Cautious approach justified as we start to plan for positive summer

East Town Park

As I write this, a little less than a day after Boris Johnson set out his eagerly awaited ‘roadmap’, there seems to be a degree of optimism swirling.

The Prime Minister’s four-stage plan to bring normality back to Britain was never going to be universally praised. That would have been virtually impossible with so many competing priorities.

Vastly different Covid infection rates, even across individual towns, tells us all we need to know about why a cautious approach is justified.

But the fact that we now have provisional dates to work towards, and look forward to, should be welcomed by Haverhill residents and businesses.

The first headline was around all schools returning from Monday 8th March. First, we should praise the incredible work to date by local school staff, students and families over the last year.

As important as a return to traditional education will be a return to the social aspects provided by schooling and, a few weeks later, by the reintroduction of grassroots sports and the chance to enjoy our great outdoors with others is equally welcomed.

The psychological and mental issues caused by the pandemic, among young and old, must never be underestimated.

April is expected to herald the return of non-essential shops and even the chance to enjoy a drink with one household in a pub garden – though of course you can enjoy a picnic in the fine surroundings of East Town Park (pictured), and others, even before that.

It all points to a more positive future and a ‘normal’ summer, something that at one stage seemed only a distant dream.

That we have got to this stage owes a lot to the incredible vaccination programme, but also a realisation that Covid will be with us for a long time – we must learn to live with it in the same way we live with the flu.

For these stages to be met successfully, we of course must continue to adhere to the national guidelines around social distancing and hygiene.

The next few weeks allows us all to plan. Families can start thinking seriously about reunions and our town centre businesses can start planning about opening their doors once again.

I have written in this column before about my admiration for those businesses that have re-invented themselves to operate in the current climate.

They will need fresh and innovative ideas once again to adapt their business model around the next ‘new normal’.

I would urge those who live and work in Haverhill to continue supporting and shopping local. Check out what Haverhill town centre can offer, think about treating yourself to a local takeaway or take a look at our much-invigorated market.

Many more local businesses will return shortly and they will all need our support.

A much more optimistic summer could also pave the way for a very successful Women’s Cycle Tour and I was delighted to learn that Haverhill would once again host the final stage on Saturday 9th October following two understandable but regrettable postponements.