Affordable homes and charity HQ set to regenerate Hemel locality

Plans have been submitted to regenerate a brownfield site in the centre of Hemel Hempstead with 56 new homes, and a purpose-built headquarters for homeless charity DENS. On behalf of Dacorum Borough Council, multi-disciplinary design practice rg+p has designed and submitted plans for a complete redevelopment of the Paradise Depot site, off St Albans Road, east of the town centre. Currently occupied by the DENS office and food bank, as well as other commercial/industrial premises, the intention is for the site to become “an asset for the town.”

rg+p’s design proposes a two-storey building to better serve DENS’ needs, comprising a ground floor food bank and bike workshop together with first floor community cafe, office space, kitchen, and multifunctional meeting rooms. A “shared surface” unites this building with a new apartment block of 56 one and two bedroom homes. Cycle and scooter storage, car parking, residents’ garden and additional landscaping is also incorporated into the overall design. Each apartment has a private balcony, and some units will be built to accessible standards.

Hemel Hempstead’s distinctive local vernacular “heavily influenced the proposed material palette,” said the developer. The concept for the apartment building references the Old Townscape’s Tudor heritage and features a blend of red and dark brickwork with hit and miss detailing and a rusticated plinth. In contrast, the new DENS centre will have a predominantly darker appearance with black framed windows and rainscreen cladding. However, the food bank entrance is designed as a focal point and will feature decorative tiling inspired by Hertfordshire Puddingstone. Unique to the area, Puddingstone traditionally has a subtle and muted exterior but when cut, it has vibrant orange, brown and blue hues, meaning this facade will look both striking and individual.

Grant Giblett, the project’s lead and rg+p’s director, commented:

“The local architecture has offered plenty of inspiration, and we’re confident these new buildings will complement the townscape. “More importantly, they will deliver essential homes and services for some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Having worked with Dacorum Borough Council for several years, we fully understand their ambitions, especially regarding repurposing brownfield sites and avoiding greenbelt development.

Paradise Depot is rg+p’s third affordable housing scheme for Dacorum Borough Council, following the award-winning Kylna Court and Magenta Court. Two further sites, also in the town, are currently in development.