Suffolk County Council ‘perverse’ Burton Centre decision to be challenged by Haverhill Town Council

Burton Centre Haverhill
Burton Centre Haverhill

The ‘perverse’ decision to not allow Haverhill Town Council to run the Burton Centre could face a legal challenge.

Councillors agreed to seek advice from the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC) about taking action against Suffolk County Council after it agreed to allow St Nicholas Hospice Care to set up a community hub in the centre, scuppering the town council’s plans to reinstall youth provision there.

Burton Centre Haverhill

Burton Centre Haverhill

The decision was made at Tuesday’s (January 29) town council meeting at the Haverhill Arts Centre, and a statement will now be released to that effect.

Town clerk Will Austin attended a county council meeting and met with Cllr Lisa Chamber, responsible for property disposal, yet was left dissatisfied with her response.

He advised councillors to seek advice fro SALC and consider taking legal action against the county council, such as a judicial review of its decision.

Cllr Clive Turner said ‘there are no winners from a taxpayer point of view’, but Mr Austin said the future of youth provision in the town and the whole neighbourhood community budget was at stake.

Cllr Maureen Byrne said: “I can’t tell you how disappointed and cross I am about what’s happened – the Burton Centre is purpose built for youth activities.

“If we have an alternative we have to spend large sums of taxpayers’ money to adapt it to meet the criteria when there’s one already here.

“The successful bidder will be spending thousands and thousands to refurbish the Burton Centre – it’s absolutely nuts. “

Cllr Roger André said the decision puts the future of localism in doubt. “This perverse decision does not meet the county council’s objectives and seems to directly undermine the localism agenda.

“Eric Pickles promised we could do anything and change the world.

“I feel Haverhill and its people havce been ignored, and they only way to change that is to challenge.

“We are top of the country list for achieving localism, so lets mobilise Mr Pickles to help us”

Cllr Brian Hawes said they should involved Haverhill MP Matthew Hancock in the process as ‘he could probably knock on his door and have a chat with him, and would also appreciate being informed if we’re going to Westminster’.

Suffolk County Council wants to get the Burton Centre off its books – the town council offered to run it as a youth facility, a localism and ONE Haverhill priority.

It was instead awarded to St Nicholas Hospice Care to avoid it being taxpayer funded, despite the hospice bid depending on £500,000 of Department of Health funding.

Mr Austin estimates it would cost ‘around £100,000’ to make the old magistrates’ court fit for youth provision.

Cllr Byrne said: “There’s no recognition of us being elected to represent Haverhill and it’s our town, not theirs.”

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (February 7) Echo.