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Our Hitchin - Town News

Our Hitchin - Town News

| by Our Hitchin | Posted in Hitchin News

Following months of workshops, business surveys,employee surveys, town centre visitor surveys, face to face meetings, meet and greet events and drop
in days, we have compiled an extensive list of BID projects and initiatives.
It’s now time for you, the BID levy payer,to decide where and how much money we spend on each project.

We have organised an interactive workshop at the Sun Hotel Ballroom on 8th and 9th August from 5pm to 7:30pm. On arrival you will be offered a complementary drink and handed £250 of ‘BID pounds’. All the projects will be displayed on 4 large boards where you will be required to place your BID pounds into the various pockets under each activity. There will also be a 5th board where you can write ‘out of the box’ ideas to be considered for the new five year plan.

With the renewal vote taking place in November, there has never been a more important time to come along and have your say on the future of the town!

Update Frome - the new cradle of democracy?

As reported last month, six of us visited Frome in Somerset intrigued by the notion of how the town managed to create and sustain a grassroots movement that took over their Town Council in 2011 and were re-elected with an even bigger mandate in 2015. It remains to be seen how they will fare in 2019 but all the signs are encouraging.

Having met with Councillors Peter Macfadyen and Mel Usher, key architects of IfF – Independents for Frome with Councillor Kate Bielby and Town Clerk Peter Wynne, there has been a follow-up visit to look at some of their tourism and marketing initiatives. Peter had written the book ‘Flatpack Democracy - A DIY Guide to Creating Independent Politics’ and will very soon issue a follow up to show how the project has been sustained and illustrate the positives and the pitfalls on their journey to true localism.

Frome is a town slightly smaller than Hitchin with a population of just under 27000; more people commute out of the town to work than commute in, but there are 850 businesses in town of which 72% have less than 5 employees. Currently the Council has a precept income of £1,268,273 all of which is dedicated to the wellbeing of their town which is equivalent to £150.69 per year for a Band D property. This precept has risen over the 7 years that Independents have been in control but it would seem that the good people of Frome are pleased with the services that are being delivered and so there has been no widespread opposition. This years increase equated to 15p per household per week.

Democracy in Frome is very open with Town Council meetings in the round and accessible to all; no Party politics means no confrontation and nopre-determined decision-making. There are healthy debates that include members of the public and then a majority decision prevails. There is no formal committee structure; the Council meets as a body monthly and then there are project panels which are formed with Councillors and co-opted members of the public who may have a special interest or expertise. These panels will discuss, make recommendations and implement then disband and a new topic is launched with different contributors.

Current panels discuss Keep Frome Clean, Well-Being, Town Centre and Sport and Leisure. The Council now employs an Environment Manager in charge of open spaces, buildings and three town rangers; Resilience Manager looking at sustainability, renewable energies and waste; an Economic & Regeneration Manager dealing with planning matters, health & wellbeing and business liaison, Community Projects Officer to see how joint working with other groups can bring about improved facilities and then there are Finance & Admin staff and a Marketing & Communications Manager with assistants that help keep the information offices open to the public.

Frome, described in the book as having ‘a history of both neglect and slightly bolshie independence’, had an established Town Council in a three-tier system of local government with Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council above them. However, in the past seven years they have delivered so much for their town that come polling day, the electorate have happily split their votes between traditional party politics for District/County and overwhelmingly IfF at Town level. Their movement began as so many ideas do from an initial discussion in the pub where rather than the usual “they should do something about it”, became “why don’t we do something about it?”.

The ‘it’ being a genuine desire to focus solely on bringing benefit to Frome, to encourage different and diverse debate and reassert that community leadership is about making bold, local decisions without fear of making mistakes. Hitchin Initiative

Hitchin Rail Station

Maybe now is not the time to be talking too much about the actual rail service but we do still need to make progress on access to and parking at Hitchin station.

Hot off the press, we have received our aerial photos of the station and surrounding land and it is very apparent that there are large tracts that are not best utilised for the benefit of our town.

