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. NHDC Scrutiny Committee will discuss this further on December 18th.
Big Meeting Week
Car parking charges: On Monday November 24th NHDC Cabinet accepted the recommendation in Parking report NHDC 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.
The Council says that an inflationary increase equivalent to RPI at November should be applied annually to tariffs. The Cabinet did state, when faced with accusations that they are out of touch with local people over the housing plans, that they are good at consulting with local residents, as proved by the parking consultation. They did consult well in the end, 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 .
Churchgate: This was discussed at full Council on Thursday November 27th. The Leader of the Council, Lynda Needham, proposed that the second of 3 possible recommendations in the report to council be accepted – to discontinue the current approach based upon the Churchgate Planning Brief and consider alternative approaches for a smaller scheme in the short term. Officers have been instructed to investigate the Council’s preferred approach as agreed and report back to Full Council, setting out options and points for consideration to progress the project – by February 12th (2015). This is not quite a green light to Hammersmatch and the plan for a small cinema, but a strong pointer to sorting things out soon, which is very welcome.
Again councillors were quick to say how they do listen to the people and are good at consultation. Yes but, it did take an enormous amount of effort by lots of groups, councillors, the town centre manager, and even a petition to get them to listen. Lots of shouting as the Council did seem quite deaf to the messages for a very long time.
Housing – preferred options for the Local plan: At the same Thursday meeting, maybe 500 people crammed in to Letchworth Leisure Centre to protest about housing prospects. There were 10 public presentations from Baldock and Letchworth Garden City. Baldock faces the possibility of 2800 houses on one site, and 3591 in total, and campaigners said, increase of 80% in total housing for this small historic town (www.saveruralbaldock.co.uk). Letchworth Garden City could have 2030 extra houses, protestors saying that this spoils the green belt and the original and unique plans of Ebenezer Howard. David Levett, the portfolio holder, gave a clear presentation to the public, welcoming protests, as the consultation is to find out what people think. He and others were at pains to explain that the ‘preferred options’ report is not the final answer, but, with a touch of scaremongering, that if there is no Local Plan to give guidelines then a ‘hostile developer’ could get planning permission almost anywhere. Council voted to get on with the process and the consultation. Full details on the NHDC website.
The consultation period for the ‘preferred options’ runs from December 18th until February 6th
Hitchin Town Action Group (formed by ourselves, Hitchin Historical Society, The Hitchin Society & supported by Hitchin Initiative) organized a walk and a survey on Priory Fields – and this area is not now on the preferred options list. HTAG has also produced ‘Planning Hitchin’s Future – a document to contribute to and hopefully influence the forthcoming District Local Plan.
Brilliant litter clearing day on October 12th, over 90 litter picking enthusiasts of all ages, 15 sites and excellent back up from NHDC and great Uncle Bulgaria. Prize collection of rubbish in Charlton – pic on right. Full report here & more pictures of the litter pickers here.
Top Field, Hitchin Town FC and the Cow Commoners Trust – what does the future hold? A lively and well attended meeting on October 8th displayed the strife that may be faced before we know. A planning application for a supermarket on the site is still intended by New Roads Development Ltd. The Cow Commoners show no sign of giving up after another round of legal action. Bad for the football club, bad for the town! More on this and a few ideas here.
Hitchin Town Hall is being refurbished, but the works are damaging the inside of this listed building and horrify those who have seen it. The Council Planning Committee were critical about the standard of work that they had seen. Read about the decision here. HTHLtd press release Oct 10th and more horrific photos of the interior 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?
If you have noticed that Hitchin seems to be overflown more frequently during the spring and early summer (talking airplanes & not birds!), the figures from the airport’s annual monitoring report bear out your impression. Read our update here.
Bancroft Recreation Ground did not receive the hoped for grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. NHDC have said that there will be discussions with HLF, hopefully to clarify why, but that meeting is not until September 22nd and it is uncertain when that information will become available to the public. Following a Freedom of Information request the HLF have released the Case Paper for Bancroft and Lottery Board Minutes. We hope that discussions will be held with all interested parties and full consideration given to the needs of current users as well as looking at ways of increasing its usage within a much more restricted budget. Further information on Bancroft Rec is here.
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.
Other current campaigns, issues and concerns include Churchgate, Litter, Luton Airport – the list and links are here. We hope to influence the Local Plan which the district council will use as a basis for future developments – Planning Hitchin’s Future – here.
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 (past copies 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.