Haverhill residents are being urged to have their say on the future of the High Street by their town council.
Suffolk County Council is holding it’s long-promised exhibition on Saturday (September 14) in the Market Square for people to express their views on the town centre’s future, and particularly the divisive topic of pedestrianisation.
Town clerk Will Austin said: “It’s really important that people make clear their ambitions for High Street at this event.
“The work the county council is doing won’t necessarily take into account past public consultations such as the town council’s survey last year, which gathered the views of 754 people.
“We certainly don’t want any lack of participation to be seen as a lack of interest locally.
“We know that people have strong views and I would urge residents to spare a few minutes to tell the county what they think of the High Street now, and what could be done now and in the future to improve it.
“This isn’t just about pedestrianisation, traffic and parking – it could help the bigger councils in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich decide what our town centre should be like in 20 years’ time.
“I know this seems like a never-ending saga for the town, but we do need to keep making our voice heard if we are to get the town centre we need for a large and expanding population.
“Many people have said to me that they feel let down by the borough and county councils because not much has changed in the town centre and this is their chance to send that message to them direct.”
Haverhill Town Council supports the High Street being pedestrianised for the same hours as Queen Street, and have conducted a survey showing 70 per cent of people support them in that aim.
However, prominent businesses such as Gurteens and Chapmans oppose such a move due to a lack of rear access.
The town’s police have often had to direct resources at the problem of illegal parking that plagues the High Street as it has repeatedly been elected as a priority for the Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT).
It was at March’s SNT meeting at Burton End Primary School when county Cllr Guy McGregor, then cabinet member for roads and transport, initially promised a seminar for residents to discuss the town centre’s future after he disregarded calls for pedestrianisation and instead insisted on a shared space scheme as being the way forward, which saw him jeered at the meeting and branded ‘arrogant’ by then-mayor Maureen Byrne.
The town council also has an online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/haverhilltowncentre, though some savvy internet users have sussed how to fill it in more than once, potentially skewing the results.
“The online survey doesn’t really allow responses to cover the full range of issues affecting the High Street, but at least it provides one way of contributing to the debate for those who aren’t able to get to the event,” added Mr Austin.
“For anyone who doesn’t have internet access I am happy to help out by completing it on their behalf.
“Just call in at the Arts Centre – but ring first to check I’m here.”
Mr Austin can be contacted on 01440 712858.
The county council held a workshop event involving representatives of organisations and groups in Haverhill yesterday (Wednesday, September 11), and a separate event for schools to gather the views of young people.
For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, September 12) Echo.