3rd July 2007

The Masterplan for Hereford’s £900m regeneration project, the biggest building job in the city since the cathedral, has been unveiled, starting a three month consultation period when the public can have its say on the merits of the plan to breathe new life into the economy of the county’s main shopping and business centre, and to bring sustainable new homes to the city.

The plan to redevelop a 100 acre area, including the old livestock market, has been pulled together by ESG Herefordshire Ltd, set up by Herefordshire Council and the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands, using some of the best urban design experts in the country.

The result is an exciting, innovative blend of the old and the new – a sensitive fusion of contemporary, sustainable architecture with the historic medieval core of the old walled city.

The detailed Masterplan lays down the guidelines for the location and design principles for each of the sectors, the Retail Quarter on the 12.5 acre livestock market, a Civic Quarter and a 1000 home Blackfriars Urban Village, together with a new link road through the development which will cut traffic on congested Blueschool/Newmarket street by up to 50%, transforming it into a tree lined boulevard.

The public will be impressed by a series of artists impressions which give a visual idea of what New Hereford will look like at the end of the 15 year development programme, due to start in three years when work begins on the Retail Quarter, a mixed use development of shops, leisure facilities and new homes. There will be several new ‘town squares’ providing open space for arts and cultural use. One of the special features will be the reinstatement of parts of the old Gloucester/Hereford canal, including a new canal basin, surrounded by waterfront homes. The Widemarsh Brook, which runs through the site, will be enhanced for habitat creation, and an upstream flood attenuation system built.

The whole area is designed to favour walking, cycling and public transport, with a new boulevard linking the railway station to the city centre for the first time since the station was built in 1855. Sustainability is a cornerstone of the development plans. A linear park running through the development, from College Road bridge to the heart of the new development, will create an environmentally friendly pedestrian route and natural wildlife habitat.

Unveiling the eagerly awaited Masterplan at The Courtyard in Hereford on Tuesday, July 3, ESG Herefordshire chairman, Clive Richards, said, “This is an ambitious project which will transform the heart of Hereford into a successful 21st century city. We have adopted a visionary and daring approach in the preparation of the Masterplan whilst allowing for some flexibility to cater for any new circumstances in the future.”

Roger Phillips, Leader of Herefordshire Council, which instigated the development scheme, said, “Herefordshire Council recognises the important economic, environmental and cultural impacts the project will have, both on the city and the county. Opportunities to redevelop a major part of an historic market city are very rare and I urge everyone to examine and comment on the Masterplan, the success of which is so vital to the future of our county.”

On behalf of Advantage West Midlands, which is backing the project with up to £20m of investment, Mark Pearce, Corporate Director for Economic Regeneration, said, “The proposals will transform the heart of Hereford into a modern city whilst retaining its historic core. It will take time to deliver, but once completed will provide a huge economic boost for the whole area and create hundreds of new jobs.”

The ESG project is classed as a top priority scheme, one of four in the West Midlands region, and aims to ‘enhance the vitality and viability of the city centre.’ Development work is scheduled in eight phases over 15 to 20 years with the council and AWM, who own much of the land, working in partnership with developers. Businesses affected by the development will be offered assistance to relocate.

Copies of the Masterplan, together with a 3D model of the area, will be on display at Penn House, Broad Street, Hereford, opposite the Green Dragon Hotel, for a week from July 23. Copies will also be available in the council info centres in each of the market towns and in a series of open evenings at the ESG offices at 3 Blackfriars Street, Hereford. ESG urges everyone to examine the plan and fill in the consultation questionnaire. It can also be found on the ESG website at www.esgherefordshire.co.uk.

A shortlist of three developers for the Retail Quarter, which will kick-start the project, has just been selected and each company will now prepare its own design proposals ready for further public consultation in November.

Creating an exciting new shopping experience for Hereford aimed at reducing the current 70% ‘leakage’ of shoppers spend to other towns in the region. Re-establishing Hereford as the market city of the Marches. A mix of shops, leisure facilities, such as a multi-screen cinema, and residential is planned on the 12.5 acre livestock market with historic Widemarsh Street streetscaped to provide an attractive and direct link to the existing city centre.

