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Help shape the future of your St Albans City Centre



St Albans Cathedral

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.

Shaping the future of St Albans City Centre

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:

Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 499 675 4679 | Passcode: 682170

For more information on how you can get involved in this exciting initiative please contact Tim at  or Vanessa Sharp at



Leighton Buzzard businesses launch Fiver Fest deals this June



Fiver Fest hits Leighton Buzzard

Local businesses in Leighton Buzzard are getting behind the fifth annual Fiver Fest initiative launched by Totally Local. With normality returning to Bedfordshire high streets and market towns, it is exciting to see more people visiting local shops and restaurants that were hit hard during the lockdown.

Totally Locally, a grassroots voluntary community organisation run by Edwina Osborne that promotes and supports independent local businesses and community events. The overall goal is to make Leighton Buzzard even more vibrant and welcoming to locals and visitors from outside the town. There are a lot of great businesses in Leighton Buzzard and by bringing them together for Fiver Fest, they can help promote what’s happening in Leighton Buzzard to a wider audience.

Five Fest Board

What is Fiver Fest?

Fiver Fest is a huge national celebration of Britain’s fantastic small businesses and shops, many run by families or individuals, but ALL contributing massively to the economy of the UK and the wellbeing of our towns.  Towns and High Streets taking part put on special £5 offers for either one week, sometimes two weeks, to show the diversity and value of what they sell, and to say thank you to the communities that support them.

Businesses getting behind Fiver Fest Leighton Buzzard

Below are just a selection of the offers available from the independent businesses in Leighton Buzzard during Fiver Fest.

  • Nature’s Harvest – A selection of best selling health foods at 3 for £5
  • Mimic Gifts – Two classic bath bombs for £5
  • Ali’s Paper – Hand-marbled bookmarks with free personalisation for £5

You can review of the full list of 90+ offers from Leighton Buzzard independent businesses here.

Fiver Fest hits Leighton Buzzard this week

About Totally Locally

TOTALLY LOCALLY is a grassroots voluntary community organisation that promotes and supports independent local businesses and community events making our town even more vibrant and welcoming. We are doers and brimming with ideas. We operate by the rule of ‘get it done’ and ‘be positive’.

Keep informed about Totally Locally Leighton Buzzard on Facebook, Twitter and also on Instagram.

WATCH OUT FOR FIVER FEST RETURNING IN JUNE 2021! Keep following social media for list of businesses taking part and available offers!

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The Swan Salford recognised as worldclass in Best Companies awards



The Swan Salford celebrates success in this year's Best Companies Awards

The owners of one of our favourite Milton Keynes venues has been recognised as a world-class employer in this year’s Best Companies awards.

Milton Keynes pub company Peach has officially been named one of best companies to work for in the country and been singled out as a top employer in its industry in this year’s Best Companies to Work for awards, announced on Friday 21st May 2021.  Peach raced up to number 24 in the league of the nation’s best companies, and received a Three Star Accreditation, highlighting it as world-class.

The independent business, which runs The Black Horse in Woburn and The Swan at Salford came away from Friday’s virtual awards ceremony with four fantastic wins under its belt.

As well as officially being one of the UK’s 100 Best Large Companies to Work For, Peach came sixth in the UK’s Top 20 Leisure & Hospitality Companies to Work For and was named the 9th best employer in the East of England, the 13th in the Midlands and the 20th in the South East where it was also the best in hospitality.

The Swan playing host to #lunchNbloggers

Out #lunchNbloggers team at The Swan Salford

Earning a place on a list as one of the UK’s Best Companies to Work For is an accolade like no other. It recognises a business’ commitment to its employees and shows that it sees workplace engagement as a vital part of its success.  Participation is partly by a team-wide survey that asks for honest feedback on areas an employer is strong in and those it needs to improve on, such as leadership, commitment to personal growth through training and development, well-being and giving something back.

Peach scored at the top of its class by proving its commitment to its people and how it supported its teams particularly during the pandemic and focussed on the mental wellbeing of its chefs, front of house and support teams who were furloughed. Peach launched Yourhub.pub1, a social enterprise that enabled its furloughed teams to keep busy cooking and delivering food to the NHS and a total of 50 charities and keep connected to their pubs’ communities.

At the same time, it looked after the team, creating new personal development plans for individual and personal development for every team member. It also launched a Peach Hardship Support Fund for those facing financial difficulty and worked with industry charity Hospitality Action to ensure no-one in the team was left behind.

The Swan Salford celebrates success in this year's Best Companies Awards

It’s the fifth year running that Peach has won a Best Company to Work For award, and a record year for the company, whose aim is to be the best gastropub company on the planet, as Peach Managing Director Hamish Stoddart explains.

“It’s our vision, we Make Life Peachy. Ever since we started Peach twenty years ago, we’ve genuinely put our people first.  We’ve always believed they are the heart of a pub and utterly central to our success.  Shared ownership and the longevity of our team prove this. This last year, during the pandemic, we knew it was more important than ever to take good care of the team especially when the pubs were closed and the team furloughed. It was the perfect opportunity to prove it, and we did.

A fresh start at The Swan, Salford

The amazing interior at The Swan Salford

“We worked incredibly hard to look after the physical and mental well-being of our people especially during lockdown.  We took the opportunity to reaffirm our support to our team, both financially and through keeping in close contact and volunteering together to support the towns we’re proud to be at the heart of.  We have come through together, staying true to our vision of being a great place to work, learn and grow. We are delighted to be recognised as a Three Star, world-class employer,” he said.

Peach took the opportunity to toast this year’s Best Companies success with its teams and guests in the pubs, which are now open for eating and drinking again inside, by raising a glass in celebration after the results were revealed on Friday.

Peach is aiming to grow by three or four pubs in the next year and is hiring right now. Please go to to find out more.

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Milton Keynes De Roka enters semi-finals of Kebab Awards



Milton Keynes De Roka enters semi-finals of Kebab Awards

Located in The Hub Milton Keynes, Mediterranean restaurant Deroka has entered the semi-finals of the British Kebab Awards. With a chance of being crowned, we look at what Milton Keynes finest has to offer ahead of our #lunchNbloggers visit.

About De Roka

De Roka is a family-owned, independent restaurant that specialises in exquisite, traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Having recently reopened following the lockdown, the entire team have been focused on delivering the best dining experience for diners who have missed restaurant dining for the last year.

De Roka’s founders believe that a memorable dining experience is determined not only by the quality and flavour of the food, but also by the people that you meet. With this in mind De Roka have curated a high-spirited and welcoming atmosphere, giving their customers an experience they will cherish every time they walk through their doors.

How to vote for De Roka in the British Kebab Awards

Now in its 9th year, The British Kebab Awards is currently accepting votes for the semi-finals. De Roka is one of 19 restaurants competing for the ‘Fine Dining Restaurant’ award. You can vote online for De Roka here.

About British Kebab Awards

The British Kebab Awards in association with JUST EAT offers a chance to recognise and champion the efforts of local kebab takeaways and restaurants across the nation. Fans of their friendly neighbourhood kebab takeaways and restaurants can claim they truly do have Britain’s best kebab takeaway and restaurant by voting for them in the British Kebab Awards.

Milton Keynes De Roka enters semi-finals of Kebab Awards

The British Kebab Awards is a true celebration of everything kebab related, which naturally draws key figures from all sections of the takeaway and restaurant sector. As a reflection of the kebab industry’s significant contribution to the UK economy and British culture in general, the awards welcome a host of celebrities, prominent politicians, journalists and most importantly the nation’s hard-working restaurant workers for an evening of celebration.

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