Residents voice ghost town fears
A SUFFOLK market town is in danger of becoming little more than a huge housing estate, concerned community leaders fear.Haverhill could become a dormitory for larger neighbouring towns and cities such as Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge unless more is done to revive the town's "flagging" shopping centre and other facilities.
A SUFFOLK market town is in danger of becoming little more than a huge housing estate, concerned community leaders fear.
Haverhill could become a dormitory for larger neighbouring towns and cities such as Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge unless more is done to revive the town's "flagging" shopping centre and other facilities.
Business leaders, councillors and the town's MP Richard Spring fear Haverhill town centre is being ignored and want action to stop the problem spiralling out of control.
Members of Haverhill Enterprise slammed St Edmundsbury Borough Council for not doing enough just days after a £4.4 million housing scheme in the town was announced.
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While housing in the market town continues to thrive, the group believes St Edmundsbury council is failing to attract large shops to the heart of Haverhill. Members have now threatened to pull out of planned meetings with council officials.
Group director Keith Brown said: "I think there is a very real threat Haverhill could become a dormitory town - in fact, it is already happening now.
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"About 50% of people who live in Haverhill commute outside of the town and they are doing that with shopping as well and we feel this is too high.
"We are now pressurising for a group of professional town centre planners to come and give us recommendations of what the town needs."
In a letter to borough council leader John Griffiths, Mr Brown claimed the business group's opinions were constantly ignored and said there was little point in members attending future meeting of a working party set up to improve Haverhill.
"We feel this is a one-off chance to carry out a specialist retail consultant's report with the new Tesco store being built. If it is not done now, it will be an absolute disaster," Mr Brown added.
"The council have told us they want to improve the town 'bit by bit' but this is an absolutely stupid remark as it would take hundreds of years. We want a plan of action and the council and also our members do not have the experience to put this together."
Members of Haverhill Enterprise, formed ten years ago to improve the image of the town, have also called for an increased café society advocated by MP Richard Spring.
Mr Spring, who has pledged to lobby the borough council, said: "There is a much greater sense of optimism about Haverhill.
"Yet the town's infrastructure and the town centre have failed to match the expectations of many of the newcomers who join the exodus from surrounding villages and the town itself to go shopping in Newmarket, Bury and Cambridge."
But while retail in the town flounders, housing continues to flourish with a £4.4 million affordable housing planned for Hales Barn.
Cllr Jeremy Farthing, a member of the Haverhill Area Working Party to promote the town, said: "Haverhill is one of the most surveyed towns in Britain and what we don't need is yet another survey of all the other surveys.
"The working party are working on a plan of action and we are committed to the town of Haverhill and to improving the town. We will not be pressured by special interest groups who represent only themselves.
"We are looking at improving car parking, full pedestrianisation and over the longer term creating a link between the new Tesco store and the existing town centre in order to provide a vibrant, commercial community attracting the right sort of shops and amenities which the people of Haverhill deserve."