£2 million boost to Haverhill High Street and adult education backed

Indy Wijenayaka, cabinet member for Growth; Diane Hind, cabinet member for Resource; Laraine Moody, group principal - University and Professional Development at West Suffolk College and Cliff Waterman, leader of West Suffolk Council. Photo: West Suffolk Council.

A plan to invest up to £2 million into Haverhill town centre to attract more businesses, support current traders and boost adult skills and education has been backed.

West Suffolk Council’s cabinet has supported plans, to help relocate the town’s Personal and Professional Learning Centre run by the Eastern Education Group back into the heart of the town centre at Provincial House.

At their meeting on Tuesday, December 5, cabinet also heard how the proposals include remodelling the building to attract more business while bringing an income to the council to help invest in services.

The council bought Provincial House in 2019 to help retain a major employer AXA in the town as well as identify an opportunity to use the building’s prominent location on the High Street to encourage footfall and support local businesses.

Since then phased works have been going on to bring the building up to the required standards, such as being accessible.

Investigations have also been carried out to find what is the best use of the property to re-purpose the vacant space creatively, create jobs, deliver wider public benefits, and drive people to use the town centre.

Following those investigations, the council is partnering with the Eastern Education Group as part of the One Public Estate initiative to explore the potential to re-locate the Learning Centre back into the heart of the town and centre of the community.

The college’s current accommodation at the former Parkway Middle School is in an out-of-town location and learning facilities are in dated accommodation.

The former Parkway site is owned by Unity School Partnership who launched a consultation earlier this year regarding ambitious plans to revamp facilities at Castle Manor Academy, which are dependent on the disposal of the former Parkway Middle School site.

Cabinet agreed to invest up to a further £2 million into Provincial House from the Investing in our Growth Agenda fund (supported by external borrowing). This would fund the investment needed in the remaining vacant floors including the work required to relocate the college.

Works would also include new landlord circulation space – essential to maintain safety and comply with current building regulations. It would also help create smaller, modern and flexible business spaces tailored to suit the needs of new start-up/business incubation spaces and also attract existing businesses that might be tempted to relocate elsewhere.

Diane Hind, cabinet member for Resources at West Suffolk Council, said: “This is a good opportunity to use this prominent town centre facility to bring adult education back into the heart of Haverhill, secure jobs and boost the local economy and current businesses.

“At the same time we will be helping to create space for new commercial enterprises and for existing ones to grow.

“This is also part of the One Public Estate initiative where public services partner together to create economic growth, deliver more integrated and customer-focused services and generate efficiencies as well as helping to unlock much-needed new housing where appropriate.

“Once complete, the project is currently estimated to create a net surplus after borrowing in line with the council’s Investing in our Growth Agenda fund that will go towards the delivery of council services.”

And Laraine Moody, group principal of University and Professional Development at West Suffolk College, added: “We are delighted with this news that will see the Eastern Education Group Personal and Professional Learning Centre move to the heart of Haverhill.

“We remain firmly committed and incredibly proud to serve the town and surrounding communities with our ever growing training and education programme. And we believe this decision will enable us to support even more local residents as we help them gain new skills and experiences that will enable them to progress.”

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