Home Page It really is time to enforce the law in High Street 19/12/09

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

I can’t say I’m sorry to see the police being persuaded to crack down on driving and parking illegally in Haverhill High Street. I don’t suppose it will do much for community relations, however, because offending motorists notoriously hate the police catching them.

“Why can’t they get out and catch real criminals, instead of picking on us poor motorists just to raise some easy cash,” is the cry you often hear repeated in the pub.

I daresay the police would rather be out catching real criminals than making their own job more difficult by getting up the noses of a proportion of the public they serve and depend on for help in their work.

But the other side of the coin is that the law is the law, and just because you drive a car it doesn’t make you immune from it, any more than it does if you drive a taxi.

I am not squeaky clean in this regard myself, I admit. I have (very occasionally) parked on a double yellow line when in a great hurry. I have (about twice in more than a decade) nipped through the town centre during the hours of closure.

When the barriers come next year, no one will be able to do that any more, and not a moment too soon. Until then, it has to be a good thing that the shopping area is made pleasant and safe by enforcing the regulations.

I have no time for the sort of laziness that regularly parks outside a shop illegally, rather than legally in a car park behind it, just to save less than a quid, or to get out of walking 50 yards.

And often it’s the biggest vehicles which have the laziest drivers, so they clutter up the street even more.

Some people may disagree with the regulations in Haverhill town centre. I would certainly concur that they have been a bit of a mish-mash for years. But the central aim of making the High Street look and feel tidy and attractive to shoppers has to be the way forward for the town’s economy.

A lot of the problems are historical, particularly around the Gurteens site, which is what prevents a simple and easy rear servicing access on the south side of High Street. If one could have driven a road through from Helions Walk to Mill Road and on to Crowland Road, as was originally conceived in the Gibberd Master Plan of 1970, things would have been a darn sight easier and the whole mess would have been sorted out years ago.

Sadly, or perhaps happily for the people whose homes or businesses would have had to be bulldozed, it was just not practical – or the benefits could not outweigh the fall-out as far as successive councils were concerned.

As it is, we have to work with what we have on the ground, and that is a narrow little byway called Quakers Lane, fenced in by two historic walls.

There is no secret that Gurteens are looking to relocate and a development brief for the site has been put together. It will require the main mill frontage to be retained, and the view which has recently been opened up by the creation of the Cleales Yard car park completely justifies that. It is a truly splendid looking building with the morning sun full on its face, and could do with being made even more of a focal point in the town.

I see that the development brief looks to have pedestrian access through the site from Quakers Lane into St Mary’s Churchyard. It would be good if some little shops grew up around that idea, but I won’t hold my breath.

For years people have been saying the site would make a lovely little court of niche market shops, but Haverhill, historically, has not been able to support such sophisticated ideas. I remember that was Fred Fuller’s hope for his land behind the Queen’s Head, and in the end it all became flats.

That may happen with 90 per cent of Gurteens. Nevertheless, things are changing in Haverhill. I don’t believe all the rumours I hear about how either Tesco or Sainsbury’s (depending who you listen to) is massively under-trading. Things will take a while to settle down, but I doubt if either of them will suffer much in the long run. But I’d like to believe the rumour that Tesco have had to change their assessment of the town and move their stock up-market because that is where the demand has been.

It wouldn’t surprise me. The big retailers need to take another look at Haverhill. The old blue collar image is no longer the whole story by any means. Perhaps niche market shops could be in the pipeline eventually.

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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