A multi-million pound project to rehouse vital council and community services in the heart of Hemel Hempstead broke new ground today (Thursday, July 30).
The future occupants of The Forum, which is due to open in early 2017, gathered for the first time today (Thursday, July 30) to witness the first stage of construction on the corner of Marlowes and Combe Street.
The purpose-built and energy efficient 75,000 sq ft building will collate different community services together all under one roof.
Surrounded by a new modern apartment complex and a privately-funded leisure scheme to the south, The Forum will rejuvenate the Gade Zone area of the town centre.
The development is part of Dacorum Borough Council’s Hemel Evolution regeneration programme and is being delivered by private sector partners Endurance Estates and R G Carter.
Rob Carter, director of R G Carter Construction, said: “The Forum is an innovative alliance between the various public and voluntary sector partners and the private sector.
“We will not only deliver a striking building to help the regeneration of the area, but a very cost-effective office solution.”
Space for The Forum has been created by demolishing a number of inefficient, outdated buildings.
The old library and magistrate’s court have already gone, and the health centre and, ultimately, the civic centre, will later follow.
So what’s going where? Organisations moving in to The Forum include:
• Dacorum Borough Council
• Hertfordshire County Council’s library and registration service
• Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Safer Neighbourhood Team
• Mediation Hertfordshire
• Dacorum Community Trust
• Citizens Advice Bureau
Dacorum Borough Council leader Andrew Williams said: “Witnessing the progress being made behind the hoarding, it really brings home to you just what our Hemel Evolution programme is achieving.
“Joining forces with our colleagues in the public and voluntary sector makes a lot of sense for the taxpayer and the local community.
“Our organisation alone will save around £300,000 in running costs each year through the move, while the existing Civic Centre would have needed £5 million to refurbish it, plus substantial on-going investment.”
Councillor Chris Hayward, Herts County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance, said: “We are looking forward to moving the library and registration service into the Forum.
“These state of the art facilities for Hemel Hempstead and Dacorum residents could only be achieved through partnership working and we are delighted to be involved in this innovative scheme which will be beneficial to residents and allows us to get better value for taxpayers’ money.”
April Trawicki, CEO for Relate Dacorum, Watford and Three Rivers, said: “Moving our relationship counselling service to The Forum means we can focus more on people, not bricks and mortar.
“The cost savings achieved by moving means we can offer more local people access to specialist relationship support.
“There’s a natural synergy between the functions and services being offered there and we can’t wait to be part of it all.”
Maria Kraithman, Mediation Hertfordshire manager, said: “We’re pleased to be moving into a central location, which will make it easier for local residents to access our services.
“We are looking forward to closer working relationships with the other voluntary sector partners and Dacorum Borough Council.”
Margaret Kingston, Dacorum Community Trust manager, said: “DCT is excited to be moving to The Forum and being at the heart of the Borough.
“The move will enable us to work even more closely with our partner organisations, ensuring more local people will get the support needed to resolve their problems.”
Victoria MacGregor, CEO for Dacorum Citizens Advice, said: “We are very much looking forward to bringing our services into the Forum so that everyone can get access to our free and confidential advice.
“We can advise on virtually any issue, including benefits, money and credit problems, employment, housing, consumer rights and family and personal issues.
“Being in The Forum will bring Citizens Advice together with other valuable local services so we can all give better support to the people in our community.”
Safer Neighbourhood Inspector for Dacorum, George Holland said: “The Safer Neighbourhood Team will be moving to The Forum, however the police station in Combe Street will continue to remain operational and house the borough’s command team and a number of teams, including intervention, who respond to emergency 999 calls.
“Options are also being considered to relocate the police station to an alternative location as part of the ‘Gade Zone’ redevelopment but no decisions have as yet been made.
“The Safer Neighbourhood Team is made up of sergeants, PCs and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who work proactively with residents and partner agencies to find long term solutions to issues including anti-social behaviour.
So their base in the new facility at the Forum will result in more effective and closer partnership working with colleagues in Dacorum Borough Council, and ultimately benefit the community.
“I would use this opportunity to remind people that whilst Hemel Hempstead continues to be an operational police station, there is no front counter service.
“Nowadays most enquiries can be carried out over the phone via the non-emergency number 101, but if you are required to attend a police station the nearest with a front counter service is in Watford.”