In an exciting twist to the recently revealed ambitions to put Haverhill’s disused Corn Exchange back into community use, an arrangement could soon be forged with Highpoint Prison to use skilled offenders to aid the refurbishment.
As reported in the Echo two weeks ago, Haverhill East and Kedington county councillor Tony Brown wants to transform the Withersfield Road building into a community centre which could feature a museum, café, gallery and more, based on people’s suggestions.
Cllr Brown has already gained the support of Haverhill Town Council and received a ‘positive’ response from the ONE Haverhill board when he presented his plans to them on Tuesday (September 17).
He is now looking at other sources of help, one of which is to tap into a scheme run by Highpoint Prison to get offenders contributing to the local community.
Cllr Brown said: “Highpoint Prison has set up a meeting in November for us to go up there with the aim of using their offenders as part of their rehabilitation to work on the refurbishment of the building.
“We could get a lot of free labour and expertise. It’s a very provisional meeting but they seem to be very enthusiastic about it.”
Steve Phillips Head of Reducing Re-offending at Highpoint, said the idea to help came about after one of his team read in the Echo about Cllr Brown’s plans for the Corn Exchange.
Contact was made with Cllr Brown to see, as part of its community engagement programme, how the prison could help and a meeting is set up between the two parties for November 12.
Mr Phillips added: “I’ve got qualified tradesmen here.
“They’ve made a mistake and they want to give something back to the community, whether it’s the community that they come from or the local community here.”
The community engagement programme already has offenders involved with four placements in Haverhill and helping with the refurbishment of the Corn Exchange could become another positive step for all involved.
“They are proving they can be trusted and they can be employed,” added Mr Phillips. “When they come up to be discharged it’s something they can put on their CV and say I’ve given something back and are now ready to positively contribute to the community.”
With the Corn Exchange estimated to cost £170,000 to £250,000 to buy and about £500,000 to refurbish, Cllr Brown is receiving help from the county council, as well as the town council, in finding sources for funding and support.
A business plan is also now being drawn up.