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Notes from Hitchin Town Talk

Author: Claire Morgan, Community Officer, NHDC Published: 11th September 2017 10:47

Hitchin Town Talk Notes
Tuesday 5th September 2017 6.30pm - 7.15pm
Benslow Music Trust

The Vice Chair Councillor Ian Albert welcomed everybody to the Town Talk.

The next Town Talk will take place on Tuesday 5th December at 6.30pm at Hitchin Boys School.

Present -

• Cllr Ian Albert (Chair)
• Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb
• HCC Derek Ashley
• Cllr Alan Millard
• Cllr Ray Shakespeare-Smith
• Cllr Simon Harwood
• Cllr Elizabeth Dennis
• Cllr Richard Thake
• Cllr Judi Billing
• Claire Morgan - Communities Officer

Apologies: Cllr Nicola Harris, Cllr Frank Radcliff, Cllr Adrian Smith

Presentation from Hitchin Town Centre Manager Keith Hoskins (KH)

As Mr Hoskins was unable to attend the Hitchin Committee Meeting it was agreed that he would provide his update on the Town Centre during the Town Talk.

Cllr Ian Albert introduced Mr Hoskins and expressed the Committee's best wishes to him on his forthcoming announced retirement and appreciation for all his work over the many years he has acted as Hitchin's Town Centre Manager.

KH explained that the Job advertisement for the position of Hitchin BID Manager has now gone live. The successful applicant is expected to commence employment in January 2018. They will then work with KH during the final year of the BID period and see through the process of BID ballot to decide whether the local businesses wish to retain the Business Improvement District. (For information on how BID's work see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/business-improvement-districts).

KH will remain to work part-time on projects for the Hitchin Initiative such as the project to reinstate the Dell to its once former use as an open air amphitheatre. He is currently organising a charity fund raising Masquerade Ball at the Hitchin Priory in order to start gaining funds towards the project. He is also working on a funding bid to put to the Arts Council of Great Britain which will include the Dell project but also extend a project that will create a hub of art and culture in Hitchin.

KH is currently investigating a way to alter the current covenant on the Dell which is presently preventing the outdoor theatre project going ahead.

KH stated that the current owner of the Churchgate Shopping Centre, Hammersmatch had been invited by the Committee Chair Cllr Harris to provide a presentation to the Hitchin Committee. Hammersmatch representative was unable to attend the meeting and KH informed those present that there had been no changes to report in the current circumstances of the shopping centre.

Issues raised this session

1. Play Areas - Margaret Eddleson
2. Churchgate - Brian Foreman
3. VAT on capital funding provided to community facilities - Chris Parker
4. Section 106 funds for Hitchin Town Hall
5. Dropped Kerb - Portmill Lane - Colin Dunham
6. Cycling on pavements - Pam Ball
7. Street Cleaning - Bernard Eddleston
8. Trees on Standhill Road - Elly Clarke
9. Charging for Garden Waste - John Keen

1. Play Areas

Regarding the consultation report of Cllrs Harwood and Shears-Hanscombe to be heard in this evening's Hitchin Committee meeting.

Cllr MS-H stated that no groups in Hitchin had come forward requesting to take over responsibility for a play area the authority has decided to remove.

Committee development budgets may be used in order to pump prime new groups to set up and manage a play area, but they would need to raise their own funds in the long term

It was suggested that in the longer term, if a Town Council was created for Hitchin this would be able to provide the funds to maintain and operate play areas.

Cllr SH stated that more information would be provided during the later meeting but there might just be a silver lining to this issue.

Cllrs JB and ED are currently working with a number of residents who are campaigning to save the Rosehill play area to help them form a formal group.

Cllr SH stated that he had learned much from officers regarding how to ensure the play equipment is relevant to the needs of local people.

Cllr RS-S pointed out that the Rosehill site was a special circumstance especially given that a new large housing development in that area is planned.

2. Churchgate

Mr BF explained that he had noticed the commencement of some work being undertaken on the canopy in the Churchgate Shopping Centre. However the work had only been superficial and two thirds of the shop units have health and safety issues including leaks and electrical faults. Mr BF requested that Cllrs put pressure on NHDC officers to inspect the shop units.

