Given the demand for property in and around Hitchin, news that plans to renovate a building space in Hitchin is not necessarily great news.
However, there is some joy in this development (or lack of development) because it means the Market Theatre in Hitchin has been saved, for the time being at least.
There were plans in place to transform the venue into flats, but The Comet claims a source who is familiar with the NHDC Planning Committee says the plan has been withdrawn by the applicant. The withdrawal took place before planning officers decided on the application.
There has been considerable opposition to the plans, and this might have influenced the decision to withdraw the application.
Community hubs are crucial
While new flats are usually always welcome, losing a key arts hub in the local area is not great news. In an area like Hitchin, it is important that there are local attractions and activities for the community. For people who love theatre, the arts, and engaging with residents in a fun and vibrant way, the Hitchin Market Theatre has been a crucial part of local life.
Glyn Doggett, Market Theatre manager, was reported in The Comment, as saying; “We're over the moon, both Kirk (MT's artistic director) and I think this is great news. We have just been amazed by the incredible reaction of the community. Every time I look at the objections, they're going up! It's definitely positive news for the theatre, at a time which has been incredibly difficult for us and when we're struggling, this is good news and a massive boost."
A total of 162 public comments have been listed on the NHDC’s planning portal. Every comment has been an objection to the plan of turning the well-known and popular venue into five flats.
New flats and an increase of property supply makes sense
Hopefully, there will be other areas in Hitchin that are suitable for flats, because it is good to increase the supply of property in the local area.
However, doing so at the expense of one of the artistic hubs isn’t to the benefit of the community.
While we are in a lockdown, the thought of attending theatre events and congregating with others seems like a long way, but it is a thought that keeps many people going.
When we move forward, being able to socialise in our community and enjoy doing the things we love will be integral to our lives. Losing the local theatre would be another blow to many people’s mental health and spirits at a time when we need as much help and assistance as possible.
It might be that the plans will be resubmitted, or the theatre will face new threats. If this happens, we will need to deal with these challenges at this time. For now though, there is happiness at a famous local hub remaining in place.
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