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European-inspired Stevenage town centre revamp signed off

Artist's impression of the redeveloped Stevenage town centre. Image copyright Stevenage Borough Council
Image caption The project to transform Stevenage town centre is expected to take eight years to complete

Britain's first new town is set to get a £350m revamp inspired by some of Europe's most thriving cities.

The regeneration of Stevenage includes new shops, bars, restaurants, 600 homes, a park and a council building.

The borough council said it had studied successful examples from the continent in designing the mix of residential, retail, office and leisure uses.

The SG1 project will take up to eight years to complete in phases and it is hoped work could begin in 2020.

The development, on the western side of the town centre, is proposed where car parks, the bus station and the Plaza currently are, in what the council called an "exciting and ambitious regeneration".

Image caption A planning application is expected to be submitted within a year

Learning from Europe

Sharon Taylor, Labour leader of the council, said: "These days it is no good going for a purely retail town centre - that's outdated.

"We've looked at a lot of studies of how people generate success in their town centres, in the UK and Europe, and used their best practice."

She said there would be natural footfall around the clock - during the day from office workers, and at night from people using the leisure facilities - and public spaces which encouraged people "to stay longer".

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Media captionStevenage at 70: A look back at Britain's first New Town

The proposals fitted with recommendations from Bill Grimsey, the retail expert who has carried out studies into the future of the the high street, she added.

An agreement with construction company Mace to fund the development was finalised on Wednesday.

The council hopes the company, which also built The Shard in London and Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium, can use its retail contacts to attract big-name tenants to the project.

Image caption Stevenage was the first of a new breed of towns created as an answer to Britain's post-war housing crisis

Stevenage was designated the UK's first New Town in 1946 and was devised as a radical solution to London's post-war housing crisis.

On town's 70th anniversary, Jo Ward, curator of Stevenage Museum, said: "People judge the town on the town centre.

"It was the country's first pedestrianised town centre, and it was revolutionary, but it has dated."

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