Topping out ceremony held at new bus interchange

The event was attended by representatives from Stevenage Borough Council, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and contractors Willmott Dixon.  A ‘topping out’ ceremony is traditionally held once the last beam has been placed on top of a new construction in the building trade.

Work started on the project in late 2020, part-funded by a £9.6m Local Growth Fund investment from Hertfordshire LEP, with Willmott Dixon working ahead of schedule to complete the first stages of the transport hub. The development will drastically improve transport links across the town, provide wider accessibility and align with the newly-regenerated Town Centre.  Works on the interchange should be completed in the coming months with services commencing thereafter.

The interchange features an extensive canopy with a large glazed screen and automatic doors for easy passenger access. It also includes a passenger facilities building which provides a waiting area with extensive seating, live passenger information boards, a café kiosk and public conveniences as well as greatly-improved accessibility features.

External works include a new high-quality connection linking the bus interchange, town square and the train station ensuring a clear connection between the existing cycle network and bus and rail networks and providing integrated links between Stevenage’s main transport hubs.

Cllr Sharon Taylor OBE, Leader of Stevenage Borough Council said:

“We are delighted to carry out this ceremony with our partners and to see the incredible progress that Willmott Dixon has made on such a key project. The interchange is a pivotal part of the early stages of our ongoing 20-year regeneration programme, and, when open, will provide a massive improvement on the existing setup.”

Cllr John Gardner, Executive Portfolio Holder for Regeneration & Environment at Stevenage Borough Council, added:

“The new interchange will offer a boost to the town at a time when we’re all looking to push forward following the impact of the pandemic. It links more effectively with the newly expanded railway station and will enable a new Garden Square to be delivered at the location of the old site. This is a really exciting time for Stevenage and we’re very happy to meet with our partners today, all of whom have been integral to the success of our regeneration programme.”

We are delighted with the progress made to date on the new interchange” commented Adam Wood, Head of Infrastructure & Regeneration at Hertfordshire LEP, “which will not only improve connectivity and transport links within Stevenage but also provide an attractive gateway for visitors that befits the redeveloped Town Centre. The scheme forms a key part of our £34m Local Growth Fund investment towards the town’s regeneration, set to help bring forth new homes, public amenities, and retail and business space to maximise the town’s economic potential.”

Chris Tredget, Managing Director at Willmott Dixon concluded:

“It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate the ‘topping out’ of Stevenage’s new Bus Interchange and all of the progress made so far. Once completed, the project will make a real difference to the transport links in the town and we’re proud to be working alongside Stevenage Borough Council and Hertfordshire LEP to deliver the first stage of the town’s regeneration programme.” 

Reef to develop £50m Queensway North scheme

Property Week – Reef to develop £50m Queensway North scheme with backing from Aviva
Guy Montague-Jones
13 December 2018

Stevenage Borough Council, mixed-use developer Reef Group and Aviva Investors have teamed up to deliver a £50m regeneration scheme in Stevenage.

The Queensway North regeneration scheme will transform the former Marks & Spencer store and adjoining retail parade in the Hertfordshire town into a mixed-use scheme consisting of 45,000 sq ft of new retail and restaurant space, a gym, new offices, an innovation and technology centre, and 116 flats.

Planning permission was obtained in August of this year and construction will start early next year. The first phase comprising the commercial aspect of the scheme is scheduled to complete at the end of 2019 and the second residential phase is due to be completed 12 months later at the end of 2020.

Development of the Queensway North area forms the first phase of Stevenage council’s £1bn, 20-year regeneration programme.

Leader of Stevenage Borough Council Sharon Taylor said: “Our vision is to reinvigorate the centre of Stevenage, and with Reef Group now on board we’re in a great position to deliver on this vision.”

Aviva Investors is funding the scheme.

Mark Wells, director of Aviva Investors, added: “We are delighted to have entered into this long term partnership with Stevenage Borough Council and Reef Group. Reef and the Council have impressive plans for the scheme which will give the town centre a new lease of life, supporting both housing need and economic development.”

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Stevenage – a journey to utopia

Town and Country Planning Association
Cllr Sharon Taylor OBE, Leader of Steveange Borough Council and Cllr John Gardner, Executive Councillor for Environment & Regeneration at Stevenage Borough Council
December 2018

‘Can towns be built in which all kinds of people can live and work together happily and productively? Towns with plenty of shops and cinemas, health centres and schools, but in a setting where the trees and fields of the countryside are never far away? Those associated with New Town projects believe the answer is yes.’

So reads an excerpt from a late-1940s copy of The New Town of Stevenage publication. Over 70 years on from the creation of the UK’s first New Town, and with large-scale regeneration plans for the town already in motion, the sentiment from the above quote remains just as relevant for us at Stevenage Borough Council today as it was back then.

The pioneering Stevenage New Town designated in 1946 created neighbourhoods and communities, provided new modern homes, brought culture to the town, attracted businesses, and created a sense of civic pride. Seven decades on, we have the very same aspirations for today’s residents. We want to invest for the future, and reinvigorate, improve and develop our entire town so that we can create new and promising opportunities for future generations.

