Agenda item

Hemel Hempstead Town Centre Strategy and Design Code for Paradise, Hemel Hempstead


SW introduced the report and said that the Hemel Place Strategy is a piece of work aiming to link everything together that is happening around Hemel Hempstead, pulling together the existing strategies into one vision and one place. It is not merely a particular area of planning. SW explained that Appendix 1 links all the visions that have gone through processes so the strategy is not starting from scratch. A key part of the Hemel Place Strategy is linking the Hemel Garden Communities, the Maylands business area, the town centre, the train station etc so it is all one Hemel Hempstead.  That is the strategic approach.

SW welcomed feedback on the strategy. The strategy needs careful consideration and lots of wider engagement, The KPMG report noted that Hemel Hempstead could suffer with more people working from home and more people not visiting the town centre leading to a reduction in footfall. So intervention is needed as part of the strategy to prevent this. 

The report includes the place shaping approach for the Old Town, which has included a multi discipline team looking at the Old Town and its future.  It is a place shaping approach. Some engagement has already taken place on this with the next community engagement in March 2022.

The Hemel Place board membership includes the private, public and third sector. The board will meet every 2 months and the first board meeting took place in November. This meeting included a session from Thinking Place, a consultancy that has been consulting key stakeholders and also reviewing Berkhamsted and Tring.

There was some criticism from members that the wording used by Thinking Place was meaningless.

SW encouraged everyone to read this alongside the KPMG report which also contained the raw data and analysis.

SW said that Theme 2 concerns treasuring the town as a hub for leisure and culture, whilst acknowledging that the arts and culture offer is poor and needs to improve. The Theme 3, ‘Shrinking and linking’, concerns understanding connectivity points.

Dacorum won a bid from the Department for Levelling Up to pilot Design Codes, resulting in a budget of £50,000 and the appointment of design consultants, Tibbles. The Design Code, as a planning tool, shows how an area could be developed,. Appendix 4 of this report gives some highlights. The final version of the Design Code is due at the end of November and an informal session will be provided for all at that point. Then it will go to scrutiny and cabinet for public consultation before the formal adoption of an SPD.

As a temporary safeguarding expedient, Permitted Development rights have been withdrawn from the town centre area and now planning permission will need to be obtained to convert commercial property into residential use.

Cllr Birnie expressed concern at the lack of back bench Members on the Hemel Place board.

SW confirmed that the board membership included an independent chair, the leaders of the Council and the opposition, the CEO, the executive member from Herts County Council for growth and infrastructure, the Director of Growth from Herts County Council, the Director from the Herts Growth Board, the chairman of Herts LEP, a representative from the Herts CCG, West Herts College, Hemel Garden Communities, Hemel Hempstead Business ambassadors, the CEO of Community Action Dacorum, Homes England, the Department for Levelling Up, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and a representative from the Dacorum Environmental Forum. St Albans will be in the loop via the Hemel Garden Communities board. Large businesses have also been invited to participate.

Cllr Birnie welcomed the appointment of an independent chair, who is not only likely to bring forward fresh ideas but who is likely to be better able to manage the disparate views of the members from the many special interest areas represented.

Cllr AE asked whether a night economy and concert venue was envisages as part of the arts and culture theme.

SW explained that the Levelling Up Fund bid to develop housing in the old market square with a cultural hub component was unsuccessful. The Council can apply again in April and if successful the square could be redeveloped to include an arts component, but a new concert venue would be unfeasibly expensive to build and maintain.

Cllr Birnie asked what type of cultural hub had been envisaged.

SW replied that this had not been decided prior to the bid.

Cllr GS asked how this strategy was relevant to Berkhamstead or Tring.

SW clarified that this strategy is about the whole of Dacorum, and not just Hemel Hempstead. A meeting is being organised with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss Tring and Berkhamsted’s role in this.

Cllr JT queried what mitigation was taking place to combat climate change with the housing strategy and whether the new 11,000 houses would mean that there was less need to build on other greenbelt in the borough. AR confirmed that the most recent version of the Local plan was presented in November last year which included comments and officers are reflecting on these comments.

Cllr Birnie was disappointed that the Boxmoor Trust, a major benefactor in the area and responsible for preserving the moors in the centre of Hemel Hempstead for centuries has not been considered at all in this report.


·                SW to circulate the list of Hemel Place board members.

·                Meeting to take place with the Chamber of Commerce.

·                SW to consider consulting the Boxmore Trust on the strategy.

The report was noted.



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