Agenda item


To receive a verbal presentation from the Hitchin BID Manager.


The Chair invited Tom Hardy to give a verbal presentation for Members



Audio recording –


Mr Tom Hardy, Hitchin BID Manager, thanked the Chair for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the issues and activities in Hitchin Town Centre and drew attention to the following:


·         Some businesses are seeing a 300% increase in their utility bills. We are doing a workshop with businesses on how to look up cost saving initiatives. We are working with an organisation to deliver that

·         I am working with the Association of Town and City Managers on a national campaign to lobby to government to lower the VAT rate by 215% for a period of time similar to what they did in the pandemic and other European countries. Also lobbying for a business rates review that we were promised in 2019. We need to level the playing field between all businesses and bricks and mortar high street businesses

·         We are doing a lot of work with other towns. We have 200 bids signed up to this and I am attending regular meetings for this

·         I held a Churchgate business meeting where all the businesses in Churchgate were invited. 7 of them replied saying they would come and 23 ended up turning up. I am on the project board representing businesses so I wanted to get a good idea of how they felt about building, short and long term aspirations, and understand issues.

·         I will be working with Councillor Hoskins on a questionnaire that we will get out to businesses. We want to understand what the priorities are and how to take this to the next project board meeting.

·         As for updates in the town, we are changing all our summer planting to winter planting.

·         The Christmas lights will be going up on the 24th October for testing. These won’t be turned on until after Remembrance.

·         The Christmas tree is due to be installed around a week before the Christmas lights will be turned on, this will be Saturday 19th November. This will be from 12pm-8pm this year. We have the kids carols in the daytime and the lights will be turned on at 6pm.

·         We have put up 42 lamp post banners around the town and there are print and postcards in the information centre as they were quite popular on social media

·         We have come up with a new brand for Hitchin, it is a H with two lines coming off it. This will start to be shown around the town. Many people don’t know what it is so we are trying to come up with a public facing brand so people recognise this as Hitchin brand.

·         We are using this to move into a new website which should be launched in the next couple months called Visit Hitchin. This will work alongside Hitchin hub. Visit Hitchin will be for residents, public and visitors and Hitchin hub will be for business related things.

·         We have the French market arriving Thursday-Sunday. We have the Halloween trail arriving at the end of the month.

·         We are not going ahead with the Christmas market this year. We had mixed feedback, we had 15 market stalls which was good but the public expected more and this wouldn’t work for businesses. We have decided to go back to what we did originally and fill weekends up with activities that complement the businesses in the town.

·         We have the Christmas light switch on on the 19th November, rotary food and wine on the 26th November, the art hub on 2nd December. We have the Hitchin market taking over the market place on the 10th and 11th December. We are holding a big event on the 17th and 18th which will be thing such as a snow globe, reindeer petting, etc. We will have the grotto in the cabby hut which will be run by the Garden Hospice.

·         We also have a tractor trail coming through the town. 200 tractors on the 17th December at 7:30.

·         There will also be a snowman trail. Around 12 snowmen around 6ft high will be around the town. They are based on the film ‘Snowman’. This will be from the 14th December until the end of January.

·         For businesses, there will be a winning windows competition, a Christmas video promoting all businesses, a Christmas lights parade during the Christmas lights switch on, and we are putting out a H town newspaper which will be a Christmas edition with a gift guide containing various gifts you can buy in the town

·         I have had a lot of businesses come to me with various issues with parking. I have attended various parking meetings with the District Council and the thing that seems to come up frequently is the ability to pay on exit. A lot of car parks now do it, it is very cheap on technology. A lot of people come into the information centre asking for directions and many say they don’t have time on their ticket. I think if they had pay on exit it would create more dwell time. People would go to coffee shops and retailers. Retailers are really feeling it as many people that come to shops have to rush back to their car. I’m keen to work with the District Council to do a trail of this.

·         The next business breakfast is on the 19th October. This will be at the Elite café at 7:30am and breakfast will be served at 8. The Hitchin BID AGM is being held at the same day but at 6pm at the Sun Hotel.

·         Next year we will be starting the renewal ballot again in February,. We are due to go to ballot in November next year so we will be starting the process. The ballot will happen in 4 weeks, so the month of November. If we are successful the new BID term will start in April 2024.

·         I am working with officers on an economic development survey which includes a feasibility study for a potential BID in the industrial centre.

·         We are looking at events for next year and what worked and what didn’t this year. If Members have any ideas then let us know.

·         The Kings coronation will be held on the 6th May. We have a big screen booked for that.

·         We are looking at potentially having another carnival on the 7th May.

·         I have some monthly newsletters and the annual report for 2021/22 that I will leave for Members to take.


Councillor Albert highlighted that they are keen to look at whether having a BID in the industrial centre would be positive and it links to the LCWIP and discussions that were had at the town talk before the meeting.


The following Members asked questions:


·         Nigel Mason

In response to questions, Tom Hardy advised:


·         No, we won’t have football on the big screen. Football events have to have a safety advisor group, higher security than other events and this becomes very costly. There are lots of pubs around town that will show this. We also don’t want to take business away from local pubs


Councillor Bryant mentioned that she was happy to hear the proposal for pay on exit car parks and agrees that this will help retailers and people staying longer.