Save Top Field campaign is launched in Hitchin
BUSINESSES, residents and town centre groups launched a campaign this week to fight against development at Hitchin’s Top Field site.
A meeting was held yesterday evening (Tuesday) to discuss how to battle against proposals by New Road (Clifton) Ltd and Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust to sell off Top Field for development and build a new stadium on Green Belt land opposite Kingshott School.
The meeting, which was organised by resident Jackie McDonald, attracted dozens of people, including members of Hitchin BID, Hitchin Initiative and Hitchin Forum, residents, town centre and community businesses, and district councillor Judi Billing.
The main idea put forward was to create a neighbourhood development plan under new legislation, which establishes general planning policies for the area.
The plan would need the majority of support of the residents in the area and would have to meet a number of conditions before legally coming into force, but would hold some weight in determining local planning strategy.
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Hitchin Forum member Nafisa Sayany suggested the idea, stating that she was concerned about proposed new planning laws and the fact there was no up-to-date local plan in North Herts.
“We’re totally exposed without that,” she said at the meeting.
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“I think it’s worth looking at a neighbourhood planning project. It would be agreed by residents of that neighbourhood.
“We need to make sure we can find a solution that local people are content with.”
A number of objectives which the campaign needed to achieve were set out at the meeting.
They included keeping the ground in a central location, protecting Green Belt, the town centre and local businesses and holding the cow commoners to account.
Traffic at the proposed new site was also cited as a concern.
“I hope this is going to be the beginning of a really good campaign,” said Cllr Billing.
“[The development proposals] were done by the back door, no local councillors had been briefed. I think what is being proposed is nonsense, bad and rubbish.”
Adam Wilson, a shop owner, Hitchin BID and HItchin Initiative committee member, added: “The basis of Hitchin is that it’s a market town. If you are going to bring in something like Tesco, it’s going to damage that market town. A big supermarket will cull it.”
The lack of public consultation and discussion was also criticised, with many claiming the developers and cow commoners had been acting secretively.
John Keene, Hitchin Forum member, said: “I find it very difficult to believe that this has got this far without some conversation in some smoke filled room somewhere.”
Those at the meeting agreed to set up a committee, which would meet regularly to provide updates and look at ways to go forward. The next one will be held later this month.
Those present also said they were keen to enter talks with the football club and cow commoners and collect signatures for a petition.