Proposals on two schemes released to support the regeneration of Harlow town centre

Harlow Council / Wed 1st Jul 2020 at 07:28am

HARLOW Council has released proposals for public consultation to improve and modernise Market Square, Playhouse Square and College Square in the town centre.

The council has put together two proposed schemes which will support the regeneration of the town centre. Both schemes will be part of a business case for up to £25m of funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund. Earlier this year the council’s expression of interest to the government was successful leading to this next stage.

The Future High Streets Fund aims to support councils in renewing and reshaping town centres in a way that improves the experience for residents, visitors and workers as well as driving growth and future sustainability.

The proposals focus around three areas of the town centre where the council owns most of the land. The proposals have been developed over the last few months taking into consideration previous consultations and residents and businesses can find out more and have their say at https://www.harlow.gov.uk/future-high-streets-fund-proposals-consultation

The survey on the proposals will run until 14 July 2020. The proposals are:

Playhouse Quarter

The Playhouse Quarter scheme is located in Playhouse and College Squares (in between The Water Gardens and Harvey Centre), and aims to create a new welcoming approach to Harlow Playhouse, the Harvey Centre and The Water Gardens, as well as improve the setting and open space around the iconic St Paul’s Church.

The proposals include a series of new buildings developed opposite Harlow Playhouse and on the current Occasio House site providing new spaces for arts, cultural and leisure uses (as well as public sector services).

On the upper floors of these buildings it is proposed to build new homes for ‘key workers’ (such as nurses, doctors and teachers) at affordable rents. Providing key worker housing enables Harlow to ensure it attracts and keeps key workers.

Major improvements are also proposed to the public spaces including re-siting the existing taxi rank to College Square whilst retaining disabled car parking, creating shared pedestrian and vehicles surfaces to improve connections between the Harvey Centre and The Water Gardens, brand new cycle transport hub (for pedal and ebikes) and new green landscaping.

Harlow Council owns the majority of land in Playhouse Quarter except for Occasio House and discussions are taking place with the owners regarding its future.

Stone Cross Square (currently Market Square and 21 The Rows)

Market Square will be renamed Stone Cross Square and will create a new northern gateway to Harlow town centre with this area becoming a hub of trading activity once again and an event location with open, green spaces and public sculpture.

Stone Cross Square will see the creation of community and commercial spaces to support a range of activities and events including pop-up markets and street trading. The building 21 The Rows will be converted into new the new, temporary pop-up space for a range of community and commercial uses.

It is also proposed to create a welcoming landscape with a further cycle and ebike transport hub.

Before Market Square was named in the mid to late 1950s, the area was known as Stone Cross, with Stone Cross Hall adjacent to the square. Recognising the shift from a dedicated market place, we want to rename Market Square and 21 The Rows to Stone Cross Square to signal the new chapter in the area’s future.

Market Square has been part of the town’s history and many residents reminisce about this area and how it was in the early days of the new town. These proposals would be a new era for the square, encouraging new trading, introduce more trees and landscaping, community activity and making it an important gateway for the town centre.

The regeneration of Harlow town centre has cross party support on the council.

Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “These proposals have been put together to meet the requirements of the Future High Streets Fund and will support the regeneration of the town centre. Both these schemes recognise that the town centre is no longer just a place to shop, but a place to live, work, visit and socialise. Revitalising our town centre, providing new uses, encouraging different ways to get to the town centre, supporting key workers with new housing and supporting businesses will be important part of the town’s recovery and that of our town centre following the impact of coronavirus. We are committed to securing the long term future of the town centre and these proposals are just the start.

I hope we can get the government support and funding needed to bring these plans to life. These schemes on their own are not going to regenerate the town centre, they will improve historical areas of our town centre, put down a marker for our ambitions and act as a catalyst for securing other investment. I encourage residents and businesses to view the proposals and let us know what they think.”

Councillor Andrew Johnson, Leader of the Opposition on Harlow Council, said: “It is important that we develop proposals which will bring about a positive change to the High Street and support the town centre’s regeneration. The government will be looking for a quality bid and leadership from the council in making the town centre a better place to visit, work and live in.

Councillors from both political parties are committed to securing a better long-term future for the town centre. The council’s bid must be ambitious to secure support from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund and my group continues to encourage and support Harlow Council to put forward credible proposals. If you live or work in Harlow then it’s important that you have your say.”

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15 Comments for Proposals on two schemes released to support the regeneration of Harlow town centre:

2020-07-01 09:04:42

The Market Square name should remain and some market trading encouraged, Epping continues to sustain a strong weekly market why has Harlow failed. This needs to be sorted. Markets bring a vibrancy and bargains the shops can't provide and better serve those residents on low income or pensions. The market Square died when the Council made it trader unfriendly. Market Day also brought a surge in trade for all retailers. Investment grants to help restablish the market will pay dividends. It's clear that beautifcation schemes dreamt up by the Council have failed to resurrect or revive this space, it needs to be atractive. The addition of facilities called sound hubs that facilitate street muscians in the daytime and protect the housing from the sound would be a great innovation. Add a performance area for bigger events. Re water feature if it is to be of the same standard as the Water gardens, forget it. Those in the Water Gardens may have been ok after the war but not today, no ambition and resembling randomly placed hose pipes. An installation needs to be confident and fantastic at the level of classic Italian fountains: local artists and schools might do as a community project. The Market Square needs a pavement cafes. It's about making it work to help businesses and serve the community.

