Council criticised for failing to promote town centre
Wednesday, 17th November 2010.
All the good news about progress in Haverhill was about peripheral things and not the town centre, council chiefs were told at the annual business ratepayers meeting last night.
Called 'Hardworking Haverhill' the meeting was organised by St Edmundsbury Borough Council in collaboration with Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, and featured presentations about aspects of local business and council achievements.
It was chaired by the council leader, Cllr John Griffiths, and the council's review of the year was given by its chief executive Geoff Rivers.
But when questions were invited, Harry Zachariou, owner of Deja Vu cafe and Bar Vu cocktail bar, lambasted the council for not doing enough to boost the town centre.
Mr Zachariou said he had heard nothing about how the council intended to promote the retail offer of the town centre.
"Nothing is happening in the town itself - everything is peripheral," he said. "There is nothing to show that there is a link between Tesco and the town centre. There's not even a sign to show people where the town centre is.
"The new gates in Queen Street are all very nice but there is no sign to tell people it's the way into the town centre."
Cllr Griffitha accepted there might be room for a better link and signange to the town centre, and said the council was looking to make sure the things it had invested £21million in recently in Haverhill were actually being successful, and to persuade other partners to make similar investments.
But he was also keen that people should use the council's car parks in the town centre, which have shown a decrease in income since Tesco and its free car park opened.
"If everyone parks in Tesco they are less likely to come to the town centre," he said.
He said the council's recent refusal of planning permission for shops at Hamlet Green, the former Project site, had been partly done to protect the town centre retailers.
He pointed out the Cattle Market development in Bury St Edmunds had brought a huge improvement to the economy of that town.
Mr Rivers said the rate of empty shops was lower in Haverhill this year than in Bury, so there were signs for optimism.
In answer to a question about a possible rail link to Cambridge, Mr Rivers described it as 'very, very, very unlikely', although a guided bus was 'within the realms of possibility'.
Cllr Griffiths said the council was in favour of a rail link in principle. "It's a money issue," he said. "We'd very much like it to happen, but it won't."
The meeting had earlier heard from Martin Garret, director of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, how the huge growth planned at Addenbrooke's Hospital, from the current 9,000 employees to 17,000, was likely to impinge on Haverhill and the A1307 road link, which was already poor.
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