Home Page Past, Present and Future all combine in one week 10/05/13

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Hart of the Matter

When people want to highlight how barmy a system is they sometimes use that old image of: "If an alien landed here and saw this he’d think the whole place was bonkers,” or something similar.


Well, this week it has actually happened, and it could not have been at a better time for the alien to take a considered view.


Of course, you all think I mean a little green man with dishes for ears, but I mean alien in its true sense of stranger, or outsider. I am told that the new UKIP councillor for Haverhill Cangle, Julian Flood, had only ever been to Haverhill once before the election.


I’ve never met the man and know nothing about him and, although you could argue a lot about how people can vote for someone who knows nothing about the area, you could also argue that an outsider’s view is of interest.


UKIP stands for one or two nasty things and one or two quite nice ones, while all the rest is generally what I would call ‘pub talk’, and I wait to see whether you can give it any credence, or whether you need to fear it, in much the same way as I would wait to see whether a pub loudmouth will live up to his ill-informed rhetoric.


But the arrival of Mr Flood from outer space (Coney Weston, actually, which is much the same thing) could not have happened at a better time, because it forms part of a week in which we have a particularly clear view of both directions in the journey of our community, and it completes the triumvirate of Past, Present and Future.


On Wednesday night, residents crammed in to hear the results of an archaeological dig which showed people farming at Hanchet End from the late Iron Age – that’s the last century or so BC – through the Roman period (43-410AD) and into the Anglo-Saxon period, or so-called Dark Ages, of the fifth and sixth centuries. That’s the Past.


The previous Thursday, Haverhill voters largely turned their backs on the old political parties and voted for something different. That’s the Present.


Then yesterday, Haverhill Area Working Party agreed the Vision 2031 final draft, a huge planning document covering all areas of the community’s life for the next 20 years, which will now go before a Government planning inspector, along with public comments about it. That’s the Future.


These three events should give Mr Flood a good starting point in learning about the environment which he has pledged to give up his time for.


From the history of Haverhill, if he cares to research it, he will find a tradition of independent thought and refusal to be told what to by the establishment which ranges back through the centuries at least to mediaeval times and probably further.


In the 20th century Haverhill spent its time kicking against the influence of Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. In the 19th it was kicking against agricultural poverty and helping build the wealth of a nouveau family with radical liberal and philanthropic views, however exploitative we may now view that process.


In the 18th century the seeds of Non-Conformism were germinated and grown to a degree which makes the town still have something of the feel of a northern ‘chapel’ community.


In the 17th century Haverhill welcomed in the new Quaker influence when the rest of East Anglia gave it the cold shoulder, stood against the King in the Civil War, and gave to the world a family of Puritan preachers whose influence stretched as far as America.


One could go on and on. The Iron Age people who farmed here in Roman Britain were probably part of the Trinovantes, who joined with Boudicca’s Iceni against the Romans.


I wouldn’t be surprised the old boy whose skeleton the dig unearthed was buried there because he had defended the independence of his little community. He probably didn’t pay his taxes to the Empire very regularly.


Rather more recently, Mr Flood might care to review the history of the Haverhill Representative Alliance, a small local political movement with a massive influence, which took over the town council and, but for a technical error in registering, would probably have won most of Haverhill’s seats on St Edmundsbury Borough Council as well, almost entirely because they had the word ‘Haverhill’ in the name of their party.


They were unable to deliver anything positive because they were naive and disastrously led, but they, too, were part of the town’s rebellious nature. So the UKIP vote is in a long tradition and shows that our present is just a part of our past.


But the future is less clear. Vision 2031, as far as I can see, is not what they initially told us it would be. It is less about creating the future and more about protecting the present.


I went to a media briefing about it at the beginning of the week and St Edmundsbury’s leader Cllr John Griffiths was at pains to stress over and over again that it was about protecting beautiful St Edmundsbury from speculative and irresponsible developers who might ruin it in the light of recent Government moves to ease growth.


They are rushing it through to get protection in place in time, otherwise it might have been sensible if they had waited for the surprising 2011 census results before defining irrevocably, over a year ago, their core strategy for growth.


They listed their ‘significant changes’ to this latest, and final, draft and failed to include the fact that they had axed the ‘aspiration’ for pedestrianisation. The officers’ view was that it is not deliverable. The document makes no reference to any future hope for a railway. The officers’ view is that that is not deliverable either.


They claim the inspector will pick up on that. If that’s not just a smokescreen, all I can say is that the inspector should look up the word ‘aspiration’ in his little dictionary. Aspirations are about what we would like; policies are about what we will do and what is ‘deliverable’.


So councillors did as they were told and agreed it, with just a cosmetic wording change about the ‘pedestrian environment’, whatever that means. It appears that many of the community’s hopes for the future once again rest with the people themselves kicking up a fuss at some stage during the next 20 years – and I’m sure they will.

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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