So what now?

PUBLISHED: 16:09 23 May 2008 | UPDATED: 21:46 26 October 2009

Sir – On January 30 you printed a letter from me querying the ongoing viability of the Hatfield Town Centre project. I had expected a vigorous rebuttal from councillors of the points I raised, and that St Modwen too would have plenty to say. Instead ther

Sir - On January 30 you printed a letter from me querying the ongoing viability of the Hatfield Town Centre project. I had expected a vigorous rebuttal from councillors of the points I raised, and that St Modwen too would have plenty to say.

Instead there was an ominous silence which suggested that there were indeed real problems. Now we have the shattering news that the regeneration has been "put on ice" due to the "unstable financial market".

But was it ever going to happen? The vital factor was always St Modwen's ability to persuade any major retailers to commit to coming in. We were often told that meaningful negotiations were going on, but never were any well-known names mentioned. Now that the bombshell has burst, serious questions should be asked, and honest answers provided by those most closely involved.

1. When did the councillors and council officers begin to have doubts?

2. Why were election promises made expressing continued commitment to the redevelopment?

3. What is the full expenditure and on-going exposure of the council to this aborted project?

4. What plans are there now for the properties "jointly acquired" by the council and St Modwen?

5. Can the council now make any claims for compensation from St Modwen for failure to honour its contractual obligations? St Modwen has declared that it "has a long contractual binding agreement with the council" but does it have escape clauses enabling it to walk away from the project without penalty?

6. Has the borough council any funds left in its capital kitty to spruce up the overall appearance of Hatfield town? Repainting and repairing have been neglected over these long run-up years to the promised redevelopment. The flower beds are often attractive though not always as speedily maintained as in WGC, and street cleaning could well be improved.

The Welwyn Hatfield ratepayers and especially the Hatfield residents surely have a right to know what has been going on behind the scenes for these many past years, what has been the real cost, and who is responsible for the fiasco and any cover-ups, and what can now realistically be done to improve the Hatfield town ambience?

Brian Bennett, The Ryde, Hatfield.


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