Council agrees 'open door' policy to more town growth
Wednesday, 23rd June 2010.
Town councillors are to indicate Haverhill would be open to a greater level of new development than so far proposed - but have stopped short of specifically requesting it.
The current proposals for 2,500 homes, probably in north-east Haverhill, and increasing the size of the town by 25 per cent up to 2031, could now be changed thanks to the Government's axing of the regional guidance under which they were brought forward.
Haverhill town clerk Gordon Mussett told members of the town council last night this was an opportunity to call for even faster and greater growth in an attempt to attract better shops.
"Growth would make the town livelier and give more chance of getting a Marks and Spencers, for example," he said.
"We could indicate we would be prepared to take, say, 3,500 new homes."
Cllr Margaret Marks said stores were linked to size of population and Bury St Edmunds had only got a Marks and Spencers when it reached 32,000. Haverhill is currently just under 24,000.
Cllr Karen Richardson, who is also a St Edmundsbury borough councillor, said Haverhill had been receptive to growth for good reasons, but there was no point in applying for more when the percentages of growth allocated to areas were based on percentages sent out by the Government.
Mr Mussett said he understood authorities were now to be free to choose their own allocations for new development.
He also suggested the 2011 census might have a part to play in attracting retailers, because it would not only show growth, but an increase in the percentage of Haverhill people earning more, which was also relevant when stores looked at locating in a new area.
"The 2001 census was a factor in companies like Tesco and others looking at the town again," he said. "Even if many residents are commuters, they may be working in higher-paid businesses in Cambridge. It's income and purchasing power that matter."
Mr Mussett said more housing would also bring in more money, perhaps to do something about improving the A1307.
Maureen Byrne said she agreed with being receptive to more growth, but she also put forward a different view on behalf of a fellow Labour councillor, Mary Martin, who was unale to be present for the debate.
Cllr Martin, she said, was concerned at higher growth which led to more out-commuting because there was little manufacturing or new jobs in Haverhill.
"Her view is that we don't want a lot of people moving in and out and contributing nothing to the local economy," she said.
Cllr Byrne raised concerns about building on greenfield sites, a view that was taken up by Cllr Paul McManus.
He also called for infrastructure to be put in place before large amounts of new housing were built.
Cllr Richardson said infrastructure was vital and it had to be remembered that people travelled out of Haverhill in all directions, which had implications for the surrounding rural areas.
Cllr Marks thought there were definitely signs of the need for more growth. The Darzi clinic had not had anywhere near the expected numbers signing up to it, and there was some doubt whether it could remain.
Schools would be affected by the Government's new initiative to allow people to open free independent schools of their own.
"We don't know what is going to happen at Clare," she said, "but it looks as though these independent schools will forge ahead and cause a problem with our existing schools. We may end up with a serious under-capacity, so we need more children."
But she said the council should 'leave the door open' to greater development and suggest it as 'a possibility rather than an intent', which members agreed to do.
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