Hertford – the county town

Sometimes I think I am living in a different universe from everyone else. Apart from a message on Hertford.net no one else seems to be the slightest concerned that the planning application for Bircherley Green Shopping Centre has been withdrawn.

Just to make sure I downloaded the entry again and here is the email from Barton Willmore: 3_19_1308_VAR-WITHDRAWAL_EMAIL-1431163.

So now we await an approach from Chase Homes regarding their proposals for the site which may or may not include a hotel, NHS surgery, prime retail space or hot food take-away premises.

It might appear that East Herts Council have missed an opportunity to invest in the town. All I have heard since moving to Hertford in 1980 and all through my years as Town Centre Manager is the same refrain: ‘Hertford is the county town’ followed by a list of things that should have been done, or hasn’t been done, or has been done, that has added nothing to Hertford.

Historic English shopping centres will benefit from a £95m regeneration fund, the government has said. The government’s Future High Street Fund is providing £52m of the money, while £40m will come from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). A further £3m is being provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Towns and cities had to bid for the £95m funding, which was first announced in May.

“Our nation’s heritage is one of our great calling cards to the world, attracting millions of visitors to beautiful historic buildings that sit at the heart of our communities,” said Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan.

“It is right that we ensure these buildings are preserved for future generations but it is important that we make them work for the modern world.”

Maybe an application was doomed to fail but you have to try.

Hertford is the county town. Nearly all of the buildings in the town centre, which is considered a Local Conservation Area in its own right, feature in the Government’s list of buildings considered to be of architecturally or historic interest.

This would seem to tick all Nicky Morgan’s boxes.

This is East Herts Council’s response:

“Under the scheme, districts of our size were limited to one bid so we had to select the town with the best chance of success.

“In submitting the bid, we knew that by most measures within the scheme (e.g. vacancy levels) none of East Herts’ towns are in the ‘failing’ category.

“The principle vehicle for improving Hertford town centre is the Bircherley Green redevelopment which is not owned by the council so the basis of a bid would not have met the HSF criteria.”

No council at any level gave any support to the Hidden Hertford project which sought to attract visitors to the county town. Well, not until I had already raised over £32,000 towards the project. The aims and results of the Hidden Hertford project can be viewed here.

In 2010 East Herts Council paid me to produce a report to provide a series of environmentally sound projects at minimal cost with maximum benefit to the community.

After a lengthy consultation with a wide range of businesses, traders and organisations which had an interest in the town I suggested the following, amongst others, based upon the success of what had already been achieved with Hidden Hertford (see above):

Tenants of listed buildings should be responsible for their maintenance
New town centre signage and visitor maps
More benches throughout the town
More salt bins in vulnerable places
Using litter bins to take recycling products in place of anonymous bollards
Bikes for hire at bus and rail station
Community toilet scheme

The  motive behind all the above was to attract more visitors to Hertford and to make their stay as enjoyable as possible whilst improving the local economy.

Not surprisingly none of the above were introduced.

All my previous pots archived here:

By John Barber

John Barber was born in London at the height of the UK Post War baby boom. He had careers in Advertising, International Banking and the Wine Industry before becoming Town Centre Manager in his home town of Hertford. He has been writing professionally since 1996 when he began to contribute articles to magazines on social and local history. His first published book in 2002 was a non-fiction work entitled The Camden Town Murder, a hitherto unsolved murder case from 1907.