopment plans to go ahead.

Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, commented: “I welcome the news that the regeneration project at John Barker Place in Hitchin has begun. This is a great investment into the Westmill community and another sign of the positive partnership locally that exists between North Hertfordshire District Council and settle.

“While I appreciate there is some way to go until it is completed, I look forward to seeing this project finished in the years to come and the benefits it will bring to this area of Hitchin. Well done to everyone involved.”

Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb, council leader at NHDC, added: “We are excited to see this project going ahead which meets a key Council Plan objective to support the delivery of good quality social housing. We look forward to continuing our partnership with settle as the development takes shape.”

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