Originally a quiet farming town of just 6,000 people, Stevenage was the first New Town site chosen under the 1946 New Towns Act, in a development programme implemented by the government to tackle slum overcrowding in London and to rebuild post-war Britain. Throughout the process of re-making Stevenage, the town went from strength to strength; the population swelled with people looking for their own home near the countryside, a range of multinational corporations and small businesses set up shop and provided jobs, and the Queen paid a visit to open up the UK’s first pedestrianised, traffic-free shopping zone.

Over the next three decades, an arts and leisure centre (including the Gordon Craig Theatre), the Westgate Shopping Centre and the Plaza were added to the town centre.

Stevenage today

Now, Stevenage has a population of 87,000, is home to some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical, aerospace, and defence companies, and still has a range of retail and shopping options. While this may paint a pretty picture, there are, however, critical issues which need to be addressed in Stevenage, as in other New Towns.

To the naked eye, the most evident area in need of some attention is the slightly dated shopping area in the town centre. The once-popular concrete style, which embraced modernism and is still on show in Stevenage, is not quite as in vogue as it once was, and makes the town square and many of the shops look a little unloved.

A less visible problem lies with the enforced sales of New Town assets following the 1979 general election – the way in which assets were sold off to private landowners, and the issues this caused, have been well documented. Our ambitious 20-year regeneration programme aims to address these issues, restoring Stevenage back to its former glory and making it even better.

The iconic clocktower in Stevenage's centre in it's heyday

The Market Place shopping street in it's heyday

The Stevenage regeneration framework

With our £1billion regeneration plans, we are transforming Stevenage into a place where people can live, work and enjoy life to the fullest, through significant improvements to aspects of both urban life and rural escape. We have planned a number of schemes to regenerate Stevenage, which are set to be completed over a 20-year programme. The schemes are contained within the framework for Stevenage Central, produced for us by David Lock Associates.

The schemes consist of a mix of multi-million pound, residential-led, mixed-use developments that will breathe new life into the town centre, as well as significant transport and public realm improvements. The renewal will follow the same principles employed when building the 1946 New Town, adapted for a modern setting. Just as the former Development Corporation did, we will deliver high-quality housing fit for the demands of this day and age, with more green spaces and amenities on people’s doorsteps.

In post-war Britain, the people flocked to Stevenage to take advantage of job opportunities with easy access to the countryside. Whereas Stevenage’s pioneers would have moved to within a 30-minute cycle or walk from their work, now Stevenage gives commuters the enviable option of utilising excellent transport connections into Central London and Cambridge in the same amount of time. The additional housing and town improvements will put Stevenage back on the map for our population, as well as for anyone wanting to make the move out of London to homes where residents can get the best of both working in the city and living in the countryside.

We have already started to reinvigorate our high streets by renovating areas of the town centre, with added green spaces, dedicated seating areas, and children’s play equipment. A refreshed town centre, with added street lighting and a more inviting environs, also aims to reboot a once-thriving evening economy. These improvements, along with significant mixed-use retail, residential and public realm plans, will rejuvenate the town centre and make Stevenage the exciting destination it once was.

While the town will be getting a significant facelift over the next 20 years, one of the key principles of our regeneration scheme is to make sure that it is still recognisable, treasuring and protecting the historic landmarks and countryside that make Stevenage unique. To ensure this is the case, inspiration for many of the new buildings and developments draws on Stevenage’s rich culture and heritage, and we will be working to make sure that there will be no unsightly juxtaposition between the old and new.

Regeneration challenges

Just as the initial planning of the 1946 New Town was faced with some considerable opposition, our regeneration will not be without its challenges either – but we are well equipped to tackle them head on.

There is no better example than the Local Plan, which was found to be sound by the government’s own inspector over a year ago, yet continues to be affected by a holding direction without any resolution. In the meantime, the council has continued to press ahead with the procurement of our development partner Mace, has supported the regeneration of Park Place, and has delivered a range of public realm improvements.

The wide mix of land ownerships has also been a significant challenge. Delivering wholesale regeneration on the scale needed to boost the town centre is difficult to deliver when land has been sub-divided and leases sold off. The council has worked over the past few years to consolidate land ownership, and it has been the vital partnership working together with Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, and the NHS which has helped to shape a deliverable proposition.

One of the major challenges facing the town – and high streets all over the country – is the changing face of retail. As more people opt to shop online and high street stores fold, Stevenage town centre needs to evolve and adapt to the public’s changing retail expectations.

To meet them we are changing the town centre to give a new type of retail and leisure experience; on top of significant improvements to existing retail units to provide modern frontages and suitably sized units, we are opening a number of new dining options, introducing state-of-the-art leisure facilities, providing flexible office space, and encouraging temporary uses while plans are advanced. This new look will give the public not only somewhere to shop, but also a place to relax, unwind, and socialise with friends, family or colleagues, any time of the week.

