Plans unveiled for £6.4m Westmill redevelopment

Housing, a new community centre, and redeveloped shops are among the plans

Housing, a new community centre, and redeveloped shops are among the plans - Credit: Archant

A DEPRIVED area of Hitchin could get a multi-million pound facelift and a string of new facilities.

The council wants to put money into redeveloping John Barker Place

The council wants to put money into redeveloping John Barker Place - Credit: Archant

The plans for the Westmill estate will cut anti-social behaviour and improve people’s quality of life, according to North Herts District Council which has unveiled the plans.

Along with North Hertfordshire Homes, it wants to find £6.4million to redevelop John Barker Place by knocking down the community centre and replacing it with a larger one, moving the multi-use games area, and building another informal play area.

There are also plans to rebuild the shops and takeaway, relocate the supermarket to a much larger premises, build 38 affordable homes, and refurbish and landscape the garage areas.

The initial plans have gone down well with locals.

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Speaking to the Comet this week, Milestone Road resident Susan Lawrence said: “It’s a good idea.

“I think they need more up here for the elderly, there’s not much for them here at the moment, and quite a lot of people can’t get out and about.

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“It would be nice to have a park for little ones.”

Jennifer Haynes, who also lives on the estate, added: “A redevelopment would be nice, it needs tidying up a bit.

“There are too many kids hanging around, so it would be good to sort that out.”

A larger scale scheme in 2009 was abandoned, due to lack of funding.

Ward councillor David Billing feels it is time to move on, and is backing the latest plans.

“I think it’s an excellent idea and will be welcomed by most people in Westmill.” he said.

“It’s certainly going to be an improvement on what we have at the moment.”

In a report to cabinet members, officers claim moving the shops and improving the garages will stop youths hanging around, and believe relocating the outdoor play area next door to the community centre will create greater “synergy” between groups.

The report read: “The area of John Barker Place containing the two shops is in poor condition and the surrounding area is poorly designed, contributing to anti-social behaviour.

“It appears relative deprivation in this area is increasing, particularly when compared against its adjoining wards. By 2011 it was ranked the fourth most deprived area in Hertfordshire.”

Councillors are recommended at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting to commit more than £1m for the scheme, to rebuild the community centre, and to produce a development agreement for the regeneration.

If agreed, consultation, full approval and planning consent will follow.

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