Temporary measures to help Haverhill stay safe and support businesses

21 Sep 2020

Haverhill High Street will temporarily remain closed to traffic between 10am and 4pm to help people shop and socially distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This is part of a Government led initiative requiring all authorities to look at their town centres to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection spreading while helping businesses.

It follows a meeting of Haverhill town, district, county and One Haverhill representatives who supported the move which will be implemented by Suffolk County Council Highways. The road will be open to all traffic outside the 10am to 4pm closure but parking enforcement will be rigorously applied where appropriate.

The change is part of wider measures to supporting Haverhill town centre and help give residents the confidence to use the thriving town’s businesses now and in the future.

This includes an announcement made by Haverhill Town Council that it has agreed a £10,000 budget to support a 'shop local' campaign. This will aim to work with businesses and West Suffolk markets, to further improve the shopping environment and ambiance. Although at the initial planning stages, the campaign will be pro-active in attracting people back to the High Street beyond just closing the road.

Improvements have also been carried out to support drivers with disabilities to use local car parks and more is also set to take place.

The temporary Order for the change will last no longer than 18 months, unless replaced, but can be revoked at any time before that. It will mean only pedestrians and cyclists could use the High Street during 10am to 4pm.

This follows national news that infection rates are rising and the stricter guidelines of around only people meeting in sixes as well as maintaining social distancing.

Councillors also emphasised the need to keep the changes under review as well as continuing to support businesses with a range of events and measures in the town centre itself.

The High Street had been closed off as part of COVID-19 measures to help people return to the High Street and socially distance after businesses could re-open again following lock-down.

Feedback to local Councillors from residents also shows support for the measures.

Improvements have also been recently made to the provision of disabled bays across the town with lines repainted and signs advising users of the optimum route into the High Street. This has also included lowering of the ticket machine in the Arts Centre Car Park and extra RingGo signs installed. The car parks have all passed the Park Mark inspection by an external body for Disability Discrimination Act compliance. The annexe at Jubilee Walk, nearest the Crown Passage, has had landscaping maintenance carried out to reduce tree overhanging and shadows to make it more open as well as relining of the Blue Badge bays there.

Councillor Aaron Luccarini, Town Centre ward member, said: “The Town Council appreciates that some businesses will be affected but we need to ensure the High Street remains, above all else, safe. We want to work with local business leaders and the markets to encourage people to come back into the town centre. How we do that will be a joint decision. Our message is that shopping locally is safer than travelling to larger towns and showing support for local businesses is investing in Haverhill’s future. Everyone can help make Haverhill the town we want it to be.”

Councillor Susan Glossop, Portfolio Holder for Growth for West Suffolk Council, said: “These are temporary measures to make sure people can continue to confidently shop in the High Street, support local businesses and use a cycle or walk while preventing the spread of COVID-19. It is part of requirements from national Government to make sure people have the space to socially distance which is vital to help prevent infection rates rising. But is also part of wider measures to encourage people to use local shops and businesses which need their support now and in the future. This will also include, working with businesses to address their concerns regarding the road closure and also to look at what else can be done in the centre of the town to encourage people into Haverhill. All local councillors from the authorities involved, in feeding back to Highways, recognised the importance of the safety of the community as a priority, while supporting businesses. We recognise that this may have consequences for some businesses which is why the measure is temporary and there will be further engagement with local traders to see what can be improved.”

Councillor Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs at Suffolk County Council, said: “As communities across Suffolk continue to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, all local partners feel that the difficult decision to shut Haverhill High Street to all traffic during these times of day is a necessary measure for the long term safety of everybody who wants to use Haverhill Town Centre. The health of local residents must remain our priority and determines this course of action.

“We will be working with local partners to determine the best locations for related signage in the areas around the High Street so anybody entering the Town Centre is aware of the restrictions and diversions in place.”  

John Mayhew, Chair of ONE Haverhill Partnership and spokesman of Heart of Haverhill, said: "Hats off to West Suffolk Council and Haverhill Town Council for promising a speedy removal of High Street barriers to show that Haverhill is open for business.

“I understand they are looking at other measures to help everyone follow the Government guidelines while enhancing the shopping area.

“It is also good to hear that the High Street closure is to be relaxed, remaining shut between 10am and 4pm, but fully open outside of these hours.

“I hope this will help re-stimulate the night-time economy and prompt businesses to find flexible solutions to the difficulties caused by these necessary measures.”

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