Home Page School resurgence should give hope for other improvements 20/04/12

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Matthew Hancock
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Hart of the Matter

A large number of issues affecting Haverhill people have been the subject of detailed scrutiny recently, with not a lot to be said for the results – as yet.


But one crucial element in the life of the town is riding high after a tremendous resurgence in recent years, and that is education. When you look at the countless surveys and consultations which go on all around us all the time, they all seem to reach the conclusion that education in Haverhill is top class, and still improving.


This is a far cry from where things were ten or 15 years ago, and should give hope that others of the town’s basket cases can be solved or resurrected in a similar manner.


However, the success of education in Haverhill in recent years has been down to us being fortunate enough to have some highly-skilled and motivated people in charge. When you look around other areas of town life, this is less apparent, and might give pause for thought.


This week saw the opening of the new Westfield Primary School – ‘Wonderful Westfield’, as its staff and pupils have modestly dubbed it – and it is yet another impressive element in the educational network.


The building is delightfully airy and spacious inside, in contrast to its predecessor, and, despite a somewhat clunky initial appearance from the front, the rest of the exterior is very pleasing as well, which cannot be said of all the town’s new build.


Tonight sees the official opening of an even more impressive new building, the replacement St Felix Roman Catholic Church, which shows what can be achieved by innovative and interesting design.


Of course, a school is a lot bigger than a church, but I was just a little surprised to find you could build seven new St Felix churches for the cost of the one Westfield Primary School. Nevertheless, both are splendid additions to the town’s fabric and will, I am sure, become much loved places for many years to come.


The Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for children, schools and young people’s services, Cllr Graham Newman, was on hand to hand over the keys to the new building, and said a few words in praise of it. These included the thought that staff and pupils might consider themselves very fortunate to have a new school as this was the last one that would be built in Haverhill for ‘a very, very long time’.


I hope this doesn’t mean that the planning and education services are not talking to each other, because other schools are planned in Haverhill Vision 2031 and are sure to be needed if the explosion of population forecast in that document takes place.


Mind you, there were areas earmarked for new primary schools in the old town masterplan which were never built. Apart from New Cangle, which replaced the old Victorian school in the centre of town, there has not been an new school provided in Haverhill for well over 30 years, despite all the growth that has taken place.


The time has long gone when decisions to build schools were taken well before developments were complete and the physical necessity apparent on the ground. Like other elements of infrastructure, schools are earmarked and then we wait and see whether there is going to be a demand for them.


Let’s hope this doesn’t mean that development in and around Haverhill will drift back into the troubles of 1990s Hanchet End when houses were put up without any services at all except Sainsburys.


Planners always tell us the market will provide community facilities like shops if there is a demand. Their only job is to make sure there is a little patch of land kept clear for them.


Sadly, this blind faith in the market is what has led us in Haverhill, in Britain and in the world generally, into the shortcomings, deficit and big black hole respectively, in which we now find ourselves.


If anyone doubts that, they should have been listening to our MP Matthew Hancock speaking this morning to Haverhill business people. Inevitably, someone asked him (again) why petrol and diesel are so expensive in Haverhill. It’s something he has had to field several times before, because this is one pretty insoluble basket case.


He replied that he has done his best to get something done about it, talked to the Office of Fair Trading, who were not very helpful, and is continuing to work on the issue. Then he said: "There are four petrol stations in Haverhill, who should all be competing against one another. I don’t understand why the market isn’t operating to bring the prices down.”


Well, the answer is that the market is operating. One probably cannot quite say how the market is operating without getting into a legal minefield, but it is definitely operating. And the only thing we can do is to drive 20 miles to Bury or Cambridge to get our fuel 10p a litre cheaper. That is a costly and almost certainly ineffective form of protest.


I wonder which we are likely to see first – another new school or cheaper petrol?

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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