Home Page Draft masterplan focuses a lot of effort on putting right past mistakes 05/06/15

Haverhill Poll
Haverhill Poll


Mailing List

Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

The long-awaited Town Centre Masterplan has begun to emerge from the mists of consultation with the publication of a draft document on which we will all have the chance to comment from Monday.

The first thing to say about it is that it’s not all bad, like some such documents have been in the past. But the second thing to say about it is that it isn’t as great and exciting as some people may have hoped.

It contains one or two new and interesting ideas, and it contains one or two elements which are bound to prove extremely controversial. But it lacks any vision beyond the dreary exigencies of business and transport.

Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that so much of it is taken up with proposing initiatives designed to rectify problems which have been caused by past developments, some of them quite recent.

We all know that there are difficulties in revitalising Haverhill’s town centre, many of which date back to medieval times, including the shape of the street being in one long line.

There is no central feature around which to build, such as a river, an abbey or cathedral, or even a town square. Efforts to create a town square in Jubilee Walk are worthy but still a bit sketchy within the document. Anyway, we already have one where the houses of Peas Hill were knocked down, and which the market makes use of on Fridays.

There is a lot in the plan, as always nowadays, about sustainability, meaning more cycleways and pedestrian accesses. But Haverhill sits in a valley between two (for East Anglia) steep hills, which means cycling can be a challenge for all but the young and fit. As a method of getting to and from work it may be okay, but it’s never going to catch on for shopping trips.

Pedestrian access is likely to be the hottest potato, because the plan as it stands appears to favour the current ‘shared space’ system in the high street.

It is only a few months since the consultants were told point blank by Haverhill councillor Maureen Byrne that if they came back with proposals which did not include pedestrianisation of the high street they would face anarchy. Labour may be out of power on the town council, but the will to pedestrianise was cross-party.

Anyway, if the consultants think that their ideas for deterring drivers by putting in bumps or chicanes will have any effect they are just naïve. Anyone who has seen people driving up or down Jubilee Walk or Empire Yard will realise that. And they talk about de-cluttering, which will just make driving easier.

Within 18 months or so, it was expected that parking would be de-criminalised in Suffolk, leading to the return of parking wardens. But with a change of Chief Constable likely, it remains to be seen whether that will continue to be the case.

Curiously, I have a funny feeling the consultants may be right in their theory that making Swan Lane two-way again may reduce the amount of traffic using High Street during the day. But that has the downside of cutting High Street off from Queen Street in a way that I thought we were trying to avoid, unless there is a seriously effective crossing point.

Which brings us to Ehringshasen Way. At various points in the document improvement to the crossing of Ehringshausen Way is seen as crucial. At the moment it is seen as a barrier to access to the town centre.

I hate to mention it but it is worth remembering how this came about. First, as the document says, the cinema complex is on the other side. This is a huge problem created by St Edmundsbury Borough Council when they agreed to with siting of the complex – completely without regard to their own previous masterplan – only a decade ago.

Second, the document sees the crossings to Tesco as needing to be greatly improved. Well, St Edmundsbury resisted all the efforts of the local business community to route the road round the back of the store.

At a lesser degree of impertinence, they also completely disregarded my call for a glass bridge, some readers may remember. It may have seemed frivolous but it was because even I could see the crossings were going to be wholly inadequate, and I lay no claim to being a planner.

So that was another massive roadblock created within the last decade or so by our own council. Next time they boast about the £21million they spent in Haverhill, we should ask how much it is going to cost them to put all the mistakes associated with those schemes right and how soon they are going to fork out for it.

Then there is the section of the document which deals with making the best of the Stour Brook. This is a laudable idea, and one which appeared in the old Masterplan in the form of a lake, until the cinema project put the kibosh on it by preventing the re-siting of the bus station.

Now we are told about a ‘town garden’, whatever that means, making the most of the good bit of the Brook. The less attractive section along Lordscroft Lane will be improved, we are told, by redevelopment of the police station site.

Tell that to the police and you will find out how utterly improbable such a re-development is, often though the idea has been promulgated before.

But we shouldn’t knock the draft, because it has ideas which would, undoubtedly, improve the town. Sadly, it makes no mention of any new cultural facilities to draw anyone to the town – not even a museum.

But my favourite bit of all is about the design of buildings. These should be on three levels, the document states, and the bottom level should meet the ground. Jargon is still king.

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.
© Haverhill-UK | Accessibility | Disclaimer