A busy year in prospect as our plans for Hemel Hempstead town centre bear fruit

Speaker's Corner
Speaker's Corner
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As we approach Christmas and the New Year, it is a time to reflect on events over the past 12 months and to think about what the year ahead will being.

Over the last year in Dacorum we have spent a lot of time and energy planning and implementing our plans for Hemel Evolution.

This is the name given for the project which will see major regeneration and refurbishment in Hemel Hempstead’s town centre, all the way from the Old Town in the north through to the Plough roundabout in the south.

Work has, of course, started in the Old Town, where the High Street is being reshaped to make it a one-way street and make it more attractive to shoppers. This will be completed early in the new year.

Already it can be seen that this will add to the attractions to the High Street.

Refurbishment of the cellar bar area of the Old Town Hall starts early next year and we’re planning a joint launch event for both of the schemes for June

2014 promises to bring significant progress on our plans for the Water Gardens.

We will be submittting a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in February for the project, which aims to restore the landmark Gardens in line with Geoffrey Jellicoe’s original design.

We expect to hear if we have been successful in the late summer.

In May we will be starting work in the pedestrian zone in Marlowes with a major scheme to enhance the area with a new layout including new seating and lighting as well as a new planting scheme.

We’ll also be creating a new central events area near the existing fountain, which will be replaced with a water feature.

There will also be a new market layout and better control over vehicles entering the pedestrianised area, which will be one way only.

Work is also progressing well on the proposals for the bus interchange, which will see major improvements to the Bridge Street/Marlowes bus and taxi area, again including new seating and lighting as well as new shelters, plants and paving.

The scheme also includes work on Waterhouse Street to provide a new taxi rank and improved parking.

All this work will free up the former market square and bus station for a new leisure development.

Another major scheme within the town centre, linking the old town with the new, is the college and Morrisons development which proposes to provide a new college and foodstore within the town as well as the linked development of a public service quarter bringing council, police and voluntary sector services under one roof with a new modern library at its centre.

Work is due to start on this in late 2014.

All of these plans aim to make the town a more attractive place both for shoppers to visit and for retailers to trade, helping encourage other traders to open stores in Hemel Hempstead and keeping our town thriving and prosperous.

So with thoughts of an exciting year to come, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all residents of Dacorum a happy and peaceful Christmas – and what is shaping up to be a very busy new year.

Councillor Andrew Williams is the leader of Dacorum Borough Council. You can contact him by email at andrew.williams@dacorum.gov.uk of through the Civic Centre on 01442 228000