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Consultation about town's next 20 years launched

Tuesday, 1st February 2011.

Around 60 people turned up for the first consultation event in the preparation of Haverhill's new Masterplan this morning.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council officers and councillors said they came with a 'blank sheet' looking for everyone's visions for the town over the next 20 years.

The masterplan is called Vision 2031 and will cover every aspect of life in the town, including services, infrastructure, housing, jobs, transport, leisure, health, policing and environment.

The consultation goes on through a series of events in the town until the end of April, after which the council will develop the feedback into a draft plan.

Council leader Cllr John Griffiths welcomed everyone to Haverhill Arts Centre and told them significant improvements in Haverhill had been achieved over the last 20 years, through public investment, although it had taken some time to come.

"Haverhill is now, by any standards, a success story," he said, "but changes are inevitable and, indeed, necessary."

He said the town could not escape the effects of the global economy, and now was the time to think collectively about the future.

"Haverhill is well-positioned to benefit from growth in Cambridge and Stansted, but we must not destroy the distinctive qualities of the town.

"We must make the best use of the probably limited resources available in the future."

The council's chief executive, Geoff Rivers, said we were now entering a 'post-capital' era.

"There has been massive capital investment in Haverhill, but we are entering a different era now," he said. "A new way of delivery is expected from all of us."

Haverhill's advantage was its very strong manufacturing centre, he said, which needed to be supported so it could grow.

"There is no point in the development in north-west Haverhill of 2,500 homes if you haven't got the employment here - no point at all. You'll just end up thrashing about East Anglia."

He criticised many current developments for still being built with inadequate infrastructure, and said proper infrastructure should be a prerequisite.

He produced some startling statistics and images to provoke thought. Over 20 per cent of the population of Haverhill in 20 years time would be over 80, he said.

Eighty per cent of jobs created recently were part-time and this would be an increasing trend, with people putting together a portfolio of different jobs.

Young people thought nothing of going out at 11pm, travelling to clubs and returning after 4am. Were their infrastructure needs being met?

Finally he said that of the entire pupil population of Samuel Ward and Castle Manor schools - 11 to 18-year-olds - in 20 years' time 60 per cent would be working in jobs which have not yet been invented.

The head of the Castle Schools Partnership - currently Castle Manor, Castle Hill and Place Farm - Madeleine Vigar spoke to the meeting about delivering the vision of all-through schooling which she and Samuel Ward college head Howard Lay had developed five years ago.

"Children need the very best and this town can provide it," she said. "We do not need a free school in Clare. There is outstanding provision in Haverhill for youngsters."

She admitted both heads had been 'straitjacketed' by recent Government changes to the boundaries of what they were doing.

The introduction of baccalaureates would throw them back to traditional subjects and league tables, which might not be what pupils needed.

She showed a picture of inspiring new school buildings in Slough, which had a museum in the centre, and asked why children in 2031 should be educated in schools built in the 1950s.

Finally she emphasised the mantra of 'high expectations, high aspirations', and said there was no reason why children educated in Haverhill should not go on to become the next generation of lawyers or doctors.

Attendees broke up into groups to raise a huge range of issues for consideration in the masterplan, and to put into words their vision for the town's future.

Haverhill Online News

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