North Hertfordshire College plans to sell Hitchin site for housing development

Artists impression of the redevelopment at the Centre for the Arts site on Willian Road, Hitchin

Artists impression of the redevelopment at the Centre for the Arts site on Willian Road, Hitchin - Credit: Archant

A college has announced plans to sell one of its sites for housing so it can raise funds for the renovation of another campus.

North Hertfordshire College (NHC) held a public exhibition last week to showcase plans to build 89 homes and a food store for its Centre for the Arts site in Willian Road, Hitchin.

The site’s sale would be used to fund the refurbishment of the former Letchworth Grammar School building in Broadway, Letchworth GC, which is to house the Da Vinci Studio School of Creative Enterprise from September.

The money would also be used to build a new creative arts building on land currently occupied by the adjacent Da Vinci Hall building, formerly called Plinston, which would be demolished if plans are approved.

The proposed housing development in Hitchin, which has yet to be submitted to North Herts District Council (NHDC) as a planning application, consists of a mix of three and four bedroom houses and one and two bedroom apartments.

Allan Tyrer, executive director of commercial and finance at NHC, said: “The current facilities at the Centre for the Arts in Hitchin were designed and built for commercial purposes – as a result extensive work has been undertaken by the college to improve the facilities and bring them up to educational standards. These previous works have been expensive and the college has been advised that £1 million is required in the immediate future just to maintain the building. The sale of the site will provide the funding required to develop a new creative campus in Letchworth GC.​

“The college invited local residents, stakeholders and business owners to an exhibition of the redevelopment last week, which was very well attended.”

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The plans have been critised by businesses situated close of the Willian Road site, with fears the food store would impact on trade.

Silvio Marabese, the owner of Polcaro’s Fish and Chips, which is situated opposite the college on Cambridge Road, said: “I agree we need more housing but the food store which being proposed could end up having an impact on businesses.”

Councillor Bernard Lovewell, who represents the Walsworth ward for NHDC, said the exhibition “wasn’t very widely publicised”.

He added: “We need housing but there is a great deal of concern regarding the food store on the development, which could impact the existing businesses in Walsworth.”