North west development: A vision of Haverhill’s future?

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As reported in last week’s Echo, Haverhill is set for a major expansion in the next few years. But plans to increase the size of the town have had a mixed reception.

Last week, St Edmundsbury Borough Council issued formal planning permission for the North West development in Haverhill.

The development, which will incorporate up to 1,150 houses, a primary school and local facilities, will be situated on land north west of Haverhill’s Ann Suckling Road, off the A143.

Figures like John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and Colin Poole, Haverhill’s town clerk, have praised the decision.

It is hoped that 30 per cent of the accommodation on site will be made up of affordable housing.

As well as this, the development will, under the Section 106 agreement, make a contribution towards healthcare provision, public transport, improved footpaths and cycle links.

The agreement also guarantees delivery of the north west relief road within five years of the start of development.

But some have questioned the wisdom of additional housing without the guarantee of jobs to go with it.

Others have suggested the increased population might put a greater strain on the town’s transport infrastructure.

Haverhill resident Deborah Theobald said: “That’s great, but where are all these people going to shop? And what if they are ill? No chance of seeing a doctor.”

Local man John Burns said: “Forget shops. Where are they going to work, and how will they get there?”

Haverhill councillor Tony Brown also had reservations about the plans.

He welcomed the affordable housing that would be brought to the area, but questioned the timeline for the construction of the proposed relief road that would help ease the traffic generated by the new development.

“If the transport was there beforehand, we would welcome it,” said Cllr Brown. “But, as it is, it’s just going to make things worse.

“The additional infrastructure is not going to be started for at least five years.

“I don’t see what this development brings to Haverhill apart from another dollop of housing.

“I think it will put further pressure on the town. It’s not going to bring any more jobs, and that’s the problem.

“More people will be commuting. Some of the roads are already tricky. While construction is going on, there will be an influx of construction traffic, too.”

Asked what could be done to remedy the situation, Cllr Brown noted that the situation would improve if the new relief road was built before the houses were in place.

“The relief road needs to be put forward,” he said. “It needs to be built as soon as possible. People are already struggling to get to work.”

Haverhill councillor Anne Gower recognised the need for more affordable housing in the area but warned against pushing for too many new builds without the community facilities to support them.

“For me, it’s about getting the balance right,” said Cllr Gower. “I think that’s crucial.

“We have a need for more affordable housing. I know that, from my own experience, there are lots of people looking to buy houses in Haverhill.

“But you have got to have all the town stuff that helps make a community.”

Colin Poole, Haverhill’s town clerk, said: “I think the majority of people in Haverhill will welcome this. It will bring fresh investment and the relief road will ease some of the burden on the infrastructure.

“It will be built over a number of years. It won’t be like there are houses springing up out of nowhere. People will have to be patient.

“This is just the end of the beginning, to quote Winston Churchill.”