Home Page Parking issues highlight utopian thinking in Vision 2031 09/03/12

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Hart of the Matter

You may have noticed that the parking issues around Place Farm Primary School have been highlighted again this week when they became a priority for the police to address as part of the town’s Safer Neighbourhood Team.


This will not be a new problem for the police, and it is another one which they find difficult to deal with, to follow on from the saga of parking in the town centre.


A similar problem flared up a year or so ago in School Lane, which was at that time an access road for three schools, although Castle Hill Middle has since closed. It proved difficult for police because motorists – nearly all parents dropping off or picking up, of course – don’t like being told to move on, or not to park where they parked yesterday.


There was even a problem around The Keep area on the Parkway estate because people were parking there and nipping through to the schools.


Place Farm has always been a problem, but now the additional pupils whom the return to two-tier education has generated are making it even worse.


The bigger schools, which have more available land, like Castle Manor and Sam Ward, have been able to create large car parking areas within their sites. Sam Ward did so quite recently and anyone who has needed to use that car park at any time during the week of school term will know how busy it gets.


It looked huge when it was created, but now even the overflow space is regularly full – and that is without the hordes of parents which primary schools generate.


These are issues which have been growing for years and show no signs of abating. I haven’t been round to look, but I would guess most schools in Haverhill experience them.


This is one of the reasons why the aspirations about transport in Haverhill Vision 2031 seem so out of touch with reality. I see absolutely no sign that, over the next 20 years, people’s behaviour is going to be changed to the extent envisaged, so that walking and cycling around town will be the norm and commuting out of town to work or shop will be reduced.


Every day you see parents starting up the Jaguar or the 4x4 to take little Johnny the 200 yards to school. The same is true of people who live and work in the town, and those who live and shop here. This latter can be justified a bit by the fact that Haverhill is built on the sides of a valley, so it can be quite tough getting the shopping home without transport.


There are town bus services, but I can’t say they have appeared that well used whenever I have seen them in action – usually while waiting endlessly for a bus to creep its way out of the town and head toward Cambridge half an hour after it left Haverhill bus station.


No, the car (or taxi) is the transport of choice for a vast majority of people in Haverhill, conditioned by over 40 years of having no railway. Even railways are becoming unpopular at the moment because they are so expensive and so inefficiently run.


Competition in the field of public transport rarely, if ever, seems to have a beneficial effect. I used to use trains before the railways were privatised and I don’t recognise the horror scenarios described by proponents of the current system. I also used buses before they were deregulated, and I found them, too, to be a lot more efficient than people say they are nowadays.


One hears it claimed – I have no idea whether this is true or not – that the rail subsidy before privatisation was the equivalent of £1billion in today’s money, and that the current subsidy is £4billion. Things ought to have got a lot better for that.


There is one other statistic which may be relevant, however, and that is the decline which has been identified in the number of young people learning to drive. This is attributed to the massive cost of car insurance, particularly for young males, and the rising cost of fuel.


These factors are making it more and more difficult for young people to lead active, useful and fulfilled lives in semi-rural areas – as Haverhill still is.


Vision 2031 is about what we want the town to be like in 20 years’ time, and for some of us – probably the majority of those who have taken any real interest in this document – that will be, if not irrelevant (one hopes), at least of fading importance.


However, for the young people of today, it will be fundamental to whether they stay here or not. Although populations are a lot more migrant than they used to be, and although Haverhill has a good percentage of transitory residents, there is still a core community here, many of whom may want to remain because they have an attachment to the place. That is natural enough among humans, even in the 21st century.


But if the basics of everyday life, like getting around, become inordinately difficult by then, they will look for somewhere more convenient. And they will blame us for our lack of courage and forethought, not themselves for still driving cars.

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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