Should Stevenage Town Square be protected? Take part in debate over Heritage at Risk listing

The Joyride statue in Stevenage

The Joyride statue in Stevenage - Credit: Archant

Stevenage Town Square has been put on a par with historic churches, Roman villas, shipwrecks and castles by being placed on a Heritage at Risk register – and we want to know what you think about it.

Town Square – which includes the clock tower, fountain and Joyride Platform – has been put on the list compiled by Historic England which identifies those sites that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

It is not the same as Grade I or II listed status, although the clock tower, fountain and Joyride statue are already Grade II-listed.

The register’s aim is to help generate funding and support to protect and promote sites of historic importance.

Stevenage Borough Council nominated the Town Square for the list because it believes it should be preserved for the future and they already sit within a designated Stevenage conservation area.

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Take part on our online poll here to tell us if you think the site should be protected.

The listing has sparked controversy and shows how the council and MPs views are poles apart on the how the town should be preserved and regenerated.

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The town’s MP told the BOB FM radio station this week: “The Town Square is important to a number of people, with the fountain and clock tower.

“But the fact that it’s going to be protected – the whole square – so you can’t do anything to it and it will always look the same, is ridiculous.

“When people talk about regeneration, they want new shops. They want it to look like the 21st century.”

But borough council’s leader Sharon Taylor defended the listing, saying: “Stevenage has an important heritage as Britain’s first post-war new town.

“As the town has now passed its 70th birthday, it is important that we consider how we recognise the role that new towns play in the history of the 20th and 21st centuries and personally I welcome the fact that Historic England take this seriously and seek to protect urban architecture where it is of historic value.

“I also hope the ‘listing’ will help us attract funding to restore our shop frontages and public squares to the pristine condition I remember them having as I grew up here.

“The significant regeneration of Stevenage town centre upon which we are just embarking, will see significant and dramatic – as well as much-needed – change to our town centre. Historic England, and all of us, want to ensure we preserve the very unique history of Stevenage as we do so.”

The council’s deputy leader John Gardner has also hit back at an article in the Daily Mail which made the listing sound like a farce and described the monuments as “a chipped black clock, a shallow fountain blighted by litter and a statue that sits on top of a toilet block”.

He told the Comet: “I think it’s extremely negative, extremely inaccurate. The majority of us live in Stevenage out of choice and have made our living here.

“We are proud of its history and want to build a better future for it.

“The clock tower is an iconic building in its own right. There are very few planning textbooks that don’t have Stevenage Town Square in them as an example of town planning and as for boarded up shops (also mentioned in the article), we’ve got less boarded up shops here than the UK average.”

He added: “We are planning to spend £4.5 million on the town’s conservation areas to bring the properties back to their 1960s standard and restore the coloured panels above the shops.

“It was the first pedestrianised town centre and it was architecture of its time.”

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