The last time St Albans had a City Centre Vision was a draft back in 2009. Much has happened since then: high streets retailers have suffered from the growth of internet shopping and alterations in consumer spending; climate change and environmental pollution have created environmental concerns requiring green and sustainable solutions. To create a City Centre of the future St Albans residents can enjoy, your input is needed today.
In June this year, St Albans Business Improvement District (BID) worked in partnership with St Albans District Council on a webinar conference, which was organised and chaired by Tim Boatswain, the then Chair of the Civic Society. The conference looked at the way city centres are changing and how St Albans urgently needs a new vision to respond to a different environment.
Tim, now Chair of the BID’s City Centre Vision Steering Group says:
“City centres are not only crucial to the economic success of places, providing accommodation for 8% of businesses and 14 per cent of jobs, there are residents who also live there, and city centres are also social and cultural hubs for the whole community. It is crucially important that we reshape and invest in our city centre to ensure St Albans has a vibrant and attractive future.”
Shaping the future of St Albans City Centre
So who decides what St Albans should like in the future, ensuring all its citizens who live and work in the city centre have their say, you ask? Tim says that the BID has proposed that we create a City Centre Vision that has a statutory status, under the Localism Act 2011, where there is no town or parish council there is a requirement to form a Neighbourhood Forum, which can then draft a Neighbourhood Plan.”
Mandy McNeil, Vice-Chair of the BID says, “It’s been amazing to see how many residents, from cyclists to runners, to families, both young and old, are drawn to the city centre during COVID19. It’s clear they are passionate about their city centre, want to support local businesses and many want to see things like a Cathedral Quarter, creative/vibrant and flexible workspaces, activities for young adults and affordable incubator retail, become a reality.”
Sarah Gillow, Co Vice-Chair and a local business owner of almost 30 years says “We need a city centre vision which includes planning protections that consider our precious environment, while showcasing the vibrancy and heritage of St Albans, to encourage people to live, work and visit our city.” “Tim (supported by Vanessa Sharp) is doing an incredible job in chairing this city centre vision initiative. A Neighbourhood Forum will empower city centre residents and businesses, including our small independent businesses with a voice in planning what their neighbourhood will look in the future”.
While Council cannot be involved in a Neighbourhood Forum or Plan, this initiative is something that Cllr Robert Donald, the Portfolio Holder for Commercial Development and Wellbeing sees as a positive step. Robert says “I strongly support the concept of a vision overview for the city centre and to understand what the community would like to see there for the next 50 years plus. A Neighbourhood Plan will help to inform the development strategy for the city, helping to enable the Council to place shape to futureproof our local economy, including commercial use and retailing.”
St Albans City Centre is home to many popular independents
Under the guidance of BID, Tim and BID business liaison manager, Vanessa Sharp, have organised a second open webinar for 8th December at 6 pm to examine how to take St Albans City Centre Vision forward.
One of the participants in June webinar, James Hampton (who had previously taken part in the BBC Panorama TV programme How to Save the High Street) of New Makers Bureau (a London-based Architectural Practice, known for environmentally and socially conscious buildings) has been funded by the BID to produce scoping exercise for the City Centre Vision. He will be the first speaker at the webinar when he will present St Albans City Centre Vision Initial Ideas.
The second speaker at the webinar will be David Carlisle, an Associate Director of AECOM (an international planning and infrastructure company with an office in St Albans), which is contracted to deliver planning services through the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to Locality (a nationwide network of community organisations); David will talk about Processes for Establishing a Neighbourhood Forum leading to a Neighbourhood Plan.
The last speaker is Dr Ros Rivas, besides having a distinguished career in industry, has recently been appointed by the Government as Chair of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, was educated in St Albans and led on the Eton and Eton Wick Neighbourhood Plan. She will describe her experiences of drafting a Neighbourhood Plan. These talks will be followed by a question and answer question session.
Join the discussion on St Albans City Centre
If you would like to join this webinar on 8th December, 6 pm, please click on the link:
Meeting ID: 499 675 4679 | Passcode: 682170
Local business launch “Brew for a Hero” campaign for NHS & key workers
Harpenden based Twist Teas have announced their “Brew for a Hero” campaign is back! Launched to support and boost morale for NHS staff and key workers, the Brew for a Hero” campaign gives people a chance to show their appreciation for all the heroes from all walks of life during the current pandemic. This could be anyone – local postal workers, refuse collectors and cleaners, emergency services and health care staff, teachers and chefs, community groups and volunteers.
