Redevelopment challenge that will be scrutinised by architects across the globe

SIR – Mr Bailey (Blot on the landscape, letters, July 28) raises very many points about the new redevelopment of the Sainsbury site as well as the future of the [WGC] town centre.

We certainly do not agree that the proposed new development will adversely affect the town centre.

We think that the reverse is the case, as it is essential for the town to maintain its competitive advantage against other town centres in the wider area.

Otherwise, we shall see the town centre fall back into the rut and decay it was some 30 years ago when, frankly, it was in a sorry state.

It is for this reason that the WGC Society is placing a lot of emphasis on the work of the new Town Centre Partnership, as we think that it has a vital job to do.

New developments bring a whole host of challenges, from increased traffic flows to blending the new into the old.

Not only did the local authority planning department spend considerable time and effort to ensure that the Sainsbury’s new development was appropriate for the town, but county council was also heavily involved.

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Both bodies are frequently criticised (regrettably, often by us) but we think that all parties worked very well over this difficult site.

For our part, we made many, many comments as the design was worked up into the final version ensuring, so far as possible, that the new building would be an improvement over the old, that it would represent a step forward for the architectural development of the town while, at the same time, ensuring that it remained anchored in the WGC tradition.

Only when the building is finally opened will residents be able to judge for themselves whether all the effort has been successful.

Turning now to the proposed redevelopment of the Broadwater Road site.

We understand that there may be a public forum where councillors can publicly question the developers before any planning application goes forward.

It is a massively important development project which has the ability to either hugely enhance the town or severely damage the existing town centre and its infrastructure.

We shall seek to be involved in this debate so that we can help get the best for the town.

As yet, and perhaps strangely for us, we have no view on Tesco’s proposals for the Broadwater site since they appear to be unclear.

However, we are on record as being opposed to any development that seeks to place a rival town centre right bang next to the existing one, albeit separated by the railway track.

We are not opposed, in principle, to a Tesco store on the new site to serve new residents there but, as the old adage goes, size is everything.

Redevelopment of the Broadwater site would enable the two sides of the town to be better linked, both in terms of access, but also unified architecturally.

It would also enable the older industrial heritage of the site to be put to better 21st century use.

It would help to finally remove an old sore – the division caused by the railway – that has remained since the town was further developed.

That is the challenge that faces developers: it is no easy task, particularly as it will be scrutinised worldwide by architects, developers and commentators, as the town is seen across the globe as a model of urban design.

John Marks,


Welwyn Garden City Society.