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Harlow Council Leader’s Blog: Looking forward to 2020

Harlow Council / Sat 28th Dec 2019 am31 11:26am

Council matters end of year blog – Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council

WELCOME to the my last edition of the year of my regular blog, written exclusively for Your Harlow, keeping residents up to date with what has been happening in the council.

Before I start I hope all residents had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Building Harlow’s future – local plan progress

The local plan inspector has written to us with his changes to Harlow’s plan following public hearings held earlier this year. There are some changes but none which he says are fundamental to the strategy of the plan. The timing of his letter does bring some much-needed clarity for us in moving our plan forward next year. I welcome the debate that the plan has created and I thank all those who have contributed, made comments and representations during this process.

Housing for Harlow’s future generations is a huge priority, but I know the issue of where housing should go in the town is a sensitive one. The plan sets out where houses in the town could go to meet local housing need and demand. The inspector is proposing that seven small sites allocated for a total of 201 homes are deleted from the plan and that the land is instead kept as it is or designated as green wedge. The inspector is also proposing to strengthen our ability to protect green spaces in the town from development, which is also an important issue for retaining our new town legacy.

I believe our Local Plan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Harlow, a plan that can make our town’s potential a reality. If we want to continue improving our town, providing much-needed housing and employment and creating new opportunities for local people, future generations and businesses, then we need a Local Plan that supports Harlow’s development, aspirations and growth for the future as part of the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town. Next year there will be a final consultation to come on the changes before the plan is adopted, but it feels that we are now much closer to its adoption.

Permitted Developments (conversion of office blocks to residential) – taking action to stop councils placing families here

Following on from Enfield and Havering councils agreeing to stop placing people in converted office blocks in the town I have also recently met with Damien Egan, the directly-elected Mayor of Lewisham. I’ve had agreement from him that his officers will visit Terminus House with me when I hope to persuade them to stop using converted office blocks in Harlow as a solution to their accommodation problems.

In Harlow we now have three new Article 4 Directions in place – Templefields, Pinnacles, Burnt Mill and Station Approach – that means future office block conversions in these areas will have to go through normal planning channels giving Harlow Council a say in these developments. Consultation on an Article 4 Direction for the Town Centre follows in the new year. Once concluded we will have five Article 4 Directions in place covering the town.

Taking action on climate change

Back in July councillors declared a climate emergency in Harlow which committed us to a number of pledges to reduce climate change in our town. I’m delighted that two of our pledges have already been beaten!

On 15 December I was part of team of 100 people, made up of residents, council staff and local groups, to plant a 1,003 trees in our town, in just one day! This beat our pledge to plant a 1,000 trees in a year. More tree planting is planned for early next year so there will be further opportunities for residents and groups to get involved.

Within our public buildings we have eliminated the use of single-use plastics. This was achieved in October and is well ahead of our January 2020 deadline and the national implementation deadline of April 2020. It means that all plastic straws, drinks stirrers and plastic stemmed cotton buds have all been removed from our public buildings and where required replaced with environmentally friendly alternatives. In addition non-biodegradable plastic cups are no longer provided in our public buildings. In 2018 we used 40,000 plastic cups, from mid-2019 these have been replaced with biodegradable cups and employees and visitors are encouraged to use cups and mugs that can be washed up in the normal way.

Cabinet – securing a success story for Harlow

At the last Cabinet meeting we considered the findings of the Best Value Review of our local authority trading company – HTS (Property & Environment) Limited. This was a comprehensive review of the how the company operates and serves the town. HTS has been a real success story for Harlow in the delivery of services. Also all profits from HTS’s commercial activities are returned to the town and not into the pockets of private shareholders. Cabinet agreed that the current contract we have in place with HTS should be extended for five more years. The HTS success story will continue for many years to come.

Planning for the future – Budget 2020 to 2021

Christmas is traditionally a quiet time for many, but for me and my Cabinet it is always a busy time of the year. We may be taking time off from our normal day jobs, spending precious time with family, but it is a time when we also finalise all the reports which will set out our budget proposals and plans for the future. Following the break, two key meetings where the budget plans and priorities will be discussed, will be quickly upon us. Cabinet is on 23 January and the Full Council meeting is a week later on 30 January. Both meetings will be open to the public. The focus for both our budget and priorities will be to protect services and jobs, and provide opportunities for all in Harlow.

Could there be another award in 2020? – Spring clean up for national award

This year the council has been involved in winning seven different awards. Could we top this next year? We will find out in February whether we have won the first award of the 2020 with the council’s brilliant spring clean initiative being shortlisted for a national Keep Britain Tidy Network Award for the Great British Spring Clean award.Allison Ogden-Newton, Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive, has congratulated the council for being shortlisted, she said: “We know that people want to live in places that are clean and tidy and local authorities have a massive role to play in this. We are delighted that so many authorities entered our awards and the standard was incredibly high.”

Although it is the council, which has been shortlisted for the award, we will not forget the role over 1,900 residents played in making the campaign such a success.

Harlow’s real heroes and heroines

I want to thank and pay credit to all our hospital, police, fire and ambulance staff, council staff and volunteers in the community for all their hard work and commitment to Harlow and its people this year. Many of these people particularly our emergency staff and some council staff and staff from HTS and Veolia, will continue to work over this period providing services while we rest.

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