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Haverhill Iron Works developer unveils first look at long-discussed plans for 27 homes at historic site




Long-discussed plans have been unveiled to transform a historic piece of derelict land in Haverhill.

Freshwater Estates is to press ahead with submitting proposals for 27 new homes on the former Iron Works site, in Hamlet Road, after ongoing discussions with West Suffolk Council.

The company and site owner Stephen Bernhard have been trying to develop the area over the last seven to eight years but said they hit a ‘brick wall’ with the council’s property services over a piece of land next to the site that the authority owns.

Concept image of the Iron Works development in Hamlet Road, Haverhill. Picture: ProVision Design
Concept image of the Iron Works development in Hamlet Road, Haverhill. Picture: ProVision Design

West Suffolk Council said it remains open to progress ‘constructive discussions’ about the land should the developer wish to engage further.

Freshwater would like to landscape the vacant land into a green area to help them create a ‘comprehensive site’.

The land was initially needed to create an access to the homes but the developer has since secured an entrance on the opposite side from Ehringshausen Way.

Bianca Dyer, finance director at Freshwater Estates; Stephen Bernhard, executive chairman at Bernhard, and Jeremy Nicholson, director at Freshwater Estates, at the site. Picture: Mecha Morton
Bianca Dyer, finance director at Freshwater Estates; Stephen Bernhard, executive chairman at Bernhard, and Jeremy Nicholson, director at Freshwater Estates, at the site. Picture: Mecha Morton

Jeremy Nicholson, director of Freshwater Estates, which has built several developments in Haverhill including at the former Australian Arms pub opposite the Iron Works, said he had received numerous phone calls from people asking what was happening with the site, in which they are looking to invest millions of pounds.

“We’re going to go ahead now,” he said.

“We’re fed up wasting thousands of pounds, time and effort. We want to get on with it.”

The historic site was home to a silk mill and was later bought by agricultural engineer John Atterton.

The development would feature 27 new homes. Picture: ProVision Design
The development would feature 27 new homes. Picture: ProVision Design

He launched Atterton and Ellis and the company manufactured lawnmower grinding machines for nearly a century.

Mr Bernhard bought the company in 1989/1990 along with the site and it was rebranded Bernhard.

The firm, a specialist in sports turf technology, moved to Homefield Road about nine to 10 years ago and the Hamlet Road site has remained empty.

The site of the former Iron Works in Hamlet Road, Haverhill. Picture: Mecha Morton
The site of the former Iron Works in Hamlet Road, Haverhill. Picture: Mecha Morton

Mr Bernhard said it was a ‘very important’ part of Haverhill’s history and an entrance to the town.

The 27 new homes would include a mixture of two-bedroom apartments as well as two- and three-bedroom houses and the designs would reflect the history of the site.

Mr Bernhard said the vacant land became an ‘eyesore’ after it was targeted by vandals, with two fires at the site.

Stephen Bernhard said the site was an important part of Haverhill's history. Picture: Mecha Morton
Stephen Bernhard said the site was an important part of Haverhill's history. Picture: Mecha Morton

“We will effectively have nothing left on the site other than the silk mill, which is so dangerous it has to be taken down,” he said.

“Jeremy and I shared the potential in replicating the style of how that site used to be.”

Bianca Dyer, financial director at Freshwater Estates, said the designs would reflect the elevations of the existing silk mill building in Hamlet Road and former factory buildings, with the arched windows facing Ehringshausen Way.

The land became an ‘eyesore’ after it was targeted by vandals, with two fires at the site. Picture: Mecha Morton
The land became an ‘eyesore’ after it was targeted by vandals, with two fires at the site. Picture: Mecha Morton

“The site has some very attractive features, one being the existing mature beech tree, which we have retained and designed the scheme around, so that it becomes the focal point of the proposed development,” she said.

As the scheme is within walking distance of the town centre, Freshwater has sought to ‘move away from the car park feel of developments’ but it plans to install charging points and grass spaces for cars to reduce the amount of Tarmac used for car parking.

Mr Bernhard said: “It’s reminiscent of the style that was there before. It isn’t easy to do and it isn’t cheap to do.

The scheme would include a mixture of two-bedroom apartments as well as two- and three-bedroom houses. Picture: Mecha Morton
The scheme would include a mixture of two-bedroom apartments as well as two- and three-bedroom houses. Picture: Mecha Morton

“The net result of that is we would have an opportunity, if we get support, to build a range of properties that are quality homes serving the entrance into Haverhill.

“If Haverhill is going to have a future and it’s going to develop it needs to have something of quality.

“This is going to be the only site close to the town centre that reflects those ambitions. In a sense, we would like to think there’s a bit of this which is a community project.”

The historic site was home to a silk mill. Picture: Mecha Morton
The historic site was home to a silk mill. Picture: Mecha Morton

He added that the land owned by West Suffolk Council should be incorporated into their plans to provide an ‘aesthetic benefit to the community and a comprehensive site’.

They are looking to apply for planning permission ‘as soon as possible’.

A council spokesman said: “As a landowner, we will always look to agree the best terms both for the taxpayers that we represent and for the local community.

“We remain open to progress constructive discussions about the land, should the developer wish to engage with us further.”

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