Home Page What should we sign up to in the way of promotion? 04/11/11

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

The move to replace Haverhill’s welcome signs on the entrance roads should provide plenty of food for discussion, it appears from the first part of the process when the proposal was put to the area working party last week.


One might think this would be one of the less contentious issues facing local government at the present juncture, but that would be to overlook the civic pride of our officers and representatives.


It is clear they all take great pride in the town of Haverhill, but not necessarily in the same aspects of it, so exactly what is to appear on the signs which welcome visitors to the town is likely to cause controversy.


Some want the sign to just announce the name of the town boldly and simply, perhaps with the word ‘welcome’ included. Others think it vital to include the CB9 logo, as if the most important thing about Haverhill is that it is not really part of Suffolk.


I’d go along with that, if anyone was keen to get us switched into Cambridgeshire, but they are not. You can’t demand the best of both worlds without falling between two stools, to mix metaphors.


It would surely be curious at the east and west entrances to have a sign announcing Suffolk, followed immediately by one promoting the Cambridge postcode.


Others were keen to have ‘market town’ included, and that in itself opens up another can of worms. What does it suggest? Would it be included because we are justly proud of our heritage? Haverhill’s market charter goes all the way back beyond the Domesday Book of 1085.


That might be one way of looking at it, but another councillor urged people not to get bogged down in the past. ‘Market’ might suggest something old-fashioned, twee, or small-scale. Business interests may want to avoid that.


That brings us on to the motivator for this change. The current signs are said to be ‘tired’, ‘out of date’ and generally promoting the wrong image of the town. This, in itself, is curious, because they were only put up about 15 years ago, by the same borough council that now wants to replace them for being out of date.


The previous ones, which had indeed begun to look extremely tired, used to announce ‘Haverhill, Pioneers In Town Expansion’, and had been there for over 30 years.


But members felt the current ones were likely to put off investors and we want new ones which will encourage them instead. I’m not sure the bald sentiment ‘Welcome to HAVERHILL’ is much of an encouragement to anyone.


The next point of disagreement was about whether the town twinning should be mentioned. As you approach both Ehringshausen and Pont St Esprit, these towns proudly proclaim their twinning with Haverhill, so it would seem churlish to leave them out – rather pointed, in fact.


Both these towns (especially Pont) have a lot to recommend them, so their pride in being connected to Haverhill should make us think.


It was suggested that the twinning information was more suited to the brown tourist signs than an entrance sign. That is a bizarre concept which I don’t think I have seen followed anywhere else. Brown signs, surely, are intended to tell visitors what they can find in the town they are approaching, not anywhere else.


There were some suggestions that the town’s highlights should be represented in some way on the signs – the Spirit of Enterprise, or maybe the broadcasting head being planned for the high street, perhaps.


The current signs are on Wratting Road, Withersfield Road and Sturmer Road, and would all have to be moved further out because the town has grown. Thus it might be necessary to announce Haverhill in the middle of Little Wratting, or in Withersfield or Sturmer parishes and those villages might not be happy with that idea.


It certainly is stretching a point to announce Haverhill before the traveller has reached the cottages at the top of Wratting Hill which are, I believe, still in Little Wratting.


There was also some very brief discussion about whether there should be signs on the minor roads into Haverhill. This did seem, at last, to be a sensible suggestion, but it was dismissed pretty much out of hand, as if nobody ever arrives at the town from any of these directions except those who know their way around anyway.


That may be true of the roads from Kedington, Withersfield and Helions Bumpstead, although I doubt it, but it certainly isn’t true of the road from Steeple Bumpstead, which is a B road, and that from Castle Camps which is the usual road to and from Saffron Walden and Audley End.


There is nothing more annoying when you are driving along an unfamiliar road than finding yourself in a village, let alone a town, which has not told you its name.


At least let us do that properly, and then we can think about whether it is worth spending some money on promoting the town via an attention-getting sign, perhaps developed by some people who know something about marketing.

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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