On your marks for a new look to Marlowes, and much more

Speaker's Corner
Speaker's Corner

Last month in this column I talked about the exciting year ahead for Dacorum with progress being made on several major schemes in the borough.

This month I thought I’d update you with more details of when you can expect to see change happening.

While we continue with the Old Town improvements, we will also be starting soon to prepare where staff from our Hemel Hempstead Civic Centre will go once they move out this summer.

Most of our services will move to 39/41 Marlowes – the former Gazette offices and business centre in the red brick building opposite the Civic Centre – and will remain available to the public in the same way as now.

This building is now empty and we will be appointing a contractor soon to carry out the necessary internal alterations.

But as this is a temporary home, we’re keeping this work to a minimum.

The remaining services will move into the former magistrates’ court building next door to the existing Civic Centre.

Looking ahead to creating our permanent home, we will be ready to award the contract for the new ‘public service quarter’ and the regeneration of the old Market Square in April.

At the same time, we’re also preparing our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to renovate the Water Gardens for the February deadline.

We expect to hear the decision in June, with work due to start in Spring 2015.

This proposal includes funding for long term maintenance so that once refurbished, the gardens remain in the condition we all want to see.

But the biggest change we will see this year will be on Marlowes.

We start work in the spring on a major refurbishment of the pedestrian zone.

This involves new paving, seating, lighting and planting along the length of the pedestrian area, as well as a new events area near Bank Court, which is itself being upgraded.

To help minimise traffic in this zone we are creating a new exit between Next and Primark so that vehicles won’t need to turn and travel back through Marlowes.

Entry bollards will also be replaced, which will help reduce the number of vehicles in the area.

Another very important part of Dacorum Borough Council’s plans for the next 12 months is the development of new affordable housing.

The demand for council housing continues to increase and I am delighted that after nearly 20 years Dacorum is now able to build new homes for rent.

We’ve already started work on the first of three new sites in Gadebridge, Berkhamsted and Tring, as well as the new 41-bed homeless hostel on Redbourn Road.

As well as our own new housing we are continuing to work with local housing associations, especially the Maylands-based Hightown Praetorian & Churches, which will soon be starting work on building the 87 new homes planned for the former Royal Mail sorting office site in the town centre.

So it’s onwards and upwards for Dacorum. We’re already full steam ahead.

Councillor Andrew Williams is leader of Dacorum Borough Council. Email him on andrew.williams@dacorum.gov.uk