Joint venture idea for Hitchin Churchgate regeneration backed by council

A joint venture idea for the regeneration of Hitchin Churchgate has been backed by district councill

A joint venture idea for the regeneration of Hitchin Churchgate has been backed by district councillors. Picture: Harry Hubbard - Credit: Archant

The regeneration of Hitchin’s Churchgate shopping centre is back on the table after district councillors agreed to support the principle of a joint venture at a meeting last night.

Full council met to discuss whether to pursue a partnership between North Herts District Council and Shearer Property Group, which hopes to develop the town centre site.

Further work will now be undertaken to examine the detail of the proposals and negotiations between the two parties will now be progressed on the terms of a potential joint venture. Full council will then have final approval on the terms of any proposal.

District council leader Lynda Needham said: “It is still early days for this potential regeneration proposal, with a number of challenges to overcome.

“However, we are hopeful that a viable scheme which seeks to regenerate the existing Churchgate centre, while providing enhanced open space and investment in the market can be put forward to council for approval at a later date.”

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Possible plans in the report discussed last night include having a new frontage and roof put in, and reconfiguration of some units to make them better suited to the desired tenants.

The report also proposes bringing the running of the town’s market in house.

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Hitchin town centre manager Keith Hoskins, who attended last night’s meeting and welcomed the joint venture announcement with “cautious optimism”, told the Comet: “One of the council’s recommendations spoke of the need to take back the management of Hitchin Market when the current agreement expires at the end of July to facilitate negotiations on the whole parcel of land that is publicly owned – that is not to say that they will necessarily retain it once the investment and refurbishment has been carried out.

“However, such a move would seem premature – why not extend the agreement on a rolling basis until such time as there is definition to the project?

“For NHDC to take it back would involve them in considerable expense in staffing and supervision costs at a time when their finances are stretched to say the least!”

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