Home Page 2011 may have been more significant than it looked 31/12/11

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Hart of the Matter

Just a few hours left of 2011 now, so perhaps it’s time to look back over the year and think about what it has brought for Haverhill, good or bad.


As is so often the case in this rum little town, the hopeful signs are mostly just that – hopeful. This has not been a year when hugely significant steps forward have been taken which we can all see on the ground.


We haven’t had a new supermarket opened as we did in 2009, or a new cinema as we did in 2008. But we have had indications that there might be some good stuff in the pipeline which we will one day see come to fruition.


There has been the approval of plans for Haverhill Research Park out beyond Hanchet End, and one day people will, in all probability, be standing around in the middle of that area, perhaps beside the lake in the middle, or in some prestigious research building looking out over it, greeting the opening of the research park and casting their minds back to November 2011 when planning approval was first given.


There may be other significant new projects which come into being in the future which will owe their genesis to things which have happened this year.


The re-shaping of Haverhill Partnership into One Haverhill in January, providing a forum for the delivery of all services to the town, has already proved instrumental in its being chosen as one of the Government’s ten pilot projects for community budgeting, and who knows what may result from that?


In other areas of local government we have seen some changes this year, too. In May, the town council elections resulted in a draw, but some quick-thinking on the part of the Labour party saw them take the opportunity to regain control of the council after eight years.


The council mostly works on non-political lines but old allegiances run deep and they still surface from time to time at meetings, despite the best efforts of councillors to work ‘on behalf of the town’.


Earlier in the year the town council took the controversial decision to raise their element of council tax while all the other councils were freezing theirs.


They did it to safeguard the arts centre, which they feared might lose its funding from St Edmundsbury Borough Council in the current economic climate.


In the overall picture, this is quite a small fragment, but it set a few hackles astir. Less noticeably, Suffolk County Council, which had been cutting and offloading services as fast as it could, saw big changes at the top.


The leader who had set the ‘New Strategic Direction’ in motion retired, and the chief executive who had formulated it was suspended and then resigned after allegations of bullying, of which she was cleared.


But Andrea Hill had already become an albatross around the neck of the council because of the national profile of her stonking salary, so I would guess most of the councillors were happy to turn over a new leaf.


They eventually appointed someone well-known to Haverhill, Deborah Cadman, who used to be chief executive of St Edmundsbury, and whose husband Geoff Rivers now fills that role.


She had more recently been chief executive of the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), one of several development agencies being phased out by the Government. In that capacity she had been to Haverhill earlier in the year to talk to business people and there are hopes that her knowledge of the town may be helpful in dealings with the county council, which is by far the biggest provider and the biggest employer in the area.


Of course, there have been the usual long-running sagas this year. Efforts to save Place Court home for the elderly from being put into the private sector have been going on all year. Efforts to save the full-time fire-crewing at weekends failed.


In January, a senior policeman stated that the only solution to traffic and parking problems in High Street was barriers to close it off. Since then the story has wound back and forth as the public forced the police into enforcing the parking restrictions for six months.


At the end of it, just a few weeks ago, Haverhill’s new police chief said exactly the same thing and admitted his officers would be unable to stop the problem even if they spent all their time on it – which we clearly don’t want them to do as there has been plenty of anti-social behaviour of a mundane but rather irritating kind for them to deal with.


The borough and county councils are working on their ‘one-stop’ offices for providers at the council offices in Lower Downs Slade. Lollipop people were saved and we have had lost more opportunities to say what we think about proposals of one kind or another, including the Local Development Framework for what Haverhill should be like in 20 years’ time.


Now there’s a thought as we drift into 2012 and anticipate the Olympic Torch. Happy New Year.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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