Hitchin play area opens as £20m John Barker Place regeneration gets under way

PUBLISHED: 17:33 30 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:34 30 July 2020

Bim Afolami MP was joined by Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb (R) and Gavin Cansfield (L). Picture: Kevin Lines

Bim Afolami MP was joined by Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb (R) and Gavin Cansfield (L). Picture: Kevin Lines

Kevin Lines Photography

A new play area opened in Hitchin today, marking the first step in housing association Settle’s £20 million John Barker Place redevelopment plans.

The new play park boasts modern facilities and wheelchair accessible options for children of all ages. Picture: Kevin LinesThe new play park boasts modern facilities and wheelchair accessible options for children of all ages. Picture: Kevin Lines

The play park on the edge of Swinburne Avenue playing fields was completed today after a month and a half’s worth of work from contractors, Playground Facilities.

It was opened by Hitchin and Harpenden MP, Bim Afolami, Gavin Cansfield, Settle’s chief executive and Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb, leader of North Herts District Council.

New equipment and wheelchair accessible facilities for children of all ages will now be available to enjoy on the Westmill estate.

Mr Afolami said: “The new play area is a wonderful addition for the local community in Hitchin and a fantastic example of the positive partnership locally that exists between North Hertfordshire District Council and Settle.

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“This is a significant first step for the community and I look forward to welcoming the re-development of John Barker Place in the future.”

Cllr Gary Grindal, NHDC’s executive member for housing and environmental health, said: “This really is a fantastic facility for youngsters and their families. Not only does the play area look like good fun for kids, I am sure it will be a great asset for the area and the families who live there. I would like to thank all those involved in bringing this project to life and hope that the play area becomes a hub for the community to meet, get active and have fun.”

Planning permission for the John Barker regeneration of 83 homes, new shops and play area was granted by NHDC in January this year, with one of the conditions being that the new play area must be completed before building work begins on shops and homes.

The next stage of work for the John Barker Place regeneration is on track to start as planned later this year, and the council has provided almost £1.1 million towards the regeneration project.

Previously, this proposed play area at Swinburne Avenue was criticised by some residents over concerns that the location was out of sight for parents to keep an eye on their children.

A decision on granting planning permission for the play area was denied in November, after NHDC’s planning committee addressed a potential “safeguarding risk” at the site.


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