Home Page Running out of employment land? Pull the other one! 24/01/14

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Hart of the Matter

It doesn’t need much of a turnaround for everyone to be convinced that the recession is over and we are now in for a period of dramatic growth in the economy, even in Haverhill.


Only last week the plans of Carisbrooke to build houses on a part of Haverhill Business Park that they have been unable to market successfully to any employers ran into objections from very sanguine Haverhill residents and councillors who seem to expect a phenomenal take-up in employment land here over the next few years.


Carisbrooke’s agents had put forward figures to show the amount of available land for employment use, as part of their campaign to get planners to agree to allow this bit, the area next to Culina, to have its use changed to residential.


Under new Government guidelines, if developers can prove there is a real need for housing and a surplus of employment land, councils should be flexible and allow such changes. Of course, it’s all part of the desperate need to find more sites for housing, particularly in the south and east of England, where the pressure is really on.


Carisbrooke have taken advantage of the opportunity offered and, although they have included some sites which you could argue are not really either in Haverhill or likely to attract employers, such as areas at Vion, the former HMP or Grampian Foods complex at Little Wratting, their case seems strong enough to many councillors.


There is a lot of vacant land around, some of it in the Braintree District Council area off Bumpstead Road, which can’t be included in this computation, and, to be honest, in the current climate with the peanut factory moving away, can anyone really see it all being taken up that quickly?


Objectors point to vast areas of housing land which are going to become available under the Vision 2031 proposals in north-west and north-east Haverhill. In response Carisbrooke say this needs a great investment in infrastructure (such as the north-western bypass) before it can happen, while their little site of some 200 houses already has the roads and services in place, so can be built immediately.


Many have been sceptical about whether Carisbrooke will be able to persuade anyone to take any sites on their new research park at the other end of the town, even though the infrastructure is already in place there. Well, you can’t have it both ways – either businesses will come here or they won’t, at least not very quickly.


Maybe those who oppose the change of use for the Bumpstead Road site think Carisbrooke are taking Haverhill for a ride. After all, developers are notorious for having their own back-door ways of achieving their ends.


The research park allowed Carisbrooke to hive off a chunk of it for housing, and they have been pushing the envelope in the past in other areas. Some years ago they tried unsuccessfully to get part of the business park re-allocated for housing – this very same Bumpstead Road site, I believe.


At the time the core strategy of Vision 2031 was being developed, they argued a large chunk of the proposed new housing growth should be at the western edge, either on what is now the research park, or on a site opposite it on the other side of the bypass, or both.


Their argument then was about sustainability, because those who come to live in Haverhill’s new housing will overwhelmingly be working along the Cambridge corridor. The core strategy which was eventually agreed has never convincingly explained how people living in north-east Haverhill, beyond Chalkstone Way, are going to travel easily en masse towards Cambridge.


Vision 2031 burbles on about them cycling or walking to work in Haverhill, but who really believes there will be the jobs for them here? At least the Bumpstead Road site is close to the bypass, so much more logical.


Cycling and walking may be beneficial healthwise, but Haverhill’s hills (the clue is in the name) are quite a disincentive to travel that way from the top of Chalkstone or beyond to Moon Hall Lane and back each day. Some do it now and some would do it in the future, but it must be doubtful how significant that number would be, even though driving that route en masse might also prove frustrating.


It is surely indisputable that house-building close to the bypass, and particularly at the western end of Haverhill is far more practical in traffic terms than anywhere else.


That might change in the unlikely event that we get a railway – not as unlikely in the light of recent events as it was a year or two ago, but still an extremely distant prospect – but even then, the likely route would have to follow the bypass for the simple reason that everywhere else is either built upon or up a very steep hill.


Let’s face it, whatever any planners or developers might like to come up with, logic dictates that Haverhill is going to be creating a dormitory for thousands more Addenbrooke’s workers over the next five to ten years, and the sooner we face up to that fact, the better our chances of finding ways in which that influx can help us to improve the facilities we aspire to – transport, education, retail, healthcare, etc.


Every challenge is an opportunity, so business people keep telling us.


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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