Home Page No holiday from tricky decisions for our councillors 10/08/12

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

We are now deep into the summer holidays and Haverhill, in common with most other places that are not tourist honeypots, is going through a sleepy period.


Many people are, of course, away on holiday. With the summer we have had it would not be surprising if most had decided to go abroad, although if you chose this country and this week, you might be lucky and get some of the nice days ordered up by the Olympic organising committee.


Those of us at home, or just returned, like me, have had the extra excitement of that massive sporting event to follow, if so inclined, and it has been hard to resist the continual stream of hyper-excited British medal-winners pouring onto our screens with their heart-warming stories of success, often against the odds.


One might expect this will encourage people in general to believe it is possible for the economy to take flight again soon, although I wouldnít hold my breath.


But with all this absence and distraction, what better time for the Hamlet Croft proposals to go through St Edmundsbury Borough Councilís planners. After all, we need something to call the local issues of our town back into focus.


This is one of those occasions when I am glad I have resisted the occasional temptation to try my hand at being a councillor. Why on earth the idea should ever cross my mind I cannot imagine. After all, I have had a grandstand seat to view the mistakes and frustrations of local government for the best part of four decades.


Just occasionally, in a mad moment, I think it must be possible to make a difference and to get involved in the bun-fight. Then this sort of conundrum comes along and I thank my stars all I have to do is sit on the sidelines and take pot-shots at everyone.


The land is there, it is unused, the pressure for housing locally is great, particularly affordable housing, and the developers have, to a limited degree, adjusted their scheme to meet some of the objections.


So, in essence, you might think it should go ahead as quickly as possible so the new housing can be delivered. But then I look at the other side of the coin Ė the side-effects.


Perhaps naively, I reckon you have to take on trust the assurances from the utilities that things like sewerage, flooding and damage to wildlife are not going to be a problem. Also, the argument about how it will impinge on nearby residents is hard to support because most of them will have known it was coming some day.


The site has been earmarked for development for years and anyone who had a grouch with that should have fought it when it first came up, if they were neighbouring residents at that time, or known about it from their searches if they became nearby residents more recently.


The side-effects I mean are those which may be noticeable to all of us, rather than just those most closely concerned. I pass over the, to me, regrettable loss of those poplar trees. I know they are not native and some people donít like them, but I do admire a distinctive tree that you can recognise from a distance.


Much more likely to impinge on the community is the traffic situation in Hamlet Road. Now, one canít be dogmatic about these things. I admit that I thought the road set-up around the new Tesco would be a disaster and it has actually turned out to be a great improvement.


So maybe fears about what will happen when another couple of hundred vehicles descend on Hamlet Road are unfounded. But there is also going to be a redevelopment of the old Atterton and Ellis site and Manor House very soon, and then probably the Australian Arms site, so poor old Hamlet Road is going to get a battering.


Suffolk County Council engineers are confident it is nowhere near its full capacity at the moment, so there will not be a problem. These are the people, we should remember, who designed a traffic system for High Street which would have sent vehicles down Jubilee Walk.


These are the people who designed a scheme to send traffic up Quakers Lane and then discovered it was too narrow. These are the people who think the police should be able to prevent people driving and parking in High Street.


Weíll see, is all I can say about that. But the problem is that if we do see, it will be too late and there will be another complex Haverhill traffic problem to keep the highways engineers in work for another 20 years.


Everyone, of course, skirts around the elephant in the committee room Ė that Hamlet Croft belongs to St Edmundsbury and they need to get their cash from the sale which would result from planning permission.


That does not suggest anything improper at all. It is just a fact of life, and a consideration for councillors whose duty it is to get the best value for us council tax payers. Iím just glad Iím not one of them.

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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