Home Page For once, a biased, self-interested and one-sided opinion 26/07/13

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP
 


Hart of the Matter

One of the more annoying things about politicians and people in charge of the various agencies that provide us with necessary services, is their continual ability to avoid facing any flak from the public directly.

 

I donít say this because I personally want to throw anything at anybody, but because it makes life so much less interesting for us reporters.

 

I expect our councillors would retort that they have public forums in their meetings nowadays which was never the case years ago, and that is true Ė but how often does anyone turn up with anything interesting to say?

 

Rarely Ė and that isnít, as many would like to tell you, because meetings are poorly advertised. Anyone can find out when council meetings are taking place, through just a minute or two of checking on line. What they canít be bothered to do is give up the two or three hours needed to go to a council meeting.

 

I have news for them. This isnít television where there is a pause button or a plus one channel or an iPlayer so you can view it whenever you want. You want to see it, you make the time to go, or shut up about it.

 

No, I am talking about public meetings, which have all but been emasculated by recent format changes. It is rare now for a public meeting to take the old course of a quick presentation by someone, followed by long and often circuitous public argument from the floor.

 

Nowadays, more often than not, we have to be broken up into Ďfocus groupsí. If you have attended public meetings you may have seen a couple of people sitting to one side scribbling. Thatís us Ė the reporters.

 

When focus groups came in, so that the meeting divides up into as many as half a dozen different meetings between smaller groups, followed by a feedback session in which their discussions are summarised by a spokesman, we had the choice of taking part in one focus group, or sitting around for half an hour waiting to report on the feedback session.

 

I always take the latter choice, because it is not the function of the fourth estate to be affecting meetings by putting new issues into them. Our job is to report what other people want to talk about.

 

There have been many times over the years when I have wished I could take part and ask some vital question no one seemed to have thought of, or correct some massive piece of misinformation about which people were wasting half an hour in fruitless discussion.

 

However, there is one issue which has arisen over the last year or two about which I am entitled to a view as a resident of an affected locality, and that is the proposed one-way system for the bit of Camps Road beside the market square.

 

So, for once, I am going to put forward an opinion which is not independent and even-handed, but entirely based on self-interest, and I make that clear from the beginning so you can take it into account when weighing up whether it has any value.

 

I live south of the main road line through Haverhill. This means that I am one of many thousands of people who have to cross that line somehow or other to get to the Bury road, or even to any part of the Chalkstone, Wilsey or Hales barn estates.

 

I make that journey more than twice a day on average, often in the evenings or on Sundays. If I make it during the week days, I have to drive all the way up Camps Road, Clements Lane, Duddery Hill, Mount Road and through the various Ehringshausen Way traffic lights and roundabouts, or I have to sit and wait for anything up to a quarter of an hour to get out of the bottom of Crowland Road.

 

So the new traffic regulations which, we are told, will come into force soon for a trial period of six months, are going to be the bane of my life, because they will be in operation all the time, night and day and Sundays.

 

When the idea of making Camps Road one-way was first mooted it was combined with a similar order for Crowland Road, but residents there jumped up and down enough to force Suffolk County Council to drop that idea.

 

But without that, the current proposals are a nightmare for anyone on the south side of town. Nevertheless, there seemed to be little or no protest against it, and on the few occasions I have mentioned it, I appeared to be in a minority of one. So I thought, well, thatís democracy in action, I just have to put up with it.

 

But now, I find, as the dawn of the new regulation draws ever closer, some people are horrified, and have started jumping up and down and accusing councillors of bringing this in in secret.

 

Er, hello, itís been under very public discussion for the best part of two years, I have written numerous stories about it and no one said anything. Itís too late now. Where were you when I needed you?

 

I do, at least, understand the purpose of it. Itís to stop people driving down the high street when they shouldnít Ė and from the reaction, it does seem as if making everyone access High Street via Swan Lane will be highly inconvenient and a disincentive to try. So it will have a benefit.

 

The thing is, to weigh that benefit against the considerable inconvenience to people who never had any intention of driving down High Street Ė like me.

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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