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High Street consultation identifies a problem, but no solution

Monday, 11th November 2013.

The results of the much-publicised stakeholder consultation exercise carried out in Haverhill about the town centre have been published but reveal little beyond the fact that vwe have a problem and there is not an easy solution.

Suffolk County Council brought in independent consultants to carry out the exercise, in the wake of a pledge by outgoing transport supremo Cllr Guy MacGregor back in March.

The day-long exercise, with invited attendees at Haverhill Arts Centre, took place in September and included a 'walking audit' of the town centre.

There was also a consultation with students at the two academies in the town, an online questionnaire and a stall on the Saturday market with some of the resulting ideas on show, on which the public could comment.

The results of all of it have now been revealed and, apart from showing that people have very little faith in the county council's favoured idea of 'shared space', it produced no firm conclusions.

The key findings are:
* Haverhill is an historic but contemporary growing town;
* Local people are proud of the town and its progress;
* The town centre has more occupied shops than many other high streets;
* However, it needs to broaden the range of types of shop and the quality of offer;
* The town centre needs to link the various parts more strongly - High Street to Ehringshausen Way, to Tesco etc;
* Pedestrian comfort, safety, surfaces all need improvement;
* Cycle routes and facilities are a key opportunity;
* Access, services and parking are all important challenges to and around the high street;
* Driver behaviour and enforcement are not what they should be to optimise the potential of spaces and comfort of town centre experience;
* More needs to be done to imporove the quality of experience for disabled and visually impaired users.

The key conclusions from that are:
* (re)Build a shared (and locally-owned) vision of the future;
* Identify projects, partners and mechanisms to deliver the vision;
* Town centre transport and movement to a be an integral part of that wider context;
* A coherent partnering and delivery mechanism is needed;
* Have some 'oven-ready' projects for funding bids;
* Work with young people and the disabled in preparing and testing projects;
* Produce a mini-version of the vision/masterplan to act as a prospectus for key investment opportunities;
* External marketing and PR to attract visitors, investors, etc
* Regular dialogue initiated by delivery partnership with community/business/landowners/media on progress, including an annual open meeting;
* Build sense of confidence and purpose;
* Build towards the vision in practical and incremental steps (there is no single project solution).

Many radical ideas were put forward during the exercise and are included in the report, but none are particularly earmarked as a way forward.

Groups worked on different visions resulting from different traffic solutions - 24/7 pedestrianisation, 10am-4pm pedestrianisation (as now), shared space, one-way traffic and two-way traffic.

Among the ideas were major projects such as the full southern rear service road being constructed, a decking built out from High Street to Ehringshausen Way with car park underneath, part-pedestrianisation of Ehringshausen Way, and covering part of High Street, or all of Queen Street.

Many other old chestnuts were aired as well, such as re-instating the rail link, places for young people to hang out and redeveloping the Gurteen site.

Haverhill Online News

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