Home Page Why Haverhill High Street is just the place for a bit of drama 18/05/12

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Hart of the Matter

If you go down to the market this weekend you’ll be in for a small surprise because you’ll find town councillors out and about talking to shoppers about two major Haverhill issues.


One is pretty straightforward. It’s a petition asking NHS Suffolk to deliver improved healthcare facilities for Haverhill. Do we want that? Is the Pope a Catholic, I hear you mutter. But the context is febrile because there is a lot of anger about the closure of the Crown Health Centre later this year.


The town council wants to show there is a lot of public support for its campaign to improve healthcare in the town, and public fear about the pressures the closure is going to throw on the rest of the health provision here, particularly GPs. They want all the £1.2million annual saving from closing the centre to be spent in Haverhill.


That may sound reasonable enough but, of course, if you look at it from NHS Suffolk’s point of view, there isn’t any point in closing something you claim is not providing value for money if you don’t save anything from it. So there will be a battle to fight.


With stunning irony, Suffolk County Council has just agreed to set up a new forum whereby members of the public can raise concerns about healthcare provision in the county. I hope they can cope with the resulting deluge.


However, the other major issue the town council is talking to people about is a lot more complex, and is the main reason they are out in the street gauging the opinions of shoppers. It is the vexed question which Hamlet so succinctly encapsulated in his great soliloquy: ‘To pedestrianise or not to pedestrianise; that is the question. Whether tis wiser in the street to suffer the noise and danger of outrageous parking, or put up gates against a sea of traffic and by excluding end them.’


No one but Shakespeare could have expressed with such clarity the continuing internal conflict of the human condition when placed in the position of a town planner.


On the one hand we desire, do we not, that beauty of environment, that placidity of perambulation which the exclusion of traffic must inevitably bring, and yet we find ourselves unable, in the last analysis, to let go of the underlying commercial instinct for survival which has brought us so far.


The Almighty Public Inquiry, it seems, would set its canon ‘gainst self-slaughter - and that is exactly what pedestrianisation would bring about, according to all the town centre traders – a slow decline into non-existence or a swift falling off the cliff into bankruptcy.


Consciousness of this doth make cowards of us all and, as we have seen lately, the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of having a re-think, and enterprises of great pitch and moment in this regard their courses turn awry and lose the name of action.


So we have to go on seeking a solution to the apparently insoluble. In this way our retail offer drags on and we turn into Macbeth. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted previous foolish planners the way to dusty waste paper baskets.


The Bard has so exactly understood the endless formation and reformation of plans in a timeless cycle which has wearied us to the extent that we no longer want to even think about it. Each new scheme that comes out is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.


But, hark, what do I hear? A messenger enters from stage left to tell us our town councillors are to try to establish exactly what it is we want, presumably so they can then attempt to effect it.


But by now we are King Lear, worn out and babbling foolishly, unable to make a decision of any kind and just regretting that we ever handed power over to any of them. Get thee glass eyes, we tell them, and, like the scurvy politician, seem to see the things thou dost not – particularly any action on pedestrianisation.


If only we could get back to the days of our youth as Romeo and Juliet when things happened quickly, so quickly that we were afraid they were just a dream – too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, too like the lightning, which doth cease to be ere one can say ‘It lightens’.


But that is our tragedy in Haverhill town centre nowadays. Everything happens so slowly, that by the time we have met one challenge, the next is already passing us by. Oh for a Muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention – jumping o’er times, turning the accomplishment of many years into an hour-glass.


Oh, and by the way, if you like drama, there’s a week of it on free at Haverhill Arts Centre next week.


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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