Monday, 18 October 2010

Plus ça change

In the neighbouring Borough of Stevenage, they are celebrating the centenary of of the publication of Howards End. For Forster, Rooksnest – now known as Rooks Nest house – was not just his home but a symbol of country values, a connection to a place that seemed under increasing threat from the urbanisation (the proposed New Town) encroaching upon England.

The residents of Hitchin don't fear urbanisation - some town centre developments have improved the quality of life in the town, but the latests proposals have been much criticised. Among them, the plans for more retail outlets in the Churchgate area.

"The brand, is Hitchin - Historic Market Town, and we mess with that at our peril." This was the response of the Hitchin Initiative group to the proposal to develop the open space along the river frontage of St Mary's  Church that houses the Market. At a public meeting of Councillors, the Churchgate Liason Forum, Hitchin BID, directors of Hitchin Markets, and MP Peter Lilly, Hitchin Initiative pointed out that Hitchin was not a failing town; it has responded favourably to emerging retail trends over the past 1000 years.

Open space is important. in addition to its amenity value, open space in a town centre has commercial value. Residents value the feel of the town. Visitors have a wide choice of places they can visit - the appearance of Hitchin gives it a clear commercial edge over other towns." (Full article)

What Hitchin needs is the retention of those elements that define the town and have maintained its character as a unique place in which to live, work, and play.