Home Page Let's be bold and see what these magicians are really made of 07/02/15

Haverhill Poll
Haverhill Poll


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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

I’ve heard of magicians before, and I’ve marvelled at Dynamo, but these consultants that have been brought in to facilitate the town masterplan must really be something else.

Not only are we now pretty confident that they can solve the pedestrianisation issue which has bedevilled Haverhill town centre for the best part of 50 years, but we now also seem to think they can come up with a solution about what to do with the Gurteens site, which has been intractable for almost as long.

So I’m beginning to wonder what other rabbits they can pull out of their corporate top hat. How about a new site for the sewage works? – sorry, maybe that’s out of the town centre.

But how about the railway? Could they deliver that? Oh no, I’ve just remembered they were nearly asked about that last week, thinly veiled under questioning about the A1307, and they said all the masterplan could do about infrastructure was to lend ammunition to campaigns to improve it.

So, perhaps they can find a way of joining up the disparate bits of the town centre – Tesco, the cinema complex, the high street, etc – fragments thrown about willy-nilly by the borough council in the past.

And then, they’ve talked about the Stour Brook. A watercourse, they say, is a boon to any town centre. Remember, there was some interesting stuff about the Stour Brook in the 2005 masterplan – a shallow lake, I seem to recall, somewhere between Jubilee Walk car park and the fire station.

If they come up with something similar again, although not exactly new, it might re-inforce the idea in the minds of the borough council. And before you envisage shopping trolleys semi-submerged within it like Scapa Flow with tide out, remember that we are to be positive about this plan, and not negative.

The idea is easy, it’s the financing of it that is difficult, not to mention how you keep it looking nice when the flow of the brook tends to be governed by the needs of anglers upstream at West Town Flood Park.

While they are regurgitating past ideas, the consultants might (and I’m sorry to keep repeating myself) return to Sir Frederick Gibberd’s 1970 masterplan and reconsider the southern rear service road.

If they are going to come down in favour of pedesrianisation, I can’t see that there is any other lasting solution, and even if they are not, it has to be a massive benefit to everyone in the town centre anyway.

It could provide, if it was done properly, what they seem to see as a crucial element in improving the town centre, a proper entrance. Arrival via the current Ehringshausen Way is, as they point out, pretty dismal.

You don’t know where the town centre is and you seem, particularly if you arrive by bus, to have been dumped in the middle of nowhere. You are most likely to head off towards Prezzo as the only signs of civilisation.

What is more, several of the ideas which came out of the last consultation day held by Suffolk County Council, envisaged reducing traffic flow in Ehringshausen Way and trying to join the town centre across from high street to the leisure centre area.

This was something new and, I thought, quite exciting. I can remember meetings going back to the 1980s when people bemoaned the fact that Haverhill had one long high street, and said it needed broadening.

This was why the pathetic compromise the planners came up with over the development of the Chauntry Centre was such a disaster. If you remember, the developers of the former Cleales garage site in the high street wanted to create a shopping precinct leading up to the top of Quakers Lane.

The Ex-Servicemen’s Club was prepared to move, down to about where the cinema car park is now, but the borough council acceded to objections on the grounds that it would impede the javelin throw at the sports centre so the plan fell through.

Instead, a line of shops, including Woolworths, now Iceland, was built, which still calls itself the Chauntry Centre for no perceptible reason to the contemporary eye.

This time round we need, as I said last week, Aspiration, with a capital ‘A’, and Boldness, with a capital ‘B’ to carry it out.

That rear access road should be built from the Cangle roundabout through the car parks, the Bull garden, Mill Road and the back of Gurteens, the Cleales and town hall car parks, the Wisdom allotments and onto Hollands Road, thus to the bypass (and maybe the railway station), and allowing newly designed spurs into the town centre car parks and newly designed approaches into the high street – and incidentally taking all but the most local traffic out of Hamlet Road and that conservation area of the town.

Then Ehringshausen Way could become just an access road to the north side of the town centre from each direction, and the space between it and the high street could be redeveloped for shopping, with perhaps a car park underneath or on top. The brook could be incorporated as an attractive central feature, with a lake, if you will.

The backs of the high street premises could be hidden by new development, perhaps angled more towards the needs of town centres of the future – leisure, display, and general chilling out.

This all sounds Utopian and impossible, of course, but we are confident that the consultants can solve pedestrianisation and Gurteens in six months, so it shouldn’t be beyond the powers of their magic wand.

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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