Similarly, our council provide beautiful floral displays for the town’s streets and parks. THEY plan and implement the impressive displays and maintain the grass. A splash pool and children’s adventure play areas are planned, let us hope THEY do not completely destroy the environment of peaceful tranquillity in our parks.
Our Heritage - Pavilion and ForumDacorum’s Pavilion Theatre was pulled down was reduced to a patch of grass to save money on running costs and maintenance during the many intervening years leading up to eventual redevelopment into the Forum. Who decided this? THEY did. I am sure many of the districts residents would be interested in the wisdom of this decision and retrospectively question the true wider social implication versus monetary saving. Praise or blame, we should have had the opportunity to be critical of people’s actions.
Now that the Forum is built, from the public’s perspective we have ended up with a newly integrated library and a coffee shop albeit in smart, modern, hopefully more efficient surroundings.
As I understand it, we still haven’t got a theatre facility to use in place of the Pavilion. An 'Arts Venue in Dacorum' Trust has been formed to promote a replacement for the Pavilion. Originally, THEY also said the police were also to be accommodated in the Forum.
I also question why we needed a new Forum if it is not fulfilling its full pre-announced potential. We have lost the architecture of the original Civic Centre, façade of which for years has badly needed maintenance and cleaning, and its forecourt. Latterly weeds appeared to be growing on the roof! New developments seem to be built right up to the edge of a street’s footpath thereby reducing the New Town concept of open spaces.
Our Heritage - MarlowesI have fond memories of the time when Marlowes had a road running through it and the shops and market were bustling with busy shoppers and events were held in the old Pavilion!
Consultations about the recently revamped Marlowes Town Centre Project led me to a vision of a tree lined pedestrian shopping area in which to relax. What THEY seem to have created is another ‘skateboard park style’ precinct with water feature, concrete seats and a big-brother screen showing more advertisements than the intended occasional Public Service Messages to town centre visitors. Far from relaxing, the ambiance is tense, the seating is cold in the winter and, no doubt, will be too hot in a really good summer! Hopefully the environment will improve when the trees mature. At the time of writing, shopping in Berkhampstead or Tring is more enjoyable.
Riverside Retail ComplexBP and Kodak were the major employers of Hemel Hempstead back in the 1970s. BP then moved to Breakspear Park by 2004 from its town centre offices. In anticipation of the move the popular pub ‘The Wagon and Horses’ was demolished along with the BP office block and spiral car-park from 1989.It then took the council’s powers that be 16 years to build the Riverside complex. What THEY were doing during that time is a mystery to many because the site remained a barren wasteland all that time.
Dacorum Sports CentreThere is seldom an opportunity general public to have any influence in project, as said before, and this was the case for the Dacorum Sports Centre in Box Moor.
SLM is a profit making organisation, but THEY in the council have made their decision, despite a protest petition rising from 10,000 signatures to approaching 15,000 on Facebook and 38 Degrees. SLM will be investing more than £2.3 million so it is naive to think THEY will not want a good return on its investment. Everyone Active may keep prices down and standards high in the early days, but watch out for the future. Fitness and well-being should not be for profit.
Not quite on the scale of protests about Blair taking us to war in Iraq, but the same principle applied. Sportspace Dacorum Sports Trust has been running the sports centre for the community since it became a registered charity in 2004, but now Dacorum Borough Council have officially awarded a 10-year contract to Sports and Leisure Management Ltd (SLM) for the delivery of leisure services within the Borough. SLM, which operates as Everyone Active, will take over the contract on 1 April 2018.
Jellicoe Water GardensIn my opinion THEY, as members of DBC, had presided over the decline of Jellicoe's Water Gardens over decades, not just in recent periods of austerity. Water gardens need ongoing maintenance, but all I recall is neglect so-much-so that the despairing situation caused the, now completed, major 'Jellicoe Project' to rectify the situation.
From what I understand of the history, Dacorum have twice privatised maintenance of green spaces latterly in the days of Brophy, brought it back in-house, closed the nursery in Two Waters, removed un-sponsored flower beds, and did the bare minimum 'health and safety' maintenance of the Water Gardens.
Despite some delays, the Casey contractors aim was to adhere Jellicoe's vision and successfully achieved contemporary restoration. The fence along the riverbank edge is a good idea and maybe it will deter the Canada Geese from turning the new turf into a mud patch. It is now hoped that, in addition to the public, THEY in Dacorum Council will 'much-love' the gardens to maintain them properly long into the future!
Now that shops have been trading for some time, e.g. Debenhams, Top Shop, T K Maxx and Next, one wonders whether the development is a major overall success for the town given that there are empty shops in Marlowes.
Glorious Gadebridge Park in Bloom
Marlowes in the 70s
Festive Hemel Market Square
Overgrown and Silted Water Gardens
The Bury, Queensway
We are sure the populace does not want the iconic Bury to be sold off to developers for conversion into luxury apartments like THEY did with the nearby 1930s Police Station in Leighton Buzzard Road, now known as Century House.
In 2012 the Gazette reported that The Bury the attractive Georgian mansion at the entrance to Gadebridge Park was being earmarked as a ‘potential’ home for a museum and plans were underway for the building project.
Of historical significance and Grade II listed, The Bury was built in 1790, previously used as a romantic setting for weddings, is now largely unused since THEY moved the registry offices into The Forum. Now Dacorum Borough Council, Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors and Dacorum Heritage Trust are all working in partnership to create a ‘sustainable business plan’ for a new museum and THEY can ‘potentially’ reinstate it as wedding venue with new café and shop as part of the proposals.
In January 2016, a spokesman for Dacorum Borough Council, which inherited The Bury from the New Towns Commission, said: “We will be considering several options for the reuse of the building. “A museum is something we want to pursue ‘if’ funding can be secured.” Meanwhile, The Bury houses the constituency offices of the Right Honourable Sir Mike Penning, Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead.
It is understood that the museum project is still awaiting necessary funding and planning permission to proceed. Will it ever happen or is it an instance of ‘fake news’? Who knows if THEY will progress the project because the ‘proposed’ start date is already pre-announced as late as approximately 2021.
Back in 2003 THEY published the Dacorum Digest with the headline ’Civic Zone’ displaying an artist’s impression of a grandiose £60m project together with a consultation questionnaire. One suspects that a limited number replied, or THEY had a re-think because only some of the overall project originally envisaged for 2007 completion seems to have materialised. Riverside, West Herts College and the Forum are now complete although we are ‘still watching this space’ for the other proposals.
Home deliveries are not a new concept as in the 50’s and 60’s we had a milkman, baker, soft drinks supplier and mobile grocery van, but these did not deter people from also shopping in town.
The demise of the high street, including Marlowes, has been blamed on people’s choice to shop on line. Could one of the reasons be that now most high streets are pedestrianised, parking can be costly and often some distance from the shops, consequently it is not worth going into town for one item nor is it convenient if you have many bags to carry. Previously there was limited time parking and bus stops within the heart of the town. This is the reason out of town retail outlets are so successful.
Don’t Blame Amazon for ‘High Street Retail’ Woes
In Hemel we are lucky to have many local shopping centres where smaller businesses can thrive due to the free parking and accessibility. However, the pedestrianised town centre is a different story.