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By David Hart on Saturday, 7th December 2013.

The Christmas season has been getting into full swing as we entered December this week so everyone is on the trail of Christmas gifts. Intersnack had an unpleasant one in store for their workers at the peanut factory – probable redundancy as the factory is to close and the work to be transferred to Rotherham. They’re ‘consulting’ their 85 staff at present, but I think we can guess the likely outcome. It’s just eight years since the factory opened, the business, then Percy Dalton’s, having relocated from East London, the flagship of Carisbrooke’s new initiative in taking over and remarketing Haverhill Business Park. The financial climate has certainly changed since then. If that was bad news for Haverhill, there was better to come this week when the Government announced it was giving up on the idea of putting tolls on the A14 Cambridge-Huntingdon road. Government ministers have had a lesson from Haverhill when Sarah Howard, chairman of the ONE Haverhill Board, was invited to tell them about its pioneering of the community budget project. Its success means ministers are thinking about rolling it out across the country, but remember, it all started here first. The Government was also being tackled this week by Suffolk MPs and the leader of Suffolk County Council, to get the plans to roll out superfast broadband across the county moving more quickly. This is worth a good news tick........ for the county council, because it’s estimated it will bring £2billion to Suffolk’s economy and 1,500 jobs. Sadly, it looks as if Haverhill’s industrial area may lose out. Town councillors are to follow up rumours that BT only intends superfast for residential areas and will not extend it to the industrial estate unless businesses pay. Watch this space. Jobs are going to be a continuing battleground for Haverhill, because residential growth seems unstoppable, but employment growth is less certain. This week St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s development control committee are likely to approve three plans for new housing in the central area of the town, much of it ‘affordable’ social housing, for which there is now a waiting list of over 300. All three together total 44 homes, 21 on the site of the snooker club here, 15 on the site of the old Burton’s Coaches depot and eight on a bit of land in Lower Downs Slade opposite the council offices. That last one is for Havebury Housing Partnership, who are still trying to negotiate their way through the minefield they took on when they bought 85 and 87 High Street, two apparently derelict cottages. Local protest at demolishing the 200-year-old cottages is ongoing, but a plan to do just that is still coming before the development control committee this week, aiming to provide six new homes on the site and land around. Havebury have agreed to try auctioning the cottages before demolishing them, but a new report shows they would cost over £300,000 to restore – and they are a danger to the public due to subsidence, so something has to be done quickly. One housing plan that made no progress this week was that by Carisbrooke Developments for part of the business park near Culina. They were due to talk to town councillors at a planning committee meeting on Tuesday night, but St Edmundsbury had failed to register their application by then. Apparently, there’s been quite a lot of delay in registering planning applications recently ....(black mark to St Eds), but members heard some other plans, described by the town clerk Will Austin as ‘less significant’ had been registered more quickly.
The borough has still not agreed to meet town councillors to talk about their criticisms of the Vision 2031 document. Members heard this week they might have to take their protest to the eventual public inquiry on the document by a planning inspector. They wanted to avoid that because it didn’t look good if one council was having a spat at another at a public hearing. But Cllr Clive Turner, in our Quote of the week... said: “We are going into bat for our residents”. Just make sure you’re wearing your box, I’d suggest.
There’s plenty of other work due to get under way at the moment, as St Nicholas Hospice prepare to convert the Burton Centre into a much-needed outreach centre for their work in the town, while Care UK are beginning work on Cleves Place, a replacement care home for Place Court, on the site of the former Chalkstone Middle School. Meanwhile one of the town’s iconic watering holes, the Bell, has closed. Greene King confirmed they had sold the pub, the fourth one they have sold in the town in as many years. The others – the Australian Arms, the Rose Tavern and the Black Horse, have either been converted to private homes, or are in the process of conversion or redevelopment for residential purposes. The future of the Bell is still unclear. Efforts to save one of the town’s most important buildings, the old Corn Exchange next to the Rose and Crown, are moving forward. It has been place on a ‘community asset’ register, which means if anyone tries to buy it, residents will have six months to put together a bid of their own. A group led by Suffolk county councillor Tony Brown is aiming to put a business plan together for its renovation and then try to interest businesses and social enterprise groups in getting involved in the project. Long-term, they hope it might become a history and heritage centre for the town. It’s been a quiet week on the crime front, with the police reporting no serious concerns. They are appealing for witnesses after a teenager was struck on the head by a projectile, believed to have been a pellet from an air rifle. It happened around 9.10pm on Friday, November 22, along a footpath between Leiston Road and Leather Lane. The victim, a 17-year-old boy, was walking along the path when he was hit on the top of the head by an unknown object, resulting in him sustaining a small cut. It’s believed the object came from the direction of the Leiston Road shops and the victim heard the sound of a low thud, consistent with that made by an air rifle. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact PC Guy Ainsworth at Haverhill Police Station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If you have any issues for the police or any other agency concerned with the safety of the community, the next Safer Neighbourhood Team meeting is on Monday at the arts centre at 7pm. There will be a new format for putting forward issues and voting on three for police and other agencies to concentrate on over the next three months. Sport, and under-strength Haverhill Rovers had a top quality win on Saturday 2-0 at Norwich United. On Saturday they entertain Clacton at the New Croft with a 3pm kick-off. Haverhill Rugby Club had to concede Saturday’s game, at Thetford but entertain Fakenham on Saturday with a 3pm kick-off. The full Christmas spirit will no doubt be on show on Friday night, when the town celebrates its annual Family Christmas Night combining late night shopping with street entertainment and ending with the ever-popular firework finale on the Recreation Ground, all provided by the town council (good news tick for them). But St Edmundsbury are helping out a bit by providing free car parking on Saturday this week and next week. As well as the free after three scheme on Fridays, and the fact that Sundays are free anyway, means its free car parking for two successive weekends (good news tick for the borough). But Friday night is the big night. This year the Christmas Lights switch-on is being included earlier in the evening, and the last few lights have been put up in recent days all ready for the off. The lights in the street will already be on, because it’s not possible to switch everything on at once. But those on the market square and the Christmas tree will be switched on at 6.30pm by Snow White, from the arts centre’s annual pantomime. The fireworks are at 8pm. The fun starts at 5pm and if you’re driving it’s best to avoid the town centre because there will be road closures in operation.
Talking about that, town councillor Ernie Goody was urging this week that Mill Road should be widened when the new one-way system comes into operation in the new year. He described it as the ‘escape route’ but town clerk Will Austin told members no escape route would be necessary. Signage at the Clements Lane/Camps Road roundabout would ensure traffic turned either right or left there and did not progress down Camps Road. There might be a period of ‘learning’ by local motorists, and he had asked Suffolk County Council to resurface Mill Road, which will become one-way up the hill rather than down when the bit of Camps Road beside the market square becomes one-way out of town. No one mentioned any potential increase of traffic from north Haverhill via Mill Road to the industrial estate, but Mr Austin said if Mill Road did see an increase of traffic then the six-month ‘experimental’ change would clearly have failed and could be brought to an end. Both the county and town councils are keen to push ahead with the idea because they believe it will reduce traffic use of High Street dramatically. Now is that a black mark or a tick?

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