Hitchin town plan ‘exceptional’

St Mary's Church in Hitchin is listed in the document

St Mary's Church in Hitchin is listed in the document - Credit: Archant

A DOCUMENT created by town groups looking to the future of a town has been described as “first class”.

Hitchin Forum, Hitchin Society and Hitchin Historical Society, backed by Hitchin Initiative, have produced a 50-page document which outlines their vision for the town and suggests policy ideas and proposals.

The groups hope the report will provide some input to the Hitchin section of North Herts’ Local Plan and have met with district council officers to discuss the possibility. At North Herts District Council’s Hitchin area committee on Tuesday, Hitchin Forum’s Adrian Gurney presented the town centre section of the document to councillors.

Other topics, including housing, accessibility, recreation and open space and environment, will all be presented over the coming months.

“Our aim is to start a debate not seek endorsement here of what we have done so far. We would like to concentrate this evening on town centre issues where there is great need to open up discussions and seek advice on ways forward,” Mr Gurney told councillors.

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“The two main aims are to strengthen Hitchin as a destination town centre by making the most of opportunities to increase its attractiveness for day and evening visits through, for instance, building a critical mass of leisure and cultural facilities [and] to provide flexible buildings and spaces in the town centre to provide for a wide range of uses and meet the changing community and recreational needs of local people.”

The groups, who meet officers again tomorrow (Friday), outlined policies including continuing the importance of the town’s historic character, ensuring development is small scale and incremental, and encouraging improved transport facilities.

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They also questioned whether to revive a town centre working party.

Proposals in the report included improved car park layout and facilities around St Mary’s Square, Churchgate and the market, improvement to Moss’s Corner/Brand Street, a creative quarter at Paynes Park, and strengthening cultural and youth facilities in the Woodside area.

Speaking after the presentation, committee chairman Cllr Ray Shakespeare Smith said: “It think this is a very thorough piece of work, it does raise a lot of issues, and I do welcome it as I’m sure the committee does.”

Vice chairman Cllr Richard Thake labelled it “exceptional” and “first class”.

And Cllr Judi Billing said: “It helps the town when local organisations work in this way, and also helps local councillors as well.”

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