Mr BF stated that the current owners of the Shopping Centre have not fulfilled the clauses in their contract with NHDC.

Cllr MS-H agreed that Officers ought to check up on this.

Cllr RS-S agreed to ask the question of the relevant officers.

3. VAT in regard to Capital Funding awards

Mr CP explained that Walsworth Community Centre has been awarded £50k grant funding from NHDC towards refurbishment of the building. However, if the Community Association are to pay contractors themselves this would reduce the amount of funds available by 20% due to the VAT payable. However, if NHDC pay the contractors directly the authority is about to claim the VAT back.

Cllr SH stated that as he is the chair of the Panel that recommended the decision to provide the funding he would liaise with both Cllr Bernard Lovewell and the Communities Manager who is responsible for the grant.

4. Hitchin Town Hall

A member of the audience asked for information regarding section 106 funds allocated to Youth Provision that has been used towards Hitchin Town Hall and Museum building. They wanted to know where the Youth Provision was in Hitchin Town Hall.

5. Drop Kerb on Portmill Lane

Mr CD informed those present that nothing had been done about the issue of people parking across the dropped kerb at the end of Portmill Lane.

This is causing access issues for those with mobility problems, wheel chair users and people with children in buggies. Mr CD requested that double yellow lines are installed in front of the dropped kerb to deter motorists from blocking it.

Cllr JB has a meeting planned for Friday 8th September with Highways Officers and she will mention this to them.

6. Cyclists on Pavements

Ms PB reported that the issue of people cycling in pedestrian areas of the Town Centre is getting worse and she is concerned that a serious accident may happen.

Cllr ED responded that she often cycles in London and uses cycle lanes and roads and feels that locally improvement of cycle provision would help alleviate problems. She mentioned that there is a funding pot for this purpose.

Cllr JB reported that she has raised this issue with the Police but was informed that this issue is not a priority for them.

Cllr RT stated that cycle lanes are a great idea but doubted they would be practical in Hitchin Town Centre. However he could not condone cyclists mowing down pedestrians.

Cllr IA concluded that this could be brought up with the Police when they next present to the Hitchin Committee.

7. Street Cleansing

Mr BE informed the meeting that when the machine comes along to sweep the streets it is a waste of time as the cars parked either side of the road prevent the machine cleaning the gutters effectively. This means that leaves and litter then wash into the drains and block them.

Cllr JB explained that the Street Cleansing is the responsibility of the District Council; however the drains are under the County Council jurisdiction.

Cllr MS-H suggested that this issue ought to be included for a discussion item for the Hitchin Committee as the Waste Contract is under negotiation at the moment.

Keith Hoskins suggested that Churchyard ought to be on the same waste contract as the rest of the Town Centre as the Veolia operative has to walk past full bins in the church yard as these are on the contract with John O'Connor. Is it possible to put them on the same contract?

This has been raised with Grounds Maintenance officers who have informed the Communities Officer that the bins in the Church Yard are emptied twice daily.

8. Trees in Standhill Road

Mrs EC reported that there was an avenue of silver birch trees on Standhill Road some of these have been removed and a couple of them have been replaced. Mrs Clarke exclaimed that they look rather sad at the moment.

Cllr SH said that he thought this was due to an issue with the line of sight.

This has been raised with the Tree Officer who stated that the removed trees were over mature and deemed to be a hazard to the public as limbs had started to fall off.

It will take a few years for the new trees replacing them to become established.

9. Charging for Garden Waste

Mr JK asked whether the charge for removal of garden waste would include food waste. Cllr ED responded that the removal of food waste is a statutory responsibility, therefore the authority could not make a charge but garden waste is treated differently.

CD asked Cllr JB if she had spoken to Cllr D Barnard regarding the smiley speeding signs on Bedford Road. She responded that she would bring this up with Highways officers.

JK asked if we could also look into the issue of street clutter (street furniture).

Cllr JB stated that she did not consider items that made the street safer as clutter.

Meeting Closed at 7.15pm

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