A raft of modifications have been made to St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Vision 2031 document for Haverhill - including a stronger mention of a country park and better protection against traffic chaos once the north west development gets underway.
The modifications do not, however, include support for reinstating a railway link to Haverhill.
The changes have been made to the original document by Government-appointed planning inspector Roger Clews in the wake of the series of public hearings held in late January and early February to discuss its contents.
Vision 2031 provides the framework for growth in St Edmundsbury for the next 17 years, and following Mr Clews report it will now be considered by borough councillors at their cabinet meeting in September before going to full council for approval on September 23.
With so many elements covered in Mr Clews report, Haverhill Town Council has declined to comment on the report until all the councillors have had more time to take on board its contents and discuss them at its next full meeting on July 29.
Town clerk, Colin Poole, explained: “What I’ve asked the councillors to do is have a look at the links themselves and let me know what response they want me to make to it.”
Deputy mayor, Cllr Maureen Byrne supported his view, saying: “I think we’ve got to wait for a full town council discussion and debate on where we see us going with it.”
One of the key concerns raised at the Vision inquiry was the possible impact on the traffic in Haverhill once the north west housing development starts being built.
The original policy referred to the provision of a relief road taking traffic from Wratting Road around the development to the Cambridge side of town.
Mr Clews said: “It does not specifically state that the relief road is to be provided as part of that development, nor does it set out a clear mechanism for its delivery and timing.
“For these reasons the policy, as submitted, is not effective.”
Mr Clews has amended the policy to say: “The delivery and timing of the relief road will be controlled through a legal agreement attached to any planning permission for that development.
“Planning permission for the delivery of the north west Haverhill strategic development in advance of the completion of the relief road will not be granted unless it is demonstrated that the transport impacts can be satisfactorily mitigated.”
The issue of pedestrianising the High Street was also addressed by Mr Clews.
He believes the Vision 2031 document is not the place to consider pedestrianisation and instead recommends that it be included as part of a Haverhill town centre masterplan that should be drawn up by the borough council in consultation with ‘all interested groups and individuals.’
The reinstatement of the railway link to Haverhill also failed to gain any backing in Mr Clews’ report.
He said, however: “The available evidence does not persuade me that there is a firm prospect of achieving this during the lifetime of the Haverhill Vision document, however beneficial it might be.”
Mr Clews instead said more emphasis should be placed on improving road and bus connections from Haverhill, particularly to Cambridge.
At the Vision inquiry Mr Clews heard submissions in support of providing a country park as part of the north east Haverhill development by linking East town Park to a 30 hectare area of land between the Roman Way development and Calford Green.
One developer had also asked that a pocket of green land included in the buffer allocated between the housing development area and Calford Green be allocated for extra housing.
Mr Clews rejected the idea of the development of the western part of the buffer.
He said: “This would lead to a harmful loss of visual separation between Calford Green and the new development, thereby compromising the hamlet’s distinctive rural character.
“Moreover, development of this land is unnecessary to achieve the housing requirement sought by the Haverhill Vision document.”
Mr Clews stated that the buffer covers a 20 hectare area, a size ‘many times the area of parkland required for a development this size’ and that ‘evidence indicates that the overall provision of open space for the development would comfortably exceed the council’s (St Edmundsbury) adopted standards.’
He did add however, that the Vision document fails to acknowledge that country parkland may be appropriate for the north east development site and amended the policy to say it should: “Provide new community parkland/country park on the strategic growth area.”
A tertiary road linking Coupals Road to the north east development, which would cut through the gold club’s driving range if built, on this Mr Clews said: “On the evidence submitted to the examination, it may well be that a tertiary access proves to be unnecessary.
“However, any binding decision on this matter would need to be taken at the planning application stage.”
Suggestions of building houses on the former Castle Hill Middle School site in School Lane also failed to gain support in the report.
Mr Clews did, though, have no problem with the borough council’s proposal to build more housing on land to the west of the old Castle Hill site, adjacent to Chivers Road.
He also gave his support to the policy reserving land for the expansion of Castle Manor Academy and for a sixth form/further education centre on land at the corner of Hollands Road and Duddery Hill, based on evidence of current need.