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Haverhill Economic Development

Thursday, 26th January 2006.

Our Town – Our Future!
This was the message that came across loud and clear at a gathering of nearly sixty businessmen and women who attended the first Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and Industry event of 2006.

A team from St Edmundsbury Borough Council presented their strategy for the Economic Development of the town over the next twenty years, to a packed audience representing over forty different local businesses and organisations.

Nick Martin, Head of Economic Development for St Edmundsbury, opened the event with an overview of how Haverhill had changed dramatically in the last fifteen years. He described the town as a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis; new people and new minds had brought new aspirations. However, the heritage of the town remains, it still has a strong industrial base with over 30% of people working in manufacturing. The fact that Haverhill is a place where things are still made is something we should be proud of.

The presentation on the Economic Development of Haverhill by Dr Carol Rowntree outlined the objectives for the town, including implementing the masterplan vision for the town centre; improved links with Cambridge, M11 and Stansted; improving the appearance and image of the town and increasing the number of shops and businesses in the town centre.

This year several short-term projects will be initiated in a move towards achieving those objectives. Improvements to Jubilee Walk, the creation of a car park on the Cleales site and welcome signs into the town are some of the changes that we will see taking place in the coming months. Behind the scenes there will be other development plans going on, including the creation of a brand for Haverhill, a property strategy for the town centre and a marketing strategy to identify how to attract other retailers and leisure operators to the town.

A lively question and answer session followed the presentation with several issues being raised, including the arrival of Tesco into the town. The retailers present expressed their concern that the supermarket would take business away from the town centre, as shoppers would come by car to the supermarket, do their shopping and drive away. Mr. Andrew Bailey of Specs. Direct articulated the importance that the infrastructure would play in facilitating people going to Tesco but also visiting the town centre. If Tesco shoppers could be encouraged into the town centre it would benefit all the existing retailers.

Mr Terry McGerty of Printwise (Haverhill) Ltd asked what the plans were for the provision of training for our young people given the disparity between the levels of qualifications held by young people in other towns in the Borough compared to Haverhill, as highlighted in the presentation by Dr. Rowntree. Ms Barbara Adshead from West Suffolk College outlined the comprehensive programme of training that her organisation is planning in collaboration with local schools, Cartwheels Children’s Centres and, in the future, the University of Suffolk. Their aim she said was to bring training out into the community at all levels and to respond to the specific requirements of local businesses and people.

“It was quite evident from the turnout for this event, and the lively interaction that took place, that our business community want the plan for the economic development of Haverhill to be ours. It is our town and our future - we want to be involved in the planning process for it’s development” commented Paul Donno, Chairman of the Haverhill Chamber. “As a Chamber we are committed to representing the views of our members, and the wider business community and offering support and advice to try to address those issues which are areas of concern. We want to work with local government to achieve what is best for our town. At the end of day all the people present at that meeting want what is best for Haverhill. There are a lot of people out there willing Haverhill to succeed – I am sure that they won’t be disappointed.”

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