Council’s £1.2m Hatfield town centre revamp sparks mixed reactions

PUBLISHED: 13:08 19 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:31 19 October 2017

An artist's impression of White Lion Square after the revamp. Picture credit: Welwyn Hatfield Council.

An artist's impression of White Lion Square after the revamp. Picture credit: Welwyn Hatfield Council.

Archant

The borough council’s £1.2million regeneration scheme for Hatfield’s White Lion Square has triggered mixed reactions in the town.

An artist's impression of White Lion Square after the revamp. Picture credit: Welwyn Hatfield Council. An artist's impression of White Lion Square after the revamp. Picture credit: Welwyn Hatfield Council.

Plans for the public space showcased yesterday (Wednesday) featured table tennis tables, play equipment, meet-and-work-style benches and a new crescent arena at the top of the square.

Plants and trees will be removed at the northern end to improve walking routes and visibility, along with new paving outside shops to encourage “al fresco eating and café culture”.

Ashwin Shah, owner of White Lion Square’s Smarty Schoolwear, said it would be positive for the town, but stressed the importance of getting rid of the trees to improve visibility.

Labour councillor Maureen Cook, whose Hatfield Central ward includes the square, added: “I’m in support of it. Anything that benefits the people of Hatfield, helps bring more people and helps businesses to develop is fine with me.

Ashwin Shah, owner of White Lion Squares Smarty Schoolwear Ashwin Shah, owner of White Lion Squares Smarty Schoolwear

“It is improving the town centre, albeit slowly, but I’m very pleased when something comes to fruition because we have been waiting a long time.”

However, fellow Hatfield Central representative, Labour’s Cllr Pankit Shah, added: “I’m not entirely happy with the plan.

“On one side I’m OK because they are doing something for Hatfield town centre, but they are also reducing the size of the flower beds and putting in more concrete.”

The Tory-run council hopes the changes will make the area feel brighter, with integrated power facilities also offering new possibilities for town centre activities and events.

Labour Cllr Maureen Cook. Labour Cllr Maureen Cook.

Nonetheless, several residents aired frustrations on social media, with some querying the £1.2million cost and claiming it was disproportionate to the scale of the changes.

Hatfield resident Sarah-jane Readings told the WHT: “I think it’s a complete waste of money to be honest. The money needs be spent on something more important like social and council housing.”

A council spokeswoman said the money covers numerous design, consultant and planning fees – ranging from lighting engineers and architects to planning consultants and surveyors.

The budget also includes new equipment, materials and a major new drainage system under the square.

Labour councillor Pankit Shah. Labour councillor Pankit Shah.

“The improvements are part of much bigger plans, developed by the Hatfield 2030+ partnership, to bring about positive change in Hatfield,” she added.

“We are investing £18million this year alone in building or acquiring council homes under our Affordable Housing Programme, which to date has provided over 100 high-quality new homes for local people and families on lower incomes.”

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