Home Page One partially down, one with a long way to go for ONE Haverhill 22/08/14

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

It was good to see this week how ONE Haverhill are really delivering the goods with regard to apprenticeships and youth issues in the town in general. Hopefully they, and the town and county councils, can get this youth hub idea off the ground with some suitable premises in the not-too-distant future.


That will go a long way towards delivering on one of the two main priorities which they set for the current period. Itís a pity that they canít see fit to at least hold one of the promised six-monthly forum to update the public, and then open up their meetings.


The secrecy jibe casts a shadow over every single piece of work which they achieve, however successful, which is a great shame and can, so it appears, be laid at the door of the boardís non-elected members, who donít fancy being held accountable.


Leaving that issue aside in the hope that time will eventually rectify it, we move on to the other main priority ONE Haverhill set, which concerns the town centre, where they have been, we are told, integral to the latest efforts to draw up some sort of masterplan.


We have seen nothing so far, and are led to believe the reporting back on what has been happening will come through St Edmundsbury Borough Councilís Haverhill Area Working Party (HAWP), meeting next month.


It is no exaggeration to say that a lot is expected of this meeting, thanks to the various issues which have been forced onto its agenda by its members, mostly concerning the town centre.


Time is moving on and the town centre does not stay still. Rather, it declines incrementally, week by week, at the moment. There has been a lot of delay, shilly-shallying and general incompetence from almost everyone concerned, and the public now expect this to be put right, if not immediately, at least with some degree of expedition.


Of course, if we look for the reasons behind all the past failures, we usually find a degree of self-interest at work from some or all of the many parties involved. Nothing surprising in that.


But sometimes you hear anecdotal evidence which leaves you open-mouthed, trying vainly to imagine what convoluted law of the so-called free market is at work here.


For instance, I have heard Ė no idea whether itís true or not, but in my experience rumours about ridiculous situations in Haverhill town centre tend to turn out to be true Ė that a person can rent a restaurant premises in Bury St Edmunds for the less than it costs to rent a takeaway premises in Queen Street.


If that is true, what bizarre madness is at work here? Queen Street? This is not even the main part of the town centre we are talking about. The footfall comparison with almost anywhere in Bury must be extreme.


If that is the free market at work then the outlook for western capitalism must be bleak indeed. Something is going on. No wonder the property owners in our town centre and their agents donít want to talk to the councils Ė or anyone else.


It is just the latest in a string of similar rumours I have heard about the town centre Ė one only ever hears rumours, because no one ever talks actual money in public. Thereís a new one every time a premises closes down, and itís always about the rental costs.


Behind the scenes, among people who, presumably, know more than us poor members of the public, I gather one of the concerns is that there arenít any big enough premises available in the town centre to attract one of the main national retailers.


This one popped up again at a planning meeting of the town council last week, with regard to the proposals for the Bell. Councillors want to see a larger area of the building kept as retail, and fewer flats made out of the rest, because there is a lack of larger premises.


Trying from memory to identify how big the ground floor of the Bell is, I am still not convinced it could provide a store of any real size, but my memory may indeed be hazy or faulty altogether due to the occasions which generally found me entering the premises in the first place, like Friday afternoons.


To be honest, Iím not that sad to see the current characterless gastro-pub being lost. The real Bell was lost long ago when Greene King gutted the inside and turned it all into one bar.


Those of us who remember the airy public bar at the front and the cosy snug around the other side, as well as the pleasant club environment upstairs, and Tomís almost Dickensian off licence on the street, had long ago turned their backs on a ghastly modern creation where you feel old if youíre 25, let alone of my generation.


But itís another derelict premises on the high street, so the sooner it is sorted out the better. Then it can be bought up by our property-owning non-democracy and rented out at vast profit to another bookies. Letís see what ONE Haverhill can do about that.

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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