Christopher Gurteen wants rethink on Haverhill High Street pedestrianisation plans

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In relation to the cash Haverhill Area Working Party have to improve the town centre, Mr Gurteen added: “£750,000 is a lot of money and surely something could be done with that.”

Plans to pedestrianise the High Street from Quakers Lane should be revived, Christopher Gurteen has said.

Mr Gurteen, a director at Haverhill clothing firm Gurteen, based at Chauntry Mills, has been described by the town council as one of the main obstacles to pedestrianisation.

However, he has spoken out to say he is in favour of such plans – but that they must continue to allow access to the front of his site.

Mr Gurteen has urged for plans to allow traffic to drive down the High Street before it is then pedestrianised by Quakers Lane – allowing traffic out along that road – to be revisited.

Such plans were considered by Suffolk County Council but dismissed due to health and safety reasons.

“My suggestion is to go back to the Quakers Lane issue as I think that was discounted very quickly and without a lot of thought because of money,” Mr Gurteen said.

The Gurteen family will apply for permission to demolish around half of the Grade II listed site.

In relation to the cash Haverhill Area Working Party have to improve the town centre, Mr Gurteen added: “£750,000 is a lot of money and surely something could be done with that.”

Mr Gurteen opposes the idea of having to ‘zig zag’ through Cleales Car Park to access the site, instead prefering to keep a ‘prestigious’ entrance.

“With a big business like this covering four acres in the centre of the town it’s unfortunate it is where it is but that’s how the business started and the town grew around us, not the other way around,” he said.

“We’ve had unrestricted access for 228 years.

“If the High Street was pedestrianised after Quakers Lane then obviously the councillors who are hell bent on moving the market to the High Street would have a problem, but it puzzles me why they want to move it when it has a Market Square already.

“If they did that, closing for 12 hours from 6am to 6pm on Fridays, that would literally put us out of business.”

Mr Gurteen said that the problem of illegal parking could be tackled by having bollards installed along the High Street.

“The other thing I feel very strongly about is that we still should have a traffic warden,” he added.

“They say it’s to do with money but when we had a traffic warden here it was wonderful – everyone hated him because he did a bloody good job and if we had one people would know there’s someone around and they’re going to get done rather than just being unlucky and coming on a police day when they have a presence.”

The problem of hiring a traffic warden is that the road would need to be decriminalised – something the county council is reluctant to do due to the cost.

The town council was approached to joint fund a PCSO, who could issue tickets as it is a criminal offence, although the council have shied away from this over fears of how much control it would have over the PCSO.

Mr Gurteen added that problems were complicated by having Suffolk County, St Edmundsbury Borough and Haverhill Town councils all involved in pedestrianisation.

The entirety of Chauntry Mills was made Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1971, and though some parts are sacrosanct the Gurteens are hoping to win permission to demolish around half of the site, the buildings at the rear that face onto St Mary’s Church.

Most of the Gurteen clothes are now made in China with the Haverhill base used for distribution, though it is far from ideal for that.

“We’ve already spent £250,000 on legal fees to get as far as we have,” said Mr Gurteen.

“This building was designed as a weaving mill and sowing factory, but now it’s a warehouse it’s just not the right type of building.

“We have a site that covers 110,000 square feet yet we could get away with 40,000 sq ft by nature of the fact we could go up, which would be much more effective.”

There is also a listed steam engine from 1880, called Caroline.

The demolition request should be filed within two months, and the Gurteens expect to hear if it has been successful within a year.

If the request is successful, plans for redevelopment of the site could be drawn up.

Demolition and other work could then be completed within three years.

“There’s no point saying ‘we’ll have a shop here, an office here and a flat here’ until we get the approval.”

For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, November 15) Echo.