Churchgate: This was discussed at NHDC’s Full Council meeting on Thursday February 12th. The Churchgate council report seemed positive in looking forward for a small scale development and seeking a solution for the market. The obvious concern that has arisen due to the death of David Payne, the owner of Hammersmatch and leaseholder of Churchgate, was evident. His sons and agent were present and are clear that they will be seeking to fulfil David’s wishes for the long awaited refurbishment and extension of the area. Councillors mostly focussed on the market and the need for it to remain a successful and central attraction for Hitchin. There was some discussion about whether permanent stalls are really shops, and there is likely to be ongoing debate about the size of the market, and the proportion of stalls that are ‘demountable’. The current delapidation of the fabric is evident, but the siting is the most contentious issue in any new plans. The last Hammersmatch scheme displaced it so that the proposed cinema would have an adjoining car park. This seems unfortunate, inappropriate and unnecessary and we hope that some creative solution will be found. The responsibility for a ‘solution’ clearly lies with any developer and the Council, with full community consultation. We look forward to the next step. More on the long saga here!
Hitchin Town Action Group (HTAG -Hitchin Forum, The Hitchin Society and Hitchin Historical Society, with support from Hitchin Initiative) has sent a 60 page response to North Herts District Council for the consultation which ended on February 6th. This has been prepared following extensive consultation and discussion with the public in workshops and with our respective memberships, and was written by a panel of our members. Click here to see the HTAG response . This may seem to be a long response, but the NHDC plans amount to thousands of pages! More information here. The consultation is now closed. NHDC expect to be publishing the next draft in September this year.
Top Field, Hitchin Town FC and the Cow Commoners Trust – A march by an estimated 2000 people on December 6th - report here - emphasized how unpopular the Cow Commoners’ action in offering the site for a supermarket development is, whatever benefits they think may be in swapping the sports area to St Ippolyts. There has been a plea by the local MP, Peter Lilley, and an on-line petition for the Charity Commission to investigate the actions of the Trust. Whether they have fulfilled all of the requirements of Charity Law is not clear. A planning application for a supermarket on the site is apparently still intended by New Roads Development Ltd, and if that is made NHDC will decide on any application on planning grounds alone . More on this and a few ideas here.
Bancroft Recreation Ground did not receive the hoped for grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This was discussed at NHDC Cabinet on December 16th – the report is here. The discussion was helpful, with the portfolio holder, Councillor Jane Gray, being reassuring about the need to continue discussions with Hitchin Committee and Councillors and with the community. The water play area and toilets nearby are for installation in the next year, and other changes, which have not been finalized, are to be implemented as and when funds are available Further information on Bancroft Rec is here.
Town Hall – lack of agreement. Hitchin Committee heard on Dec 2nd from the chairman of Hitchin Town Hall Ltd about the frustrations and missed opportunities in what could have been a partnership with NHDC. There is strong disappointment about various aspects of the renovations, including the permanent brick wall across the stage. Full text of his presentation is here & background here.
Car parking charges: On Monday November 24th NHDC Cabinet accepted the recommendation in the parking report to abandon (for now) the plan for evening and Sunday charges and followed the Hitchin Initiative proposals, apart from raising the 3+ and 4 hour charges – option B in parking charges. Further information here.The Council stated that they did listen to local residents, but it needed some loud shouting in the form of a petition, hard work by Hitchin Initiative (details here) and Hitchin councillors working together – minutes of special meeting here .
Bus Cuts – Consultation? Efficiency? Or just CUTS?? Hitchin Forum is opposing the County Council plan to end support for many bus services that run after 18.30 weekdays and on Sundays. Read more about the County Council plans and comment on the plans here and read our response here.
Careful where you walk! There is a splendid network of paths around Hitchin. Some you may know, others are still to be explored. We have previously mapped these. In the past year we have surveyed the paths – and have recently liaised with the local Countryside Access Officer to consider what can be done to improve and maintain this network within the town. Can you help us take care of the footpaths?
What else do we do? The Forum exists to develop and channel energy and enthusiasm for the town. We work to highlight things that we think need to change and improve the environment, and challenge developments that we think will damage our heritage and future.
A Planning Group meets regularly to consider a variety of concerns that affect the town – more details here with info on the planning system. We comment on recent planning proposals – here
Hitchin Forum was formed in 1992 as a non-political umbrella to bring together people and organizations who want to maintain and enhance Hitchin’s special character. It enables the views of people who live and work in Hitchin to be presented in a co-ordinated manner to relevant bodies. - more history is here
Members are regularly updated on issues and meetings, by occasional emails and a 2 monthly newsletter – our latest is here - NEWSLETTER Nov Dec 2014 and previous ones are here. We hold several members’ meetings through the year. We support members who have concerns in their neighbourhood - one such enterprise is the Butts Close newsletter – here.
Do join us! Anyone with an interest in Hitchin can join the Forum, either as an individual or as a nominated representative of an organization in the town. If you do want to be more involved then tell us – we often need an extra pair of hands! But – there is no obligation to do more than sign up – that is support enough. It is important that we have a wide membership base, partly so that we can hear a wide range of opinions, and also that we hear about issues in all corners of the town – membership details here.