Haverhill: Town leaders consider judicial review over centre

Cllr Pat Hanlon  Mayor of Haverhill

Cllr Pat Hanlon Mayor of Haverhill - Credit: Contributed

A COMMUNITY hall is set to be transformed into a hospice outreach centre and café, despite the threat of legal action.

Leaders at Haverhill Town Council previously said they would mount a court challenge against Suffolk County Council after it was confirmed that the community centre in Camps Road will provide services related to end of life care rather than being handed to the local authority.

The town council said it was told that St Nicholas Hospice Care’s bid for the Burton Centre was accepted over their own as the charity’s private donations and retail operations are more reliable than the council’s statutory right to raise money from taxpayers.

Now planning officers have recommended that St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s development control committee approve the conversion when they meet on April 4.

Documents submitted to St Edmundsbury say the hospice centre is needed in Haverhill due to a “high demand for support in the area” and with many people unable to travel to the charity’s main building in Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds.

Services planned for the centre include bereavement counselling and advice for people and families living with life-shortening illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or motor neurone disease.

Haverhill Mayor Pat Hanlon said the town council welcomed St Nicholas Hospice Care but said other unused Suffolk County Council buildings would have been more appropriate.

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He added that the council believed the Burton Centre should remain as a community centre and were looking at seeking a judicial review of the case.

Mr Hanlon said: “We feel very strongly on the town council that there should be a youth facility on Haverhill because they were done away with by Suffolk County Council. We’re really upset. What we’re saying is that we want St Nicholas to come to Haverhill, but there other faciilties that Suffolk County Council have got in Haverhill - what used to be the Cartwheel’s Centre - that could be converted.”

According to St Edmundsbury documents, the hospice has undertaken a “significant” consultation with the local community and sent 100 letters to service users in the area. The responses were said to be overwhelmingly supportive and “highlighted the need for accessible services for people facing life-shortening illnesses in Haverhill and the surrounding villages.”

Initial proposals to include a retail shop in the outreach centre have been removed and the existing St Nicholas store on Haverhill High Street will remain.

A St Nicholas Hospice Care spokesman said: “We are attending Haverhill Town Council planning meetings to address the council’s concerns.”

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