Our drawings show the site today, then the ‘concept’ (the potential connections and possibilities), and lastly an illustration of the site’s ‘opportunities’. The drawings are best viewed on a large screen. Scroll down to find all three drawings – please work your way through to understand the reasons behind each of the opportunities. You can also find the Shearer Property Group scheme on the NHDC website here
Download our drawings here
To get the council to consider redevelopment as an alternative to refurbishment, we need to show that the public also thinks that the opportunities should be considered. We need your opinion. Our elected Councillors need to know your views, before deciding how to proceed.
After you have looked at the drawings below please have a look at the results of our online survey below.
The site today:
A Market Place – historic hub of Hitchin, original site of the Market
B Churchgate Centre – built in 1971, aging, outmoded, unloved and uncared for.
C Hitchin Market – active Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Its appearance, under-investment and lack of activity for much of the week blights the area
D St Mary’s Church – views from the south dominated by the unsightly Market
E The Biggin and Almshouses – attractive historic buildings masked by the Market
F Biggin Lane Carpark – occupies a prime riverside site
G No level access for buggies and wheelchairs from Hermitage Road to the Market
H Riverside walk unnecessarily squeezed by car parking
I Excessively wide pavement limits parking space in St Mary’s Carpark
J Missing sections of riverside walk block the potential connection between
Bridge Street and Hermitage Road along the River Hiz.
A Churchgate and the Market benefit from being on a key pedestrian route from the riverside carparks (and QMT carpark) to the town square – this is an asset that can benefit the shops and the Market if that flow is directed right through the middle
B Pedestrian footfall from the town square through Churchgate will increase if there is an attractive ‘destination hub’ in the market area eg a street food hall, fresh food hall with a new flexible riverside space that could host day stalls or community events.
C Given the current retail climate, shopping centres need to be as flexible as possible. Open plan floorspace can host lots of small units with low business rates, or large emporium-style shops made up of smaller sellers. If high streets revive units can expand
D The beauty of a linear design is that people have to walk past every shop and every stall, giving every stallholder and every shopfront a look in. If the arcade stalls had fixed tiled-topped tables, these could be used for eating and seating on non-market days
E Housing the market in a building that is light and airy and lockable when not in use could transform it. Housing a street food market in an independently lockable part of it, would mean that the street food hall could be open every day not just on market days
F Creating a new level riverside walkway opposite St Mary’s Church increase footfall from Hermitage Road. Widening the riverside walk up near Premier Inn would reinforce this. Adding the connecting piece of riverside walk completes the link to Bridge Street
G Introducing attractions such as a cinema/auditorium and a wellness centre benefits the town and its community and adds to the footfall at different times of day. Rationalising parking layouts and adding a deck at Queen St level would increase capacity
H Creating a new outdoor space on the site of the market will open up great views of St Mary’s Church, the Almshouses and The Biggin and become a lunchtime attraction for town centre workers and visitors.
I How to pay for all this and get a return on investment in the longterm? Rather than base investment on retail rental income at the mercy of high street shopping habits, there is an opportunity to create much needed residential accommodation for rent in the air space over the shopping centre, auditorium and wellness centre. Some of these could be targeted at low-income renters.
A Flexible retail arcade: Market Place, Churchgate and Hitchin Market could inter-connect, offering an exciting experience that is different to, but complements, the established shops and restaurants in High St and Sun St.
B Revitalised market: attractive arcades and market halls could provide flexible sheltered space for a range of uses, such as a ‘street food’ hall with communal eating, fresh produce hall and the thriving antiques market.
C Cinema/auditorium: A small, independent venue with state of the art acoustics, could have the flexibility to meet community demand, offering a mixed programme of films, music, shows and community meetings.
D Wellbeing: A multi-use wellbeing centre. Whether it’s ante-natal yoga, tai chi classes or a training course, it’s important to ensure people have a place to meet friends, learn new skills and look after mind and body.
E Completing the Riverside Walk: In addition to a connection to Market Square, new Churchgate could be connected by a generous, level riverside walk running all the way between Hermitage Rd and Bridge St.
F Community: Hitchin is a wonderful community and we want to build on that. Right from new families through to the increasing older population, it’s important the town centre offers opportunities for the community to come together. Whether that’s in a new riverside open space or sharing tables in a new food hall.
G Residential: To pay for all the above, parts of the site could be developed for residential use, some of which could be targeted to meet the needs of an aging population and low income renters, assisting with the release of family homes within the town.