The Civic Quarter will house many of the ‘public facing’ functions of organisations, including West Mercia Police, Herefordshire Council and other public bodies. These offices will be combined with a mixture of smaller shops and restaurants, creating a lively area which will link to the Maylord Centre via new pedestrian crossing. A new ‘ Herefordshire Centre’ to include a new library, will feature in the area, with the opportunity to house many complementary functions such as lifelong learning, creating a truly 21st century facility.

The Edgar Street football stadium remains in place as an important part of the fabric of the community, with a new road to the east and proposals for additional land being made available for redevelopment at the north stand. Details of the redevelopment proposals are awaited from the club and its development partners. The Masterplan shows this in year 4, but it is hoped that the proposals will come forward earlier.

A 1000 home Blackfriars Urban Village will be created, 35% of the homes ‘affordable.’ The village will run from the northern end of Merton Meadow car park, through the old Essex Arms training ground to the Railway Station approach.
Its centrepiece will be a rebuilt canal basin surrounded by new homes and a restaurant/waterway centre. One of the new ‘squares’ will be in front of the railway station, with offices overlooking this main arrival point. Another historical feature to be incorporated into the village will be the site of the old Blackfriars friary, and the remaining preaching cross next to Coningsby Hospital almshouses, dignifying and opening up the wonderful Blackfrairs Precinct which will become the centrepiece of the ESG area.

A key element of the Masterplan aims to ease Hereford’s traffic problems. A new link road from the A49, at the BP filling station on Edgar Street through the new development to the Morrison’s junction with Commercial Road, will take up to 50% of traffic from Newmarket/Blueschool streets which will be totally transformed into a narrower, pedestrian friendly shopping boulevard, with three pedestrian crossings to the new retail and civic quarters, one of which will replace the current subway to the livestock market. To ease hold-ups at the Edgar Street roundabout, traffic exiting Maylord and Tesco will be able to turn either way, with this modification alone removing 300 cars per hour from the overloaded roundabout. The Retail Quarter will have north and south road links into multi-storey car parks, with access direct to the new link road. There would be no right turn from Commercial Road into Blueschool Street, traffic using the link road instead. A new section of road would link Canal Road/Coningsby Street with Blueschool Street. Monksmoor Street would close to vehicles, catering solely for cyclists and pedestrians who have been given the highest priority in the plan.

700 spaces in multi-storey car parks to replace the existing surface parking, plus additional shoppers parking provided by the retail quarter developer, expected to total 1500 new spaces in well-lit, safe modern car parks. Some parking to be located conveniently close to The Courtyard theatre and arts centre to allow its use by theatre-goers. Existing long stay spaces at Merton Meadow to be replaced by Park & Ride.

A fundamental aim of the plan is to encourage more use of public transport, and to achieve this, a new bus station will be built next to the railway station, although the existing city service facility at Tesco will remain in use. The new bus station is not planned until the final phase of the project. Buses will have high priority throughout the new development with bus lanes incorporated in the redesigned Blueschool/Newmarket streets.

Two new cycle routes will be created, East/West connecting Great Western Way with the railway station and hospital and North/South linking the city centre with the ESG area and through to the railway station.

Phase 1, Years 3-5
Improve Widemarsh Street
Move livestock market
Flood alleviation measures
Works to Widemarsh Brook
Construct link road
Temporary station/city centre walkway
New office buildings at Station Approach
Extensions to Maylord expected, led by existing owners

Phase 2, Years 4-6
Construct Retail Quarter and Civic Quarter
Downgrade Blueschool/Newmarket Street
Build Herefordshire Centre and Library (location to be decided)
Build new road through retail quarter
Develop Hereford United south and west stands expected, led by club and developer partner.
Residential development.

Phase 3 Years 4-7
Continue Retail Quarter
Build houses on parts of Merton Meadow, Widemarsh Street North and Catherine Street..
Develop Hereford United north and east stands expected, led by club and developer.

Phase 4, Years 6-9
Construct Civic Quarter.
Continue house building

Phase 5 7-10
Construct Canal/Basin and linear park
Build houses on Essex Arms training ground and north of new link road.

Phase 6, Years 9-12
Build houses on the Jewson site, Canal Road.
Construct permanent railway station pedestrian link to city centre

Phase 7 Years 11 to 14
Completion of house building

Phase 8, Years 13 -15
Move Bus Station to railway station
Redevelop former Bus Station.