Hart of the Matter
Like all the
best epic stories, analysis of the draft Haverhill town centre masterplan
document is a trilogy, and the third part follows the example of many such
enterprises in having a title including the words ‘The Return Of’.
In this case
it is Masterplan: The Return Of Optimism. However, unlike The Jedi or The King,
it remains to be seen whether or not Optimism is A Good Thing.
On the face
of it, the masterplan suggests some considerable changes which, over the next
two decades, could transform Haverhill town centre into a very successful,
vibrant and attractive asset to the town.
problem is that we have seen this before, and been disappointed when chunks of
it just don’t happen. These sort of documents are all very well, but there is
always the danger of raising false hopes, or even starting hares.
has probably had more hares started about potential developments than any other
town in the country, precisely because everyone is so eager to hope for
something good to happen.
If we take
the previous town centre masterplan, we can see several ideas which were put
forward but which have not happened. The things within it which have come to
fruition were already under way as plans when it was finalised. Such plans
should only be included in documents like this with the very clear attendant information
that they are already in the pipeline.
councils can claim that developments have occurred as a result of the masterplan
whereas, in actuality, they would have happened anyway. When you take these out
of the last masterplan you can see even more clearly that virtually nothing new
included within it has been achieved at all within the decade since it was
Of course, a
lot which was not included in it has happened, most obviously the cinema complex.
All this means that there is nowadays an innate tendency of residents to take
these documents with a pinch of salt.
What is in
them may eventually come to fruition, but not in the short-term, or even the
medium term. After all, the completion of the Meadowlands estate extension,
nowadays called North-West Haverhill, and which is now included in the Vision
2031 document, still has a long way to go, and that was in the first Haverhill
Masterplan, finalised in 1970.
probability it will be 50 years after that plan was published before the final
development presaged within it actually materialises in bricks and mortar.
So before we
all get too optimistic about the latest masterplan draft, we should perhaps
look at the likelihood of any of it ever being any more than words and lines on
a page, and at just how much of it is new as opposed to being already in the
As far as
likelihood is concerned, there are several areas which could be questioned. The
police station, suggested as a site for redevelopment, is not open for such a
transformation, we have been categorically assured.
companies are unlikely to be as open in their reaction, but I would make a
little guess that if you went and asked Wisdom privately about their factory
site and allotments, they would say much the same.
is the proposed town square, which envisages the redevelopment of the old Co-op
and Jubilee Walk car park. If the tales regarding the imminent arrival of
another pound shop in the old Co-op store are true, it is hard to see how this
will be achieved any time soon.
is the Gurteens site. This is scarcely anything new, so should be one of those
items carrying a clear sign that it is already in the pipeline, at least as far
as the landowner’s intentions are concerned.
But there is
an odd misalignment in this section as well, because it talks about either
opening up the back of the churchyard altogether, or at least replacing the
windows, and then redeveloping the green space as some sort of garden.
council has just re-landscaped that area, and there are some cracking pieces of
artwork created by local schoolchildren, which have been made to fit the
blocked-up windows, waiting to be put in place.
would not surprise me to find the whole thing being re-thought, it would be not
only sad but another example of unjoined-up thinking, and waste of public
that is not going to be the case, but if that is so, why is it in the document
The most disappointing
thing, in some ways, concerns an area of the town centre which is absolutely
ripe to be knocked down and redeveloped and which is not included in the
document at all – Queen’s Square.
anyone says that is because it has already been established that the landlord
is not willing for such a redevelopment to happen, then it is difficult to see
why the other landowners have not been approached in a similar manner.
Square has long been one of the town’s biggest eyesores, and it was a tragedy
that the Tesco development could not have included a brand new walkway right
through it, as a covered arcade of shops (perhaps continuing from my glass bridge).
has been much neglected in the whole process and, if Swan Lane is to become
two-way again, will suffer further, which is so sad because, as its
conservation status shows, it is one of the most attractive parts of the town.
that a new town square is urged at the other end of the town centre and away
from the current market square, the more peripheral Queen Street will become.
Opportunities to integrate it with the town centre and revive its fortunes have
come and gone over the past 20 years – and no doubt will continue to do so,
even if any of the rest of this masterplan does eventually come into being.