Hart of the Matter
From next Friday you’ll be able to take a careful look at the latest plans for traffic management in and around Haverhill town centre – what we blithely call ‘pedestrianisation’.
Suffolk County Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council are mounting a display in the arts centre for public consultation – the county because it is responsible for highways and traffic management, and the borough because it has £750,000 available for the cosmetic side of the project, which means paving, trees, street furniture, etc.
I’ve had a sneak preview of the proposals and, in essence, they are much the same as those brought forward last year, at the time the Quaker’s Lane scheme was ditched, and bringing in the new idea of closing off the Swan Lane crossing altogether.
They look nice in the virtual state of artists’ impressions and plans, with the new High Street appearing to be a very pleasant environment from the unlikely viewpoint of a helicopter hovering above Queen Street, if slightly less so at ground level.
Nevertheless, artists’ impressions do not stretch as far as the effect on other roads around the edge of the improved area, where a variety of issues are raised.
What will Crowland Road be like when it has to take a good percentage of the cross-town traffic now prevented from using Swan Lane? Two options are given to ameliorate the obvious congestion which would arise at present, either a one-way system or a ban on all parking towards the Withersfield Road end.
The latter would not, I think, be greeted with enthusiasm by people who live there and have nowhere else to park. A Machiavellian engineer or politician might have thought of closing the nearby health centre which sits on a good-sized parking area behind these houses, but let us not go there.
The one-way idea, which would be from Withersfield Road towards Camps Road, is the more likely, but it closes off that route around the town for everyone from the south side, pushing them all round Clements Lane, Duddery Hill and Mount Road.
The point that this would include ambulances from their base in Camps Road has been made, but I believe they generally sit out of town a lot of the time anyway nowadays, so that may not be as pertinent as it used to be.
At the other end of town there are also some issues to sort out. Anyone from the north side of town wanting to access any properties in the upper half of High Street will now be likely to use Hamlet Road and, at the risk of repeating myself, this road is probably going to be serving another 90 homes on the site of the old Hamlet Croft football ground. This project needs to be factored into the scheme.
That traffic will be competing around the Duddery Hill and Mount Road junctions with all the traffic coming down Duddery Hill, including new traffic now unable to use Crowland Road. That area is a bottleneck at the best of times. It only needs one lorry or one inconsiderately parked car to cause a big tailback.
Talking of tailbacks, access into and out of Swan Lane for Argos car park (can’t really call it Peacocks any more until we know what is happening to that store), will be controlled by traffic lights on a user-activated system.
It will be interesting to see the effect that has on the Tesco roundabout and Cangle junction complex. The rarely-used traffic light pedestrian crossing for Tesco already has the ability to cause a considerable tailback in Wratting Road and even Withersfield Road.
Also, the Ehringshausen Way/Lordscroft Lane section of road has already become almost interminable because of the number of crossings and junctions to be negotiated. And now everyone from the south side of town will have to use it – or run the gauntlet of the Chalkstone humps. Add in another set of traffic lights at Swan Lane and that will make it about one every 50 yards from Cineworld to Broad Street.
Then there’s the parking, or rather not parking. The street will be closed Sunday to Thursday 10am-4pm and Friday and Saturday 6am-6pm. Even outside those times you won’t be able to park in it unless you’re disabled.
That may be difficult to enforce, and it will almost certainly put up the currency value of blue badges among the fast food junkies, but it would be good from an aesthetic point of view.
And then there are the businesses cut off from access, and the 100-plus people who work on the Gurteens site....
There is no doubt that the ‘holy grail’ of an attractive, traffic-free high street is worth sacrificing a lot for. In the end we will probably have to put up with all the concomitant difficulties which it creates.
If that is the case, the borough had better do a good job with the cosmetics in the ‘pedestrian’ area. It has to look absolutely fantastic – and bring in some national retailers - for people to be convinced it has been worth all the hassle.