Haverhill businesses are agile enough to adapt to change

Haverhill town centre

“A place to live, work and play – a mixed use town centre which welcomes people, makes the most of existing attractions and adds to them so that people want to live, work, shop and relax in the town.

“A town centre which develops its physical environment, celebrates its local heritage and encourages people to spend quality time in it.”

Five years ago, ONE Haverhill Partnership set out its aspirations for our town centre through its Masterplan document.

It recognised the town centre as a key location in driving growth and as an asset for the whole community.

In these uncertain times, during the strangest of years, never have these words and aspirations been more true.

I make no apologies for focusing on the town centre once again in this column.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought our High Street, and every town centre, into sharp focus. How do we use it? What do we need it for? And how can businesses adapt and thrive in the months and years to come?

These are all difficult questions with no set answers. But adapt they must.

The mix of businesses, the independents and the well-known names, will remain a key part of the success of any town centre.

But other things must also be added to the mix. The attractiveness of the area, the right blend between pedestrianisation and parking and the option of desirable living spaces in the heart of the town centre to ensure footfall is always strong.

During these uncertain times, everything must be discussed and debated to ensure Haverhill has the High Street it deserves going forward.

During my 15 years running a business in the town and my eight years with ONE Haverhill Partnership, there has always been a can-do attitude and the ability to try different things in our town.

This has been shown throughout lockdown as businesses have repurposed themselves to simply stay afloat.

Our pubs and eateries have offered takeaway services or increased and improved their outdoor spaces to entice us with a socially-distanced pint and burger.

Our shops have tweaked their layout to allow for greater space and, often, a one-way system to ensure customers feel safe in their environments.

Our businesses offering home visits have always ensured residents feel safe when they are visited by representatives.

Our estate agents, accountants and other professional services have offered a host of online services and support – and have been rewarded by an upturn in business as lockdown continues to ease.

All this, and more, requires flexibility, agility and maybe even a degree of good fortune. But our business owners possess all of this and more.

The Heart of Haverhill, a task group of ONE Haverhill Partnership, is proud to work alongside these businesses and promote their hard work.

Alongside this is Haverhill’s famed market, which is starting to enjoy something of a renaissance.

Greater promotion, new stalls – with more planned in August – and sensible social distancing measures has all helped galvanise the market on Fridays and Saturdays.

The market will always remain a key part of the success of our town centre.

If anyone would like to find out more about having a market stall, please contact Sharon.Fairweather@westsuffolk.gov.uk.