Home Page The High Street merry-go-round whirls into action again 22/06/12

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Matthew Hancock
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Hart of the Matter

So, round we go again Ė the Haverhill High Street carousel has not ground to a halt after all and back we come to the police enforcement stage.

 

The public Ė or a limited number of them, at least Ė voted on Monday night for preventing illegal parking and driving in High Street to be a police priority once again. The frustration of Insp Ferrie and his officers is almost tangible, but I suppose this is what the police get used to Ė being the last resort when no one else can solve a problem.

 

I say last line, but that isnít correct, really, because there is always the Army. Send in a couple of tanks up and down the street to roll over any illegally parked cars and that might have some effect. As for police officers handing out tickets, as Insp Ferrie says, it is banging their heads against a brick wall.

 

Not only that, but the public are banging their heads against the wall as well in continually asking the police to enforce it. So, among all this head-banging, is there no common sense to be found at all?

 

Not much, is the answer. We must presume that Suffolk County Council are working on another solution after their disastrous last effort, but maybe not, because the clear wish of the traders not to have the street closed has given them an easy out.

 

Haverhill Town Council has been gauging public opinion on the issue at some length, via market stalls on Fridays and Saturdays. I gather the result is about a 70-30 per cent split in favour of pedestrianisation, although Iím not sure between which hours of the day and on which days.

 

But that sort of majority is unlikely to be able to win the day at a public inquiry in the face of the complete opposition of, as far as we know, every business in the street.

 

It is only a few weeks since I suggested the only way out was to provide all the traders with proper rear service access, by building the southern access road which was part of the 1970 masterplan. Itís an extremely costly solution and easy to favour when you havenít got to find the money for it.

 

But if you add up everything that has been spent on trying to solve this issue over the last 30 years or more, and add everything which is likely to be spent on it in the future as things stand, youíd probably be nearly there.

 

Nevertheless, if thatís a non-starter, how about another compromise idea. Close the street for a certain number of days a week, to be negotiated with the traders, on a trial basis. Then we could see whether it benefits the town, harms the traders or has no effect whatever.

 

Temporary barriers could be erected, as happens for street closures at present. Traders could tell their suppliers which days they can deliver, and their customers which days they will be able to have immediate access to bring in heavy items.

We could sit back for six months and see how it all pans out, without everybody speculating and putting the results forward as a foregone conclusion.

 

I expect the traders will say six months of it could put them out of business, and cite previous periods of roadworks in the street. But if we donít try, weíll never know, and it might turn out to be really beneficial for them. Iím not completely convinced, but plenty of people are, that it will improve the townís economy dramatically.

 

Itís a gamble, like any other business venture, which business people are always saying you have to be prepared to make if you want to grow.

 

If you read all that Insp Ferrie says, he claims only a small number of people are against closure of the street. Again, although it may be a minority, Iím not sure itís that small. We would probably find out, if it got to a public inquiry.

 

One way or another a lot of this palaver highlights a democratic deficit in Haverhill which affects the townís further progress. Very few people actually gave their views either way to begin with. There were only 106 responses to the public consultation, of which only a third were in favour.

 

One way of looking at it is that those few people were responsible for scuppering the last plan. Another way would be to say that the other 23,400 people in Haverhill were responsible for scuppering it because they didnít respond at all (perhaps not quite as many Ė some are children!).

 

Then on Monday night, just over 20 people came to the meeting to set the police priorities, of whom nine voted for the high street to be a priority. Itís pretty pathetic when you think about it. It isnít as if the meeting wasnít heavily trailed in the newspapers and on this site.

 

When it comes down to it, if you leave it to a handful of people to express a view, you canít really complain if what you get is a pigís ear.

 

Perhaps the Army tanks would be a good way of concentrating everyoneís minds into finally expressing a view which is strong enough for a final decision to be made, one way or the other, and then everyone could get on with trying to make it work, whatever the cost.

resort when no one else can solve a problem.

 

I say last line, but that isnít correct, really, because there is always the Army. Send in a couple of tanks up and down the street to roll over any illegally parked cars and that might have some effect. As for police officers handing out tickets, as Insp Ferrie says, it is banging their heads against a brick wall.

 

Not only that, but the public are banging their heads against the wall as well in continually asking the police to enforce it. So, among all this head-banging, is there no common sense to be found at all?

 

Not much, is the answer. We must presume that Suffolk County Council are working on another solution after their disastrous last effort, but maybe not, because the clear wish of the traders not to have the street closed has given them an easy out.

 

Haverhill Town Council has been gauging public opinion on the issue at some length, via market stalls on Fridays and Saturdays. I gather the result is about a 70-30 per cent split in favour of pedestrianisation, although Iím not sure between which hours of the day and on which days.

 

But that sort of majority is unlikely to be able to win the day at a public inquiry in the face of the complete opposition of, as far as we know, every business in the street.

 

It is only a few weeks since I suggested the only way out was to provide all the traders with proper rear service access, by building the southern access road which was part of the 1970 masterplan. Itís an extremely costly solution and easy to favour when you havenít got to find the money for it.

 

But if you add up everything that has been spent on trying to solve this issue over the last 30 years or more, and add everything which is likely to be spent on it in the future as things stand, youíd probably be nearly there.

 

Nevertheless, if thatís a non-starter, how about another compromise idea. Close the street for a certain number of days a week, to be negotiated with the traders, on a trial basis. Then we could see whether it benefits the town, harms the traders or has no effect whatever.

 

Temporary barriers could be erected, as happens for street closures at present. Traders could tell their suppliers which days they can deliver, and their customers which days they will be able to have immediate access to bring in heavy items.

We could sit back for six months and see how it all pans out, without everybody speculating and putting the results forward as a foregone conclusion.

 

I expect the traders will say six months of it could put them out of business, and cite previous periods of roadworks in the street. But if we donít try, weíll never know, and it might turn out to be really beneficial for them. Iím not completely convinced, but plenty of people are, that it will improve the townís economy dramatically.

 

Itís a gamble, like any other business venture, which business people are always saying you have to be prepared to make if you want to grow.

 

If you read all that Insp Ferrie says, he claims only a small number of people are against closure of the street. Again, although it may be a minority, Iím not sure itís that small. We would probably find out, if it got to a public inquiry.

 

One way or another a lot of this palaver highlights a democratic deficit in Haverhill which affects the townís further progress. Very few people actually gave their views either way to begin with. There were only 106 responses to the public consultation, of which only a third were in favour.

 

One way of looking at it is that those few people were responsible for scuppering the last plan. Another way would be to say that the other 23,400 people in Haverhill were responsible for scuppering it because they didnít respond at all (perhaps not quite as many Ė some are children!).

 

Then on Monday night, just over 20 people came to the meeting to set the police priorities, of whom nine voted for the high street to be a priority. Itís pretty pathetic when you think about it. It isnít as if the meeting wasnít heavily trailed in the newspapers and on this site.

 

When it comes down to it, if you leave it to a handful of people to express a view, you canít really complain if what you get is a pigís ear.

 

Perhaps the Army tanks would be a good way of concentrating everyoneís minds into finally expressing a view which is strong enough for a final decision to be made, one way or the other, and then everyone could get on with trying to make it work, whatever the cost.

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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