A blow for Market Square traders? Town site to be taken up by contractor compound

Market Square, Hemel Hempstead
Market Square, Hemel Hempstead

Hemel Hempstead’s Market Square is to be dwarfed by a site compound for the contractors behind much of the town’s regeneration projects.

Greenford Ltd – which is carrying out improvements to the Marlowes including planting new trees on behalf of Dacorum Borough Council – will take up residence in the open space opposite Midland Road from Monday, until the scheme of works is completed next autumn.

As part of the move, the Wednesday antiques and bric-a-brac market will relocate to the Marlowes pedestrianised shopping area. Market operator Gary Saunders said: “I think it is a good thing for us because the Wednesday market is isolated from the other markets we have in the town, and it will give exposure to some of the really interesting collectables stalls we have.

“It is arguably not great for some of the other retailers there, but change is coming for the Market Square in future anyway.”

The site has been earmarked as a potential leisure facility by the borough council, which could feature another multiplex cinema for the town as well as more restaurants.

Tony Griffin, who has run Market Square barbers Masterstyle for 37 years, said the move of the market and installation of screens for the site compound will affect his and other businesses in the area.

The zone has already suffered from a reduction in footfall after the decommissioning of the bus station.

Tony said: “I can see this being similar to the Old Town fiasco, where you have shops going out of business. It’s already pretty hard at the moment.

“The improvements to the town always seem to be half-hearted and just about making it look nice, but we need some substance in the pie.

“They are just papering over the cracks. Hemel is dying, and it is such a pity.”

But council leader Andrew Williams said the aim is to give the Market Square a new purpose and create a focal point in the northern area of the town centre.

He explained: “Businesses currently located there are in prime position to benefit from the new leisure complex and new bus interchange.

“We wrote to all the businesses back in October inviting them along to an exhibition to find out more about our plans – or to meet at another time convenient to them.

“Until this redevelopment begins, our contractor Greenford will be liaising closely with local businesses about what’s happening and it will be business as usual – with the added benefit of the daily footfall of their employees going to and from the base.

“We’re now seeing regeneration in action – and although we’re doing everything possible to keep disruption to a minimum, we do ask everyone to bear with us while the town centre transformation takes place.”

Affected businesses can contact James Doe, Dacorum’s assistant director for planning and regeneration, by calling 01442 228000 or emailing james.doe@dacorum.gov.uk.

For queries about the new site compound or Marlowes improvement works, call Tara McCartney on 01442 267 408 or 07879 993325, email marlowes@greenford.ltd.uk or drop in at the Greenford Ltd Office at 250 Marlowes, Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 4.30pm.