2020-07-01 09:32:26

The Harlow Alliance Party will be making a full response to these Plans, but for now will point out to readers that the Council spent over £250,000 (of our money) in the last two years on refurbishing Market Square, which it now seems will be given another make over. Spending other peoples money come easy to Harlow's Labour Party, but with these plans their bid for funding will surely fail at the first hurdle.

2020-07-01 10:12:42

Thank you for your comments to date and it’s clear we all wanted to rejuvenate the area to making a more community friendly. All ideas are warmly welcomed. Sad to note the alliance team want this to fail and don’t want a safe place for families and friends to meet together. We respect each other position but at the end of the day it will be for the government to decide on the merits of the bid. We may get all or some or none of the funding but at least we attempting to bring aspiration and opportunity to our town centre. Thank you

2020-07-01 10:50:41

Lets make no mistake Durcant, the Harlow Alliance Party wholeheartedly wish to see the town centre improved and thrive, but I am afraid that we do not subscribe to the way that you see this being achieved. You have already spent £272K on refurbishing Market Square to little effect. The Government will want to see what 'added value' a scheme will bring to the town centre, we believe the plans you have published are not ambitious enough to achieve this, there is after all a considerable sum to bid for.

2020-07-01 11:22:57

Goody afternoon. As normal we can agree to disagree but these plans are realistic and ambitious. These have been brought together by council staff with advice ,support and guidance from a number of experienced partners who we have confidence in. Your correct if this bid is successful we have to show added value. Extra business units, housing for key workers extra space and new cycle area with safe storage. We are ensuring our collective recovery from COVID making our community safer as a result. Working with current business to support them. Making the town a more cohesive and sustainable place to run and grow a business. A more inclusive place to shop and enjoy. We know many other towns have the same and in some case worse challenges This is a consultation about a bid. We now wait and see what the government decides. Thank you.

2020-07-01 11:38:20

Sounds like you have already made your minds up then, so this is not a consultation exercise then just one of informing residents. As I said, we will make a formal response shortly.

2020-07-01 11:39:12

Let's stop the blame game: yes the money thrown or invested in the past didn't work. What we need to focus on is what it was that made The Market Square an attractive place originally, consider what changed that and recognise why attempts to resurrect the Space have failed and update taking today's attitudes into account. What hasn't changed is the need for a vibrant weekly market, shifting round potted trees and the like hasn't worked because they made the space feel bare and exposed and threatening. To change such a space needs considerable investment. Encouraging open air cafeterias and dining would help. Yes make it green but not a green desert. Might section 106 monies be derived from the new housing building projects there? The facades of the buildings there and all along Broad walk need changing, the functional brutalist architecture doesn't work in a country town and doesn't encourage people to do anything but shop and go. Facades make a big difference to how towns feel look at some Cotswold and Essex towns, outside high street facades are full of character but inside many shops are much the same as here.

2020-07-01 12:21:11

Just to avoid any confusion can assure everyone this consultation is to make people aware of the bid . We welcome thought and views on the bid only. If the bid is successful then next year we will have a very open honest and suspect robust consultation process. The hard work starts then as this will require significant planning applications as well as working with other partners including ECC. We need to keep the energy and motivation going to enable us to bring about sustainable changes and choices. Let’s remain half full instead of half empty. Again thank you for the comments made to date and pleased it’s sparked a debate. Never dull.

2020-07-01 13:14:10

Demonstrates again that Harlow Council do not understand the meaning of consultation. This exercise is all about informing people of the bid and any consultation if that what it is, will only take place if and when Planning Applications are made. Another example of 'we know best'. It is a case of the blame game novoman, we do not want the same thing to be repeated by those in charge of our Council, in respect of Market Square and elsewhere The same thing was said about the green areas which Labour wanted to see built on around the town in their Local Plan.... they said 'you can comment when Planning Applications are made'. Thank goodness the Government appointed Local Plan Inspector threw out 7 of these sites otherwise it would have been to late to stop developments altogether at the Planning stage.

2020-07-01 13:57:58

Consultation noun the action of formally consulting or discussing. As stated in my interview and all the way along this trail of points . My objective was to inform Harlow via several ways up and including the interview above. Most would welcome this openness but clearly you don’t. This is to inform update and open a discussion about the bid. If successful we will have a more meaningful consultation over each section. End

2020-07-01 14:35:27

Consultation durcant .....anything apart from on yourharlow? Anything yet on Harlow Council's website ... No. Advised residents associations ... NO (we have today) ..... Harlow Times ... to late? Public exhibition on line .... NO. Harlow Labour ..... the we know best Party. End

2020-07-01 15:40:46

Cool down tenpin.

2020-07-01 18:52:48

Durcant, that’s not really a way to speak to people is it. Tenpin has some really valid points, even if it is semantics. You can’t pre make a plan, ask for some views but give no timetable on them or even any assurances that those views will be listened to or acted on. So, by definition, it is not a consultation. It’s proposal feedback at best and that really should be accepted. For clarification we’re the public consulted before these plans were put together? To give an idea of what people want to see. Then these proposals then asked about? That’s a consultation. Was that done? I know we elect people to make decisions for us to an extent but just steamrollering plans, like the Develolment Plan, is a bit too much and an abuse of that power when the proposals are that big. The council really need to learn how and when to involve people who live in the town as it does give the impression that it’s all just about thier own vanity projects. And shooting off wise comments on a message board when people, who have the right to, question you is really immature and childish.

2020-07-01 19:22:08

Durcant ...If you cannot stand the heat (scrutiny) then time to get out of the kitchen.

2020-07-01 22:05:32

Please be assured that if the bid is successful then there will be more debate and discussion about the proposals. Open to scrutiny and opportunity.

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