Welcome to Hitchin Forum

The District Council’s draft Local Plan IMG_1829is out to public consultation until 6th February. Hitchin Town Action Group held workshops on Saturday January 17th to discuss what it’s all about, and what people would like to see happen in Hitchin over the next 16 years.

The next step is Hitchin Committee on Thursday Jan 29th. The Cabinet member with responsibility for the Plan will be discussing the issues. HTAG will make a brief presentation,  having digested the views expressed at the public meeting by then, and the Hitchin Forum newsletter will have been published with a condensed response to the Plan – further information here.

The DistrictPriory Fields walk Local Plan and the preferred housing options: On Thursday November 27th, maybe 500 people crammed in to Letchworth Leisure Centre to protest about housing prospects. Baldock faces a possible increase of 80% in total housing for this small historic town (www.saveruralbaldock.co.uk). Priory Fields are not on the list at present, but Highover Farm and the area around Lucas Lane are. 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 previously producedPlanning Hitchin’s Futurea document to contribute to and hopefully influence the forthcoming District Local Plan.

Top Field, Hitchin Town FCTop Field march 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.

Churchgate: ChurchgateThis 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 after the long saga so far!

Bancroft Recreation Ground did not receive Bancroft Recreation Groundthe 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. Town Hall - pastHitchin 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: St Marys SquareOn 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? station1Efficiency? 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 Redhill Pathwhere 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.

Other current campaigns, issues and concerns include Litter and Luton Airport see the list and links are 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

Read more about Hitchin, its history and the changes here, where to find local footpaths 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.