Stevenage town centre redevelopment to go ahead?

Stevenage town centre

Stevenage town centre - Credit: Archant

Hopes of a major regeneration of Stevenage town centre are alive again, with a potential share in the Government’s £2 billion Local Growth Fund.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has asked the Government to step in and establish a new Stevenage Development Corporation to regenerate the town centre.

The organisation would have the necessary planning powers for a major overhaul.

Mr McPartland has said a share in the Government’s £2 billion Local Growth Fund would enable plans to build a town centre fit for the 21st century to become a reality.

Previous plans for the redevelopment of the town centre have failed to get off the ground.

Stevenage Borough Council’s (SBC) Town Centre Regeneration Strategy was published in 2002.

Money ploughed into the regeneration was set to total £500 million, but plans submitted in March 2010 by Stevenage Regeneration Limited totalled just £250m.

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This scaled back scheme was eventually scrapped in May 2012 due to continuing adverse economic conditions.

SBC’s leader Sharon Taylor said at the time that the regeneration “remains a key priority for the council”.

In the council’s budget for 2014/15, announced earlier this month, SBC had earmarked just £1m for it.

Mr McPartland said: “Our town centre is beng left behind.

“Stevenage Borough Council has talked about regenerating our town centre for decades, but cannot give up its addiction to £3million in car parking charges, which blocks every regeneration attempt.

“These car parking charges kill every regeneration project and drive people to simply shop elsewhere.

“It is time for radical action.”

Mr McPartland has written to the Government’s Minister for Cities and Regeneration, Greg Clark, asking for a Stevenage Development Corporation to be established to regenerate the town centre, which could then be backed by his £2 billion investment fund.

“It is clear that to undertake such a radical improvement, a development corporation has to be established under energetic and independent leadership,” he said.

“It would have its own planning powers and ability to compulsory purchase the property needed.

“Many people will have positive memories of the old development corporation and some will not, but this is the only way we will get our town centre regenerated.”

Mr McPartland has dismissed a funding bid for growth from the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as “a sad joke”.

The LEP - a partnership of local businesses, academia, not-for-profit organisations and local government with a remit to boost the local economy - has submitted a £46 million bid to the Government for 2015/16.

The LEP has requested £930,000 for short-term upgrades to the A1(M), £2 million to accelerate housing in Stevenage, and £2.85 million to support Hertfordshire’s 52,000 private businesses.

Mr McPartland said: “Very few local people or businesses were consulted and the section on regenerating Stevenage is nothing more than a sad joke on local people.”

He said the Stevenage Development Corporation, once in place, would hold an international competition for the best architects to design the town centre.

“We have a real opportunity to create a modern, multifaceted, 21st century town centre here in Stevenage and I believe we must take it,” he said.