When the people of Stevenage were consulted recently over plans to revitalise their town centre, they called for more attractive, welcoming public spaces where they could meet and relax. New proposals have been submitted for planning by Mace, with a masterplan by PRP Architects and public realm reimagined by LDA Design. The plans set out to revive the heart of the UK’s first New Town and realise this shared hope.
Ambitions behind the original design for Stevenage offered a radical solution to overcrowding in post-war London. As the UK’s first pedestrianised town centre, and with a 23-mile cycle network commonplace in the Netherlands but rarely seen in the UK, Stevenage has long prioritised health and wellbeing and active travel over the car. Modernist features are dotted around the town: the clock tower is inspired by the work of Dutch artist, Piet Mondrian.
Bringing life back to the centre
These new proposals, known as SG1, celebrate the utopian vision behind Stevenage as well as its iconic 1950s design. They aim to bring life back to the centre with a lively new public square, new shops and cafes, tree-lined avenues and new apartments. Divided into 10 development plots, the scheme covers 14.5 acres of the town centre. It will complement work that is already underway across the town.
At the centre of the masterplan, and fronting onto the Town Square, will be a new public services hub, providing a range of services including NHS health facilities, a new library, council offices and an advice centre.
The creation of new green spaces and tree planting will be key here. There will be increased biodiversity and new planting in an attractive garden square adjacent to The Hub and the historic Town Square, and a new park and pond at the new Southgate Park to the south of Queensway. Arrival Square is designed to create an inviting gateway for those heading from the railway station to the town centre.
The Town Square will be made more accessible. Less clutter will make it easier to host outdoor community events here, and seating will be large-scale and sociable. New freestanding lighting is inspired by the original lighting designs for Stevenage town centre that have since been lost.
A mix of structure and unstructured play will be woven throughout the transformed public realm, with doorstep play for the under-fives given careful consideration.
Cannon Ivers, director and Stevenage project lead at LDA Design, said of the scheme: “Stevenage is an extraordinary place, rich with modernist architecture, public art and a stock of mature trees. Our design proposals aim to recapture the optimism of the original Stevenage pioneers who struck out for a new life here. They draw on the town’s shared spaces to further strengthen community and create a culturally rich place to be.”
Kevin Cowin, Director at Mace, said: “This is an ambitious and carefully crafted proposal that expresses our confidence in Stevenage town centre. We aim to revitalise the town centre by introducing new homes, vibrant activities, community facilities and inviting public spaces. Our vision is to deliver a thriving, successful and attractive heart to Stevenage which will serve the needs of local people and businesses for decades to come.”
Image by PRP Architects