CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today CLICK HERE

Letchworth means business

PUBLISHED: 12:16 02 December 2014 | UPDATED: 12:16 02 December 2014

Heritage Foundation chairman Colin Chatfield with Theo Guy, executive chef at Cultivo Lounge

Heritage Foundation chairman Colin Chatfield with Theo Guy, executive chef at Cultivo Lounge

Archant

Letchworth is poised to enter a new era thanks to the creation of its Business Improvement District. Patsy Hudson looks at the task ahead

Letchworth town centre Photo: Graham DollmanLetchworth town centre Photo: Graham Dollman

Newcomers to Letchworth might be forgiven for wondering who has been running the world’s first garden city. There is no town clerk. No mayor. Not even a city council. It hasn’t seemed to have bothered the residents, many of whom can trace their roots back three generations in the model settlement founded more than 100 years ago by the forward-thinking philanthropist Ebenezer Howard.

Any mutterings they have had probably concerned a lack of variety in the shops. But the residents balance that with being spoilt for choice by clubs and societies to join, courses to attend, places to eat, live entertainment and good in-city and inter-city transport.

Those shopaholics who do prefer to seek out the big brands console themselves about Letchworth’s lack of big stores by heading for Hertfordshire’s second garden city, Welwyn, or elsewhere, where shops – and sometimes the railway stations – are under the same roof. Letchworth’s new Business Improvement District (BID) is out to change all that.

Recognising that persuading people to shop ‘in-town’ requires a concerted effort by those whose livelihood is being damaged by shoppers heading elsewhere. The group is putting its money where its mouth is, preparing to spend nearly £750,000 drawn from members’ contributions over the next five years, with this year’s budget of £135,000 rising by £4,000 a year as projects come on-stream.

Demi Tasker and Emma Doherty of CaketopiaDemi Tasker and Emma Doherty of Caketopia

The BID is headed by business executive director Kailah Eglington, who will be joined next month by James Peachey, who takes on the job of business operations director. Other members are drawn from the Garden City Heritage Foundation, North Herts District Council, Hertford County Council, North Herts College and the Garden Square Shopping Centre.

The BID’s brief is to plan for the Letchworth of the future while adhering to the vision of its founder. This can best be summarised in Howard’s own words. Writing in 1902 in his mould-breaking Garden Cities of Tomorrow, he said, ‘There are not only two alternatives – town and country life – but a Third Alternative, in which the advantages of the most energetic and active town life with all the beauty and delight of the country may be secured in perfect combination...Human society and the beauty of nature are meant to be enjoyed together’.

Taking on the task of protecting Howard’s dream while supporting the BID’s vision for the town of the future is the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, under whose auspices many events take place. Says Eglington, ‘The foundation is not a brake on the town’s development, but an integral and enthusiastic part of the BID. It is having the foundation on board that makes the Letchworth BID plans different from other towns’ strategies for improving business.’

Among the other members, North Herts District Council is responsible for all the practical aspects of the BID; Hertfordshire County Council will contribute its expertise in specialised areas such as access, especially highways, while North Herts College has the special portfolio to provide for the youth of the town – the main shopping defectors. Letchworth’s business community is represented by the Garden Square Shopping Centre, placed next to the multi-storey car-park and accessible easily by bus.

George Turner and Linda Gathard of Down Memory Lane antiquesGeorge Turner and Linda Gathard of Down Memory Lane antiques

The initial stages of the BID’s five-year plan are already under way, under the declared mission ‘to restore and sustain the economic strength and vitality of Letchworth Garden City town centre’. As Eglington points out, ‘It’s not a rescue mission, but a strategic plan.’

Actions taken so far include organising events and promotions, training for small business staff, marketing activities, a new website and – under the heading of Business Incubation – a ‘business buddies’ system and skills database. Eglington explains, ‘Letchworth needs a bigger footfall. The growth of online shopping has put many of the smaller business under pressure, although some small specialist shops are thriving. It’s encouraging that those who are doing well are giving up their time to share their secrets with their less successful ‘buddies’.

One thing that has made a difference to shopping in Letchworth since the BID went into action is the arrival of lifts at the station, a long-awaited event the new business activists are hoping will help tempt out-of-towners to sample the wares of the town where all shops are within walking distance of the terminus. Residents and visitors are looking forward to many more initiatives under Letchworth’s new vision for the future.

The Salon teamThe Salon team

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hertfordshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hertfordshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hertfordshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Friday, November 16, 2018

Christmas isn’t complete without a trip to a festive fair. From German-style food stalls to vintage fetes, Hertfordshire’s Christmas markets have it all

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We quiz author Kevin Exley about his new book that takes the reader on the trail of fascinating stories, new and old, around Berkhamsted

Read more
October 2018
Monday, October 29, 2018

Hertfordshire is a county with a vast, fascinating and sometimes dark and bloody history that has reportedly lead to more than a few angry ghosts sticking around to wreak havoc and take revenge on the living. We have gathered 10 of the most haunted places in the county

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Make the most out of autumn with these eight walking routes that take in a variety of Hertfordshire’s terrains and - most importantly – have a cosy pub along the way

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We've selected a variety of spooky activities in the county that are sure to delight the kids

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s Charlotte Hussey explores the fascinating world of bats and new projects in the county to help conserve these remarkable creatures

Read more
October 2018
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species is asking the public to look out for mammals on Hertfordshire’s roads as part of a citizen science project

Read more
September 2018
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

From stately homes to skateparks, we have selected some of the best ideas for things to do in Hertfordshire

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The diverse parkland of Pishiobury Park in Sawbridgeworth is undergoing a five-year plan to promote its heritage and enhance its habitats. It makes for a royal day out

Read more
September 2018
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

From Aldbury to Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire has a plethora of pretty villages. We have picked just 10 that you should visit

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search