Shelved Hatfield revamp: 'We're not the only town suffering'
PUBLISHED: 17:43 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 21:04 26 October 2009
TEMPERS flared at a public meeting over the faltering Hatfield regeneration project last night (Thursday). Welwyn Hatfield councillors and developers St Modwen met with the town's residents for the first time since the WHT broke the news of the delays sev
TEMPERS flared at a public meeting over the faltering Hatfield regeneration project last night (Thursday).
Welwyn Hatfield councillors and developers St Modwen met with the town's residents for the first time since the WHT broke the news of the delays seven months ago.
At the Breaks Manor Youth Centre in Link Drive, residents finally got the chance to voice their concerns.
Council leader John Dean opened the meeting by saying the council's aims were "exactly the same" as those of the public and residents' group Action Hatfield, which organised the meeting.
He said the delay to the redevelopment was not unique to Hatfield.
"The problem is an international one," Cllr Dean said. "We are not the only town that is suffering.
"We can't produce something that we can't get funding for."
Residents argued the project has been ongoing for years, and that St Modwen could have secured business investors long before the credit crunch kicked in.
The developers came in for heavy criticism on the night, with calls for it to leave the project, but the company insisted it was committed to the revamp.
Development manager Robin Vaughan said many other developers had left projects in the lurch.
"There are many schemes in the country where developers have downed tools and walked away," he said. "We're still here."
There was doubt cast over the project as a whole when council chief executive Michel Saminaden admitted that the project "could be smaller" than originally planned.
It led to Action Hatfield chairman Mike Hobday asking St Modwen whether the redevelopment was actually ever going to happen.
Mr Vaughan replied: "Yes. We're working with the council to do this. But it takes time."
The council was also blamed for not doing enough to keep the public and local traders informed of developments.
Nicola Kane, the council's town centre co-ordinator, insisted a regular newsletter "goes to the door of every resident".
But a show of hands embarrassed the council, when less than half the audience said they had received one.
In response, the council promised to do more, with chief partnerships and performance officer Terry Osborne promising to deliver them "personally" to residents.
And there was further outcry when it was revealed the new 'super loos' in the town centre would be pay-for facilities.
When asked how much the toilets would cost, the council's head of estates Mike Storey said he did not know.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.