Trading places - Hemel Hempstead

With a wealth of shops, businesses and a bustling social life, Hemel Hempstead is really coming into its own with plenty to offer residents and visitors...

WITH regeneration plans in the pipeline and an already diverse retail and business aspect, the future of Hemel Hempstead looks bright.

The Riverside is an open air shopping centre which opened in 2005 and has shops ranging from Debenhams to H&M and from Orange to Waterstone's, as well as food outlets including Pizza Express, Aroma and Oojam.

The Marlowes Shopping Centre has about 75 stores and caters for all tastes and budgets, with shops including M&S, Topshop, River Island, JD Sports and The Body Shop.

Jarman Park leisure centre has a cinema, 10-pin bowling, an ice rink, a water park and two nightclubs.

Early last year work to regenerate Maylands Business Park began, with a vision to develop the site as a sustainable, well connected green business park, and plans to improve the appearance of the area and provide a high standard of commercial accommodation.

The �23million Snow Centre, built on the former Hemel Ski Slope, opened its doors in 2009 and boasts 8000m2 of real snow slopes, including a 160m main slope and a 100m lesson slope.

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Hemel Hempstead's outdoor market is located in the centre of Marlowes, along the pedestrianised area, on Thursdays and Saturdays and is the ideal place to pick up fruit and vegetables, clothes and household goods.For something unique, browse the antique shops in the Old Town High Street, where you will also find plenty of restaurants and pubs.

A regeneration project called Hemel 2020 Vision is currently underway, and a spokesman for Dacorum Borough Council explains, 'We are moving forward on a number of major projects which are seeking to enhance quality of life in the area, provide more homes, create new business and employment opportunities and enhance our environment. Many of these are long-term plans, but there are exciting developments already underway. As an example we are looking to improve Hemel Hempstead town centre itself.

'JMP have been appointed to develop proposals for improvements to the pedestrian shopping area in Marlowes to raise the profile of the town centre and encourage shoppers and visitors to the area, boosting the local economy. The first stage of their work is looking at how we can make improvements to elements of the shopping area, such as street furniture - for example bins, lampposts, benches - lighting, signs, works of public art and the play area. We will be consulting on their initial options and proposals around March this year.'

Chris Taylor, the council's group manager of strategic planning and regeneration, adds, 'We want to create a town centre that will be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. The Riverside development started this process, now we're looking at ways to make improvements across the whole of the area so that Hemel Hempstead's town centre becomes an area even more people will want to visit and enjoy.'

The outskirts of Hemel are home to many other thriving businesses and hotels including Bushwood Antiques at nearby Little Gaddesden and Shendish Manor at Apsley.

Did you know

THE town's tallest building, the KD Tower, is the former offices of Kodak and has since been converted into luxury apartments, as well as office space.

The road to recovery

IN the early hours of Sunday, December 11, 2005, a number of explosions occurred at Buncefield Oil Storage Depot in Hemel Hempstead and a large fire engulfed a high proportion of the site, with over 40 people injured but no fatalities.

The blaze, which destroyed most of the site, was tackled by 180 firefighters over four days, displaced 16,500 workers and forced 2,000 residents into temporary accommodation. The explosion destroyed 20 business premises, affecting 500 employees, and made a further 60 premises unusable for many months, affecting 3,500 personnel.

An investigation revealed that the overfilling of a fuel storage tank had led to an escape of unleaded petrol, which led to a cloud of vapour igniting. Five companies were convicted for health and safety and environmental offences and were ordered to pay a total of �9.5million in fines and costs.

Work has since been carried out to bring the site back into service.

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