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Bringing the benefits of regeneration to a market town

04 July 2019

Tim Goodwin

When people think of regeneration, they often envisage a big inner-city concrete jungle being bulldozed and replaced with shiny apartments. Well Network Homes £34 million regeneration project on the edge of Hertford really changes that perspective bringing quality affordable homes for local people to a small town of 26,000 residents.

Tim Goodwin, Regeneration Manager, Network Homes

The old Ridgeway, a former council estate on the edge of Hertford was a poor-quality 1960s development. Homes were mouldy, dark and hard to heat. Communal spaces lacked a sense of ownership with poorly defined public areas and badly designed routes through the estate. It was decided that a complete rebuild was what was required.

With funding from East Herts Council and Homes England (the first for a regeneration scheme) we dramatically remodelled the estate creating a new neighbourhood of streets with 134 new homes designed for modern living. This new Ridgeway is 100% affordable with 57 one, two and three-bedroom homes  available through Shared Ownership and 77 for Affordable Rent. These are a mixture of apartments and family sized houses.

Engagement was key with this regeneration and we wanted to ensure local residents were consulted throughout. A specialist team from Network Homes based on site ensured that good working relationships with tenants were established. This was while the team acquired in-depth understanding of the old buildings and learnt about and engaged with wider neighbourhood issues, including falling school numbers, anti-social behaviour, retail and recreational amenities.

Ninety per cent of residents fed back in detailed consultation on the initial plans and 88% of those were pro-demolition. This overwhelming support for the regeneration helped consolidate the commitment of funding bodies and East Herts Council, so that the project took just over five years from feasibility through design, planning, decant, and demolition to completion. All residents were rehoused locally with the right to return at completion of the scheme.

Compared to the cramp flats of old, new homes offer generous outside space, be it one of the balconies, top floor roof terraces overlooking the Hertfordshire countryside or courtyard style gardens.

New streets have been created and what was once wasteland has now been incorporated into the design to utilise the space for the benefit of residents. There is direct access out into the Hertfordshire countryside. We’ve celebrated the heritage of the area with streets and buildings named after the wives of the Earls of Cowper at the nearby former country house of Panshanger. Humphrey Repton, the landscape architect of Panshanger Park is also commemorated.

The final result is a spectacular transformation with a new neighbourhood of affordable homes in keeping with a historic market town. It’s a prime example of an out of London regeneration providing affordable homes local people in East Hertfordshire.

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