‘Nothing sinister’ as new Churchgate plans for Hitchin lodged

Churchgate shopping centre.

Churchgate shopping centre. - Credit: Archant

The latest development in the long-running Churchgate saga has seen planning permission submitted for a general refurbishment of the shopping centre.

The tale of the proposed redevelopment of the prominent Hitchin precinct took another twist when an application was lodged with North Herts District Council for various improvement work on the site.

This follows on from members of the council voting to plough another £40,000 into a valuation of the area, as well as legal and commercial fees in February.

The application summary proposes the removal of existing canopies, provision of new canopies and a high level cover to the Churchgate shopping centre walkway.

The document also applies for alterations to elevations including new bay windows, re-cladding and rendering, as well as new slates and gables. Resurfacing of the walkway and provision of lighting columns are also requested.

The shopping centre is owned by Hammersmatch, with director Graham Payne explaining the company has been asked to resubmit the plans.

Mr Payne – who took over as director from his late father, David, in February – told the Comet: “The existing plans in place for the refurbishment of Churchgate are still in place, but they are about to expire.

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“At the behest of North Herts District Council, we’ve been asked to resubmit the plans to refresh the planning application and keep it alive. I must stress the plan is very much to provide a larger scheme for the town in terms of revamping the area.

“It’s a complicated matter but Hammersmatch and the district council are very much working together to provide a solution to the situation.”

Councillor Richard Thake, whose Priory ward covers Churchgate, added: “My initial reaction is it may well be a backstop by Hammersmatch – my first thoughts are that it is nothing more sinister than that.

“I do believe Churchgate as it stands is a carbuncle, and that something needs to be done.

“Rest assured I am doing all I can to proceed this matter but until I see cast-iron – rather than conceptual – plans for Churchgate and its environs I can’t say too much more at this time.”

l A public consultation is being held from 3pm to 8pm today, at the Hitchin campus of North Herts College in Cambridge Road, to discuss a proposed residential development of the site currently occupied by the Centre of the Arts building, formerly the Provident Mutual office building.