Hatfield 2030+ Renewal Partnership and Hatfield Town Centre

Hatfield Renewal Partnership began its work to devise a long-term plan for the future renewal of Hatfield to 2030 and beyond. As a result consultation and engagement with key stakeholders, businesses, community groups and residents took place under the ‘Hatfield 2030+’ branding and the Hatfield 2030 website to better understand the town’s potential, its future challenges and to identify solutions.


Hatfield

 

The Hatfield Renewal Partnership was formed in 2015 to bring together stakeholders including Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, University of Hertfordshire, Oaklands College, Hatfield Town Council, Greenwich Leisure Limited, Goodman Business Park, Gascoyne Cecil Estates, Herts Local Enterprise Partnership and Hertfordshire County Council. It meets quarterly under the title of the Hatfield Renewal Partnership Board and is chaired by Professor Quentin McKellar, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire. Officers from the council provide support to the Board meeting.

Hatfield Renewal Partnership began its work to devise a long-term plan for the future renewal of Hatfield to 2030 and beyond. As a result consultation and engagement with key stakeholders, businesses, community groups and residents took place under the ‘Hatfield 2030+’ branding and the Hatfield 2030 website to better understand the town’s potential, its future challenges and to identify solutions.

The work resulted in the publication of Hatfield New Town Renewal Framework and a new vision for Hatfield to become:  “A well-connected, distinctive and multi-centred town with a renewed ‘New Town’ pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit. A town that re-balances economic growth and world class education assets with new and rejuvenated housing, excellent community, culture, retail and leisure facilities and a series of connected urban centres.”   

The Renewal Framework sets out the blueprint for Hatfield Town Centre Regeneration.  In recent years, the council has invested in excess of £15million on Hatfield Town Centre regeneration, which included:

  • acquisition of key town centre assets to give us greater control over redevelopment plans
  • replacement of first floor facades, canopy and lighting to mixed use areas about the town
  • full refurbishment of 19 flats around White Lion Square which go towards meeting local housing need
  • refurbishment of a number of shop fronts and internal refits for new and existing retailers and businesses.
  • renovating White Lion House, including new windows and a full internal refit, to accommodate the Hatfield housing office and Community Hub in a central location
  • a new, glazed, substantial canopy for The Arcade
  • attracted a varied mix of new retailers to the town, including national chains and independent shops, contributing to the comparison spend in Hatfield increasing by over 20 per cent
  • stimulating the local economy as evidenced by Experian, who advise that the comparison spend for the wider Hatfield area has grown from £182.2 million in 2014 to £221 million by 2017; a 21.29 per cent. increase.  

During 2018, the council was able to build on the spirit of Hatfield Renewal Framework and achieved the following:  

  • Securing £1.2million grant from Hertfordshire LEP to renovate White Lion Square Public Realm. The council awarded the contract to Borras Construction Ltd in December 2018, the work is due to commence in January 19 and the completion date will be Summer 2018.  
  • Securing £4.8million grant from Hertfordshire LEP to construct a Multi-Storey Car Park in The Common, thereby freeing up a number of surfaced car park sites in Hatfield Town Centre for housing development. The council awarded the contract to Bourne Parking Ltd in December 2018. The council will be working with Bourne Parking on the design and planning application stage during 2019.  
  • Securing £3.7million grant from Homes England under the Accelerated construction programme (see separate case study) to progress further with 1, 3-9 Hatfield Town Centre development.   

The challenge

Managing different expectations of stakeholders  Through the planning application process on 1, 3-9 Hatfield Town Centre, the council received an objection from Historic England primarily related to the height of the building.  During 2018, the council commissioned a Townscape and Heritage study and proactively engaged with Gascoyne Cecil Estates and Historic England to reach a common position.    

Public influence on the design of White Lion Square Public Realm project  There was public demand to bring the sculpture called “The Pearl” back to Hatfield Town Centre.

The solution  

The council takes an active part in the Hatfield Renewal Partnership and also manages the Hatfield 2030+ website.  At the Renewal Partnership Board meeting in November 2018, the Townscape and Heritage study produced by the council was endorsed by Gascoyne Cecil Estates as well as the rest of the partnership.  The council is able to move a major step forward on the 1,3-9 Hatfield Town Centre as well as the Multi-Storey car park.  

The design of the White Lion Square Public Realm takes into account the extensive public engagement exercise that we had carried out in 2015, then 2017 as well as formal consultation as part of the planning process in early 2018, it has taken into account the views of residents, businesses, workers and visitors on what they wish to see in the square.  In particular, we also worked with the local paper (Welwyn Hatfield Times), to carry out an online poll to gauge whether the public would like to see the return of the Pearl sculpture. The council subsequently modified the design of the public realm to bring the Pearl back to Hatfield.  Due to the extensive public engagement, there was no objections received on the public realm planning application. 

The impact

The council’s work and commitment to the regeneration of Hatfield Town Centre as well as the partnership working through the Hatfield Renewal Board has been awarded with significant £10million of national funding.  The council’s regeneration work has also been recognised nationally and has been shortlisted for the “Driving Growth” LGC Award.  
In 2009, Hatfield Town Centre featured in the Guardian newspaper as a rundown town in desperate need for regeneration.  It stated that:  

“The remaining shops, surrounding cracked paving stones and pools of water in a large, deserted square, struggle to survive alongside boarded-up and shuttered units. As a testament to the vagaries of 1960s architecture, this is as bad as it gets.”  

After the multi-million pound investment by the Borough Council, Hatfield was quoted in The Times in December 2017 as “Rising Stars” as has been placed top of Savills’ league of upwardly mobile towns.  Hatfield is also featured in Totally Money in March 2018 as one of the best commuter hotspots.   

How is the approach being sustained?  

The Hatfield Town Centre programme is continuing to be supported by the council’s capital programme and is one of the key priorities in the Business Plan.  It is further supported by a Cross Party Hatfield Town Centre Member Board.  

The council also has a Corporate Group, including officers from a number of service teams and meets monthly to ensure that the regeneration plan continues.  

Engagement with the business community continues to take place through the borough’s Business Forum, which is chaired by Executive Member for Regeneration.  We continue to engage with key stakeholders through the Hatfield Renewal Board. 

Lessons learned

Through the planning application process for 1, 3-9, Hatfield Town Centre, we recognise the importance heritage assets in our design process. The council is working with key stakeholders on the next stage of the project.  

It is also important to keep a good working relationship with the LEP as they provide vital support in our regeneration process