A tale of two town centres: Welwyn Garden City
THE East of England Plan defines WGC as a major town centre. This means major new retail development and complementary town centre uses should primarily be located here. One of the key challenges the core strategy will be looking to address is to reinforc
News editor Chris Lennon continues the WHT’s series of features focusing on different aspects of the core strategy – which is a blueprint that will steer development in Welwyn Hatfield until 2026. This week: town centres.
THE East of England Plan defines WGC as a major town centre.
This means major new retail development and complementary town centre uses should primarily be located here.
One of the key challenges the core strategy will be looking to address is to reinforce WGC's existing 'major' role.
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WGC is described in the supporting paperwork as a "popular shopping destination", which also provides a variety of civic, cultural, leisure and community facilities.
The town centre is served well by public transport - the bus and railway stations are both attached to the Howard Centre - and there are also links to the National Cycle Network.
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However, WGC does not offer the same range of comparison shopping as some of its neighbouring major town centres, such as Stevenage and St Albans.
A limited selection of leisure and entertainment facilities also hampers the evening economy.
The core strategy is considering two options regarding WGC town centre.
One, should the council develop what is termed an 'area action plan' - which would be a framework to deliver improvements as part of a managed approach to providing for long-term growth and change.
On the plus side this would give a lot of detail - ie, precise town centre boundaries and the amount of new retail floorspace needed.
But producing an AAP would be a long-winded affair and could delay such changes.
The second option is to scrap the AAP idea and identify the town centre as a 'strategic site allocation'.
This would speed up any changes, but there would be less certainty and minimum detail.