Agenda item

Public Participation

To consider questions (if any) by members of the public of which the appropriate notice has been given to the Assistant Director (Legal & Democratic Services)


The Mayor introduced Mr Mike Ridley, who submitted a question to be addressed to the Leader of the Council, Cllr Ron Tindall.


Mr Ridley read out his question as follows;


‘Bearing in mind that in the Hemel Hempstead Town Centre Master Plan the Market Square was earmarked as a “Leisure Zone”, and now that the square has been provisionally allocated for the delivery of a Health Campus, what are the Borough’s plans for delivering a leisure zone, including a much called-for multi-purpose Arts Venue, which would enliven the Town Centre with a crowd drawing cultural community asset, funded perhaps by section 106 or CIL money from the developers of the Hemel Garden Community and the increased income from Council Tax that the population expansion will yield?’


Cllr Tindall responded by advising that The administration is keen to improve Hemel Hempstead’s cultural and leisure offer. Last year we published the new Hemel Hempstead Town Centre Vision which recognises this and one of the eight objectives we have set is specifically aimed at doing this. The previous Town Centre Masterplan was published over ten years ago now, in 2013. Much of its aims have been achieved. It didn’t propose a ‘Leisure Zone’ on the former Market Square, but set out proposals to allow for “a range of leisure, retail, business and cultural facilities with new housing” in that part of the town centre.


Circumstances have changed over the past decade, and this is why we have brought forward a revised strategy for the next stages in Hemel Town Centre’s future. Delivery of a new Health Campus, working with our NHS partners, presents an important opportunity for the town and would secure the regeneration of the former Market Square.


But we remain committed to growing the cultural and leisure offer to our residents, visitors and businesses. The new Town Centre Vision sets an ambitious framework for the future to harness investment and deliver ambitious regeneration. We are working with the development and investment sector to deliver this vision, which includes leisure uses and supporting development of the evening economy. 


Officers will be embarking on the production of a cultural strategy for the whole of Dacorum this year, with a particular focus on how we can improve the offer in Hemel Town Centre, and a new Head of Arts and Culture is joining the Council next week to lead on this work.


Furthermore we will be delivering the Hemel Imaginarium – an exciting programme of community activities and meanwhile uses to drive footfall and activity in the town centre, many of which will have an arts, culture or sports based theme. We are delivering this working with partners such as Sunnyside, Frogmore Paper Mill, Apex 360 and Hemel BID.


Over the course of this year, therefore, we will be looking forward to both developing the new cultural strategy and seeking to make provision for the arts, culture and new leisure wherever possible as the town centre changes and develops. We look forward to engaging the community and our partner organisations through the Hemel

Place Board in these plans as they evolve.


Securing developer contributions through the section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy routes will have an important part to play and we will of course be seeking to maximise these wherever possible. The outward expansion of the town through Hemel Garden Communities is some years off as our new Local Plan progresses and master planning work for this transformative programme continues.


Cllr Tindall summed up by expressing his hope that when we get through the next year or two and we can indulge in discussion on how we can develop the activities of the town over all.


The Mayor invited Mr Ridley to ask a supplementary question, to which he responded; I am wondering, with all these ideals, if the Borough has thoroughly investigated the merits of a health hub versus an arts centre on what is known as the market square as this would revitalise the town centre taking into account both the daytime and night economy?


Cllr Tindall responded that ideally we would like both, but unfortunately at the moment the only option in prospect is the health campus as the NHS have been very willing to engage and talk with us.  The financing of a health campus versus an arts and leisure facility are completely different and we would hope that over the coming years most of the funding for the health centre will come from central government.  When it comes to an Arts and leisure centre, we have a new officer joining us next week; to know what we want and to set those important conversations with interested parties, it is necessary to get this officer in post and then look at what the gaps are in this provision across the Borough to develop a robust plan going forward.


The Mayor thanked Mr Ridley for his question and Cllr Tindall for his response.