The sample photos here may not be too clear but it is our intention to get large high res prints done and then to invite Network Rail together with our supportive Member of Parliament, local County Councillors and with input from the District Council re future housing developments and the emerging Local Plan to all sit around the table and see if we can’t have some joined up thinking with regard to gaining direct access to the London-bound platform, relieving the pressure from commuter parking and trying to ease the gridlock that can occur at the current station entrance and the pinchpoint of the Cambridge Road bridge thus making it safer for pedestrians particularly students needing to get to North Herts College. We’ll keep you posted.

Pebble Sanctuary

Pebble Sanctuary are launching their new graduate therapist programme which should be of great interest to any newly qualified beauty therapist. They understand and sympathise with the employment challenge: ‘You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job’

The graduate programme will allow newly qualified therapists to join Pebble and be safe in the knowledge that they are not expected to hit the ground running and be under tremendous pressure to provide the same level of treatment as an experienced therapist with years of salon practice.
When a Graduate Therapist joins, they will have full Pebble training to get them client ready so that they will be capable of delivering a very good standard of treatment.

Clients can now start to book in with their first two new graduates, Sophie and Aimee for a limited number of treatments but the list will continue to grow as they complete their Pebble training. Clients booking in with a Graduate Therapist will get their treatment at a very generous 20% discount off the normal price list. The appointment time may be slightly longer to allow for the treatment to be completed without the need to rush.

Pebble believe this is a much better way to introduce inexperienced therapists to the salon and to their clients who visit because of their great reputation.


The next meeting will be on Thursday 9th August at 10.30am at The Sun Hotel for all licensees with local police and Licensing Officers from North Herts District Council.

Business Breakfast

The Business Breakfast this month will be at Redcoats Farmhouse Hotel on the 15th at 7.30am. This is always such a popular venue particularly during the balmy summer! A chance to network, get news of events and happenings in town and have the opportunity to promote your business.

The cost is £12 payable on the morning but please book in by emailing so that we can advise numbers for catering.

Thanks to Simon Michell at The Car Agents in Queen Street for hosting last month and very generously donating the proceeds to Hitchin Initiative funds.

Festival thanks

With another Hitchin Festival successfully concluded, I’d like to extend grateful thanks to those who donated the proceeds from their events to Hitchin Initiative: Brent Smith for his sell-out Lutyens talk; David Howlett & Pauline Humphries for the Blue Plaque Walk; David again for the Railway Walk and Bridget Howlett for Priory Park Walk.

Special mention this year of the lunchtime concerts which attracted record attendances and thanks to Canon Michael Roden, Verger Andrew and the Churchwardens for the use of St Marys and to all the performers.

Lost Property

We get an increasing number of enquiries from people who have mislaid keys/wallets/bags/phones/bus passes etc around town so may I ask anyone who finds an item anywhere in town to bring it to us so that we can be the central lost property office as there is nowhere else.

Hopefully we can reunite more of these anxious enquirers with their belongings. Either drop in or call up one of the Town Rangers.
Hitchin Information

The Dell

This lovely plaque on the front of the Queen Mother Theatre was unveiled 17 years ago to mark the 50th anniversary of the'opening production' of
'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in The Dell in July 1951.

Hitchin schoolmaster Maurice Keeley inspired the development of The Dell as an open air theatre - so come on NHDC let us continue that vision!

2018 Town Dates

Sat 04  Councillor's Surgery, Market Place, 10am-Noon.
Sat 18   Hermitage Road Weekend, Hermitage Road.10am-4pm
Sun 19  Hermitage Road Weekend, Hermitage Road. 10am-4pm
Sat 25   Craft & Farmer's Market, Riverside

Sat 01   Councillor’s Surgery, Market Place, 10am-noon
Thur 06   Street Food Monthly, Market Place, 4pm-9pm
Sat 8th    Hitchin FoodFest, Market Place & High Street
Sun 9th   Hitchin FoodFest, Market Place & High Street
Sat 29    Craft & Farmer’s Market, Riverside

Get Involved! To share Hitchin news & events, email details with a link to more information and any imagery to or hashtag your pictures and stories with #Hitchin on social networks so we can locate them!

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