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Facelift for Haverhill shop fronts thanks to community-rallying action

Shop fronts in a Haverhill town centre street have received a facelift in a display of ‘can-do attitude, energy and sense of community’.

Volunteers from insurance firm AXA joined councillors, council workers and tradespeople to spruce up Queen Street on Tuesday.

The work, which addresses an issue raised in the Haverhill Town Centre masterplan, saw the army of helpers wash down woodwork and railings and sweep pavements to allow the tradespeople to paint and decorate the shop fronts.

Mayor of Haverhill Cllr John Burns joins volunteers in giving Queen Street, in Haverhill, a freshen up
Mayor of Haverhill Cllr John Burns joins volunteers in giving Queen Street, in Haverhill, a freshen up

The boost to the street scene comes as West Suffolk Council tries to encourage spend and footfall in the town centre, which has a ‘healthy’ shop vacancy rate.

Cllr John Burns, mayor of Haverhill, said: “All the organisations involved have contributed in differing and valuable ways, and the result is more powerful than the sum of its parts.

“It expresses the town’s can-do attitude, energy and sense of community, and I congratulate all involved.”

The character of Victorian Queen Street has responded really well to a bit of simple upkeep - Daniel Pilley

The work in Queen Street – a conservation area of the town centre – was funded equally by Haverhill and District Chamber of Commerce and West Suffolk Council with support by Haverhill Town Council and West Suffolk Council’s waste services.

Daniel Pilley, board member of Haverhill and District Chamber of Commerce, said: “As active members of the business engagement task group of One Haverhill Partnership, supporting the High Street, we are delighted to be able to play a part in lifting the feel of the town centre.

“The character of Victorian Queen Street has responded really well to a bit of simple upkeep, and the time the volunteers and tradespeople are spending here.”

Waseem Malik, executive managing director of claims at AXA which has offices on the town’s High Street, added: “We’re delighted to be supporting the Haverhill community as part of the shop front decoration project.

“As a large employer who has been in Haverhill for many years, it’s great to have the opportunity to get involved in an initiative
like this which gives something back to the
high street. A number of our staff have volunteered for this great idea and we look forward to continuing to support similar initiatives in the future.”

In Haverhill, there are 10 empty shops out of 192 units, which is a vacancy rate of 5.2 per cent compared to a national average vacancy rate of 10.4 per cent.

The Association of Town Centre Management considers a vacancy rate of five to 10 per cent to be ‘healthy’.

Cllr Susan Glossop, West Suffolk Council’s cabinet member for growth, said Haverhill high street is ‘performing better than many others nationally’ and while the council does not
set rents and rates, it works with partners to try to encourage footfall and spend in the town centre.

“We have made a number of strategic investments in the town centre tied into supporting the longer term vision of the Haverhill Town Centre masterplan and earlier this year we made a bid on behalf of Haverhill for money from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund which was unfortunately not granted on this occasion,” she said.

“We continue to encourage spending opportunities on the high street through a calendar of popular events including partnership work with the town council and the ONE Haverhill Partnership town centre task group.

“We are also making efforts to grow our market and can offer advice, free gazebo hire and free rent for the first four weeks if anyone is interested in market trading.”

On the work to Queen Street, Cllr Glossop added that the initiative ‘once again demonstrates the strength of the town’s partnership approach’.

“I’m delighted that the Chamber of Commerce and West Suffolk Council have together provided the funding for the professional trades skills required to make a real difference in this conservation area of the town centre.”

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