Council pauses arts centre plans pending public consultation

Charringtons House and car park
East Herts Council will pause its arts centre plans whilst seeking residents’ views on the culture, arts and community facilities they want to see as part of the redevelopment of Old River Lane.

The decision comes after the delivery board met for the first time since the local elections to agree a way forward. During the meeting, councillors looked at several options, including the possibility of completely halting the scheme, as well as proceeding with the original plans.

However, after careful consideration, the board agreed to revisit the arts centre component while continuing the residential and commercial aspects of the redevelopment through its appointed developer, Cityheart.

Councillor Mione Goldspink, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “The arts element of the Old River Lane project has been the subject of considerable debate among local residents, making it the most contentious aspect of the scheme. In light of this, we believe it is crucial to prioritise the voices of the community. Our primary focus over the next few months is to engage with people and understand their preferences for the arts and culture offer they wish to see.

“While I personally would have preferred a more extensive approach, particularly in preserving the United Reform Church Hall, the legal and financial consequences for the town of starting over again would have been too great.

“Furthermore, I want to stress our commitment to collaborating closely with the developers and planning team at East Herts to ensure that both the residential and commercial aspects of the project are delivered to the highest standards, reflecting the quality development that the people and businesses in the town rightly deserve.”

As part of the consultation, the council will re-engage with the Town Council and South Mill Arts to ensure any offer is complementary to the existing provision. The new arts centre specification must not exceed the current budget of £15.5m, nor run at a loss beyond year five of operation.

Further information, including an updated FAQs, is available on the council’s website.