You can participate in the “Brew for a Hero” by nominating a NHS or key workers hero you know. Nominate your hero and give them a chance to win one of Twist Teas Rainbow inspired tea caddies. If you know a key worker, that you would like to surprise with a personalised Rainbow Caddy of tea, simply email your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a brief reason, as to why they deserve a little treat. Twist Teas will again be tasked with the difficult job of picking winners, to be announced on the 31st of January.
Twist Teas will also be making caddies available to purchase via their website with profits going to NHS Charities. More information about Twist Teas can be found in our interview with founders, mother and daughter duo Nicky Kavanaugh & Claire Ayers.
Watford businesses to decide on the future of Watford BID
Watford BID have launched a video highlighting the reasons why they believe they deserve a second 5-year term. Many residents in Watford are aware of Watford BID but not many understand exactly what they do and more importantly, how integral their work is to the success of Watford.
What is a BID and why are they so important?
Essentially, a BID (Business Improvement District) is a business-led and business funded body formed to improve a specific area in which a levy is charged on all business rate payers. This levy is used to develop projects and provide services which benefit businesses in the local area. This can include:
- Activities to increase visitors to the area
- Reducing overall business costs for levy members
- Marketing and promotion of the area such
- Lobbying councils/local government
- Working with local police to reduce anti-social behaviour
There is no limit on what projects or services that can be provided through a Business Improvement District. Some BIDS are more effective at certain tasks than others for a number of reasons but overall, the benefits BIDs offer to the various towns across Beds, Bucks & Herts is immeasurable.
Three reasons for Watford BID to get renewed
We have selected what we believe are the three main reasons why Watford BID should get renewed.
1. Watford BID offers a central point of contact
At a time when the Government don’t know if they are coming or going, having a central point for all information relating to Watford offers residents, visitors and business owners a much-needed level of clarity. Social distancing procedures and safety communication both need harmonisation to keep Watford Town safe.
Watford BID have been extremely informative on Social Media and in the district sharing key information such as this statement on the national lockdown from the Mayor of Watford.
Typically a Business Improvement District is within a local authority boundary but in April 2013 government introduced Cross Boundary Business Improvement Districts enabling Business Improvement Districts to operate across local authority boundaries.
2. Watford Restaurants & Bars will need support after the lockdowns end
Promoting Watford’s entertainment venues post-covid is going to need a lot of collaborative support post covid. Individual businesses taking to to social media to posts and update Facebook is not going to tempt the same numbers back to the district’s nightlife venues.
By having one organisation working alongside all the venues to promote Watford as an entertainment destination, visitors will hear one concise message that Watford is open for business.
3. Think of the benefits for residents and visitors
There have been calls for BIDs across The Three Counties to do more by some levy payers but in fairness, the amount of work involved in some of the projects is not to be underestimated such as launching The Watford Gift Card.
It is also important to understand that alongside promoting what’s on in Watford and things to do in Watford, the organisation is a key source for useful information for those living in and visiting Watford.
Could this be the biggest clue for a Five Guys in Stevenage?
Regardless of lockdowns and coronavirus, people want food. Fans of Five Guys could be getting a late Christmas present with a new Five Guys in Stevenage. A recent job post on the Five Guys recruitment page for a General Manager in the Stevenage area has got locals excited about the possible arrival of the much loved American Chain.
Could this be the biggest clue for a Five Guys in Stevenage?
Spotted by an eagled eyed member of ‘Stevenage Chit Chat‘, the advert for a General Manager drops a few clues at a possible opening of a Five Guys in Stevenage.
Clue No.1 for a Five Guys in Stevenage – The perfect scene
Nothing cements a clue in a mystery more than a location. The recruitment team have placed a X on the spot and that is 51°54’02.4″N 0°12’33.7″W. For all the normal people reading this, that is Unit 10 in Stevenage Leisure Park. This was home to Pizza Hut since late 2002 but this recent Google treasure map shows the unit is currently empty.
Clue No.2 for a Five Guys in Stevenage – A job for an ‘accomplice’
Did we mention there is a second job advert for a ‘Assistant Manager? If one job advert was not enough proof, two should be enough to convince you that plans are afoot for a Five Guys in Stevenage.
Clue No.3 for a Five Guys in Stevenage – A motive
What more motive do you need than hungry people in Stevenage in need of a good burger? A Five Guys in Stevenage is well overdue. It could even tempt Sir Lewis Hamilton back to Stevenage.