Stevenage council: 'More flats will bring life to town'
- Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Borough Council
Several separate plans to build flats on pockets of land in Stevenage have sparked concerns the town will become a concrete jungle, but the local authority insists new homes are an essential part of the wider town centre regeneration programme.
Plans - some private, some on council-owned land - include building 200 flats on the former Office Outlet site on Fairlands Way, 526 flats on the former Matalan site in Danestrete and 64 apartments on the car park next to Six Hills House on the corner of Six Hills Way and London Road.
A planning application for 1,500 homes to the west of Stevenage, with proposed access through Meadway and Bessemer Drive, also includes several flat blocks.
When we asked readers if they think Stevenage needs more flats, the overwhelming majority of the 250-plus people who responded were of the opinion it does not.
Stevenage Borough Council, however, insists more homes are necessary and will help boost the local economy. A spokesman explained: "As our town grows and we face a very difficult housing crisis in southern England, we need to make sure there are homes for local people. This includes the 281 council homes we’ve built already and the 300 more that are underway, and apartments in the town centre to accommodate for younger people.
"Having apartments in the town centre helps us to meet local needs, but also helps to bring footfall to things like cafés and restaurants in town.
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"With limited land available in Stevenage, our local plan for housing aims to help create new apartments in the town centre to help bring life and activity to the town, while making provision for family homes in other parts of town.
"We continue to press the government for more funding and freedom to let us build more council homes."
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Addressing concerns new homes could create parking problems, the council says a survey pre-pandemic found around 800 unoccupied parking spaces in the town centre alone every day.
Stevenage town centre is undergoing a 20-year regeneration programme worth nearly £1billion. As well as 7,300 new properties by 2028, the scheme promises improved transport and connectivity links and new shops, bars, restaurants and sports and leisure facilities.
The council spokesman said: "At the heart of the plan is a thriving, sustainable centre; with new leisure facilities for us to enjoy, places for people to work, eat and shop, and new homes.
"This programme is well underway, and needed now more than ever as we get to grips with the impact of COVID-19.
"We’re also benefitting from a major boost in funding after being awarded £37.6m through the government’s Town Deal - the second highest award in the country and mark of confidence in our plans. The funding will contribute to vital projects like a vibrant Garden Square [in the existing bus station site] with cafés and bars, new leisure and sport facilities, and a new Innovation & Technology Centre [to help local people access jobs in the science and engineering businesses based in the town.]
"That variety is exactly what a thriving town centre needs.
"We need to support the recovery of the town, with people visiting, living, working and spending time and money in our town centre, to help breathe new life into it and bring footfall to shops and cafés.
"The changes to Market Place and the upgraded Town Square show the importance of creating an attractive place. Projects in Town Square - to create co-working space for people to work flexibly - and the redevelopment of the former Marks & Spencer to bring a new gym, restaurant, café, office space and flats, underline the importance of creating an attractive place, and help create a town centre that is great in the day and attracts diners and entertainment in the evening.
"We are proud the likes of Marks & Spencer, Five Guys and PureGym, amongst many others, are setting up shop in our town, showing confidence in the future of Stevenage.
"We’re deeply proud of our town and want to make it even better for residents, visitors, businesses and more. Our developments are designed to benefit those who live here.
"This plan has been worked up with contributions from community groups, businesses, community groups and public partners. We are excited to work together as we recover from COVID-19 and create an even better Stevenage."
For more about the regeneration, visit Stevenage-Even-Better.com.