ASB reports low in ‘pleasant and safe’ Hatfield town centre as traders voice concerns and police heighten presence
PUBLISHED: 17:03 04 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:25 05 October 2020
Traders who voiced concerns about anti-social behaviour in Hatfield town centre have formed a new group, sparking police to step up patrols in the area.
But Mandy, from the recently formed Hatfield Town Centre traders association, made up of 30 businesses, said the “constantly uphill fight” to make the town a better place to work and shop is far from over.
The group is already concerned by the recent closure of Peacocks clothing store, which was a draw to the centre, as well as the prospect of the Post Office shutting and anti-social behaviour from people cycling, drinking, doing drugs and leaving needles lying around.
Sharon from Barnados, which is also closing down in February 2021, agrees that rubbish is a big problem with people constantly dumping items – which she will never look through – outside her shop. “People don’t realise we have to clean it up,” she said. “And as long as they don’t have to deal with it they don’t care and just pass it on to charity shops.”
Another shop owner, who did not want to be named, agreed that the rubbish and street drinking affects her business.
“One of my employees just doesn’t feel comfortable with the drinking outside and going past them,” she said. “I’m always removing rubbish from the back – beer bottles and food. They just don’t care. And they scratch my car all the time as well.”
Though her business is still running well, she worries that customers will become turned off. She has reported street drinking – which is banned in the town centre – to police several times but has since given up.
However, Carl, from CW Carpets, does think the town centre issues, including his alleyway entrance being used as a toilet, can be fixed with more lighting, a county council responsibility, and more big signs like they have in Hemel Hempstead, as well as penalties being handed out by the borough and police.
He said: “My business has not suffered. I’ve been here for years and I have my regulars but I worry about the rest of the town. It’s the same issues.”
Carl’s customer Mrs Pollard, who needs a mobility walker, also expressed concern about cyclists potentially mowing her down – which makes her uneasy in the centre and less likely to visit.
In response, Welwyn Hatfield’s executive member for regeneration, economic development and partnerships, Cllr Bernard Sarson, said: “We want the town centre to be a pleasant, welcoming place to spend time for residents, businesses and visitors. Together with local partners we work hard to prevent and clamp down on issues.
“This involves monitoring and enforcing the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), but also outreach and support in our communities to address underlying issues.
“We urge businesses to tell us when incidents happen using the dedicated reporting line – this helps build a picture of areas more likely to attract anti-social behaviour so we can take action.”
WHBC has served two injunctions to repeat offenders, has a dedicated street cleaning team, has worked alongside the police to issue Community Protection Notices, visited off-licenses to stop the selling of single cans and banned items and set up a dedicated hotline for traders.
“We’ve had seven reports of needles across the whole of Hatfield since April,” WHBC added. “These are cleared by our street wardens as a matter of priority.”
The council is holding action days with the police over coming weeks, while working with the Hatfield-based alcohol and drug charity Resolve to tackle the root causes.
Cllr Tony Kingsbury, leader of WHBC, added: “High streets across the country face many challenges, but Hatfield is faring well with very few empty units compared to most town centres. Supporting existing traders is key to this success and will remain our focus as we continue to work to secure the town’s prosperous future.”
The Welwyn Hatfield Safer Neighbourhood Team said signage to stop people cycling will increase through the town centre and added that reports of drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour remain low.
Welwyn Hatfield chief inspector Simon Mason said: “I hope our recent and ongoing operations provide reassurance to the local community that we take their concerns seriously.”
A Barnardo’s spokesperson said: “We can confirm that our charity store in Hatfield will cease trading at the end of its current lease in February 2021. We would like to thank our customers and donors for their kind support over these last few years.”
The WHT is running a series on the problems facing traders in the town centre.
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