Our regeneration schemes

To reach our ambitious targets for regeneration, we have partnered with leading developers Mace and Reef Group, both of which have excellent experience and reputations for delivering regeneration programmes both in the UK and abroad.

Mace is an international developer and construction company that has helped to shape cities around the world. We have partnered with them for the SG1 scheme, one of the biggest town centre regeneration schemes in the East of England, with a gross development value of around £350million.

The SG1 scheme has nine development sites, and will create a new town for today’s modern way of living – it will involve building new contemporary homes, creating one central location for community facilities, adding a pedestrian boulevard from the town square to the station, improving our public spaces, and attracting shops, bars and restaurants into new retail space in the centre of the town.

Reef Group is one of the UK’s leading retail developers, specialising in urban regeneration and mixed-use development and investment. We will be working with Reef on the Queensway North project: a retail-led, mixed-use scheme that will deliver significant improvements to an existing retail block in the centre of town.

The town centre is to be given a new look in sympathy with it's heritage

The Queensway North scheme has a GDV (gross development value) of £50million, and will form an important part of our overall regeneration programme. The mixed-use retail and residential scheme is the first of its kind for Stevenage, and is set to deliver around 45,000square feet of retail space and restaurants, as well as a gym, office space, residential units, and major improvements to the surrounding public realm.

This extension to Stevenage town centre’s leisure and cultural offering will revive the evening economy in the area, attract new retailers to the town, and will once again make Stevenage an appealing place to shop and visit.

These are just two of the schemes we are set to see in Stevenage over the course of our £1billion, 20-year regeneration scheme. The time is right for regeneration. Over 70 years on from the designation of the original New Town, we at Stevenage Borough Council are excited to have the chance to re-imagine Stevenage again, and transform it to realise its full potential. The Stevenage journey to utopia continues.

Find out more about the Stevenage Regeneration programme 

Cllr Sharon Taylor OBE is Leader of Stevenage Borough Council, and Cllr John Gardner is Executive Councillor for Environment & Regeneration at Stevenage Borough Council.

Regeneration start date set for 2020 as Mace signs contract

The Comet – Regeneration start date set for 2020 as Mace sign contract

Georgia Barrow

14 March 2019

A formal commitment has been made between Stevenage Borough Council and developers Mace Group Ltd for the redevelopment of Stevenage’s town centre, with work set to begin in 2020.

Mace – which built London’s The Shard – were selected by the council last year following a tendering process which saw three other national developers competing for the work.

But the council today announced the signing of a new official agreement to work in partnership with Mace on the long-term transformation, securing a formal commitment.

The agreement builds on the council’s vision for the first phase of the regeneration which seeks to revamp the western side of the town centre where The Plaza, bus station, council offices, and several car parks are currently located – known as SG1.

Council leader Sharon Taylor said: “This is an exciting time for Stevenage and the future of our town centre. Signing this deal with Mace highlights our ambitious vision for Stevenage as we grow our town and improve the services, environment and facilities we currently offer to residents.

“We’ve seen a number of projects already completed in our town centre as part of the regeneration programme including Market Place, Vista Tower and updating our public spaces.

“SG1 will be transformational, and drive significant, positive change for our town centre. We’re delighted to have Mace on board and can’t wait for development to get under way.”

SG1 is one of the largest regeneration schemes in the region with a gross development value of around £350 million.

The mixed-use regeneration scheme includes plans to create a series of new streets within Stevenage, as well as a redesigned Town Square.

The development will also create new public spaces as well as a public services hub – which will include a new library and health facilities – bringing key council services into one building.

David Grover, Mace’s chief operating officer for development, said: “This agreement marks a major step forward for the transformation of Stevenage town centre.

“With a contract agreed we can now get started in earnest in delivering the regeneration of the town centre – I look forward to seeing our exciting plans come to life.”

Andrew Percival, chairman of the Stevenage First partnership, added: “Today’s contract signing represents a significant milestone in the opportunity to deliver a town centre that’s fit for the 21st century and offers modern facilities and amenities for residents and visitors to live, work and play.

“The scheme that Mace has developed aligns with Stevenage’s heritage as the UK’s first new town and highlights their confidence in its future growth prospects. We’re delighted to announce that the contract is in place and look forward to working in partnership with Mace.”

Earlier this year the Comet reported on improvements made to Market Place which saw the council working with Meeres Civil Engineering, which included new seating, greenery and play equipment.

Preliminary works are also under way for a £50 million revamp to Queensway North – a shopping area of the town – under a partnership between Stevenage Borough Council and Reef Group.

Building work – which was due to begin at the end of January – is set to begin in the coming weeks.

Residents and businesses will be invited to have their say on the SG1 regeneration with a consultation planned for this summer.

Work is expected to take place over several phases, with the first construction project starting in 2020.

https://www.thecomet.net/news/stevenage-town-centre-regeneration-mace-contract-1-5935962