Home Page Sites for housing development are the first part of the Vision to look at 02/03/12

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Hart of the Matter

If you’re trying to wade through the vast Haverhill Vision 2031 document in the hope of finding something interesting or something which affects you particularly, the best place to start is to look at the suggestions for the locations of new housing.


It would be easy to home in on the big conglomerations of development in north-west Haverhill (another 1,150 homes) and north-east Haverhill, now to be called Great Wilsey Park (another 2,500 homes).


But there are a lot of other sites earmarked for residential or part-residential use. First of all there are the expected ones – Hamlet Croft (up to 100 homes), Atterton and Ellis site (39), Castle Hill Middle School (25), Westfield Primary site (30) and the old gasworks in Withersfield Road (10).


We knew all about those, and several have been in the pipeline for many years. The only slight surprise is that Castle Hill will only provide 25 – more of that later.


Then there are the town centre sites where St Edmundsbury Borough Council planners are still hopeful of retaining commercial uses, but have now accepted that to make such redevelopments viable, a limited amount of higher-value residential may have to be included. It’s the same argument as at Hanchet End research park, but easier to justify in the town centre on sustainability grounds.


These sites are Wisdom Factory, the Gurteens site, the rear of Argos and the post office, the Cleales and town hall car parks and the Jubilee Walk car park and Brook Service Road. It is not made clear how replacements for all those car parking spaces will be provided, but the borough planners seems to think all these sites can be redeveloped in the next 20 years.


Then there is a site at Chivers Road/Chimswell Way earmarked for community facilities not in the town centre, but where it is still thought an element of residential development may be needed to make such schemes viable.


And then there is mention of releasing part of the Castle Manor site in Eastern Avenue for residential development. This would presumably be part of a project to create new premises for the college further into the site.


It’s quite a big list of sites, but almost as interesting are the sites not mentioned. The Chalkstone Middle School site will be retained for community purposes. It is not clear how, but one guesses that some sort of deal is already in the offing for something – perhaps a special school or a care home, as both have, in the past, been suggested.


I must admit that when Suffolk County Council first raised the idea of going back to two-tier education and work was begun on the idea of all-through schooling, I assumed the council was already rubbing its hands at the prospect of how much money it would raise in sale of the school sites for housing.


However, so far we have Parkway continuing in use as part of Castle Manor, Clements getting a new school and the old site becoming public open space, Castle Hill being retained in part as some sort of community facility and only 25 homes being built on a peripheral part of the site, Chalkstone being retained as a community facility and only the Westfield site actually being given over to new homes.


There doesn’t seem to be much financial return for all the investment in new schools for Clements and Westfield, and new buildings at other schools to accommodate more pupils.


In the end, I rather wonder whether at least some housing on parts of these sites might have saved some of the sprawl envisaged in Vision 2031, and brought in a bit of useful cash.


But I was forgetting that, when it comes to schools and education, however much talk there may be of cuts and economies, in the end there never seems to be a shortage of cash, whether it be for top-of-the-range equipment or new build. And that is, of course, a good thing and something to be thankful to the county council for whatever else they may cut to ensure it.


The town centre issues are, perhaps, a little more debatable. The Vision 2031 document envisages a new masterplan for the town centre being produced soon.


Well, it must be the best part of ten years since we’ve had one and then, almost immediately, they tore it up and re-wrote it out of commercial necessity, which reminds you that these big planning documents are all very well as theoretical exercises but circumstances sometimes require them to be ignored – such as cinemas.


But at the moment, before anyone draws up any masterplans for Gurteens, Wisdom, the car parks et al, it might be a good idea to come up with a plan for the former Co-op, which, of course, does not feature in the Vision 2031 document at all. That’s just another circumstance which has come along.


What Harold MacMillan said of politics is just as true of planning documents: "Events, dear boy, events.”

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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