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Harlow Alliance Party’s response to Town Centre Plan

News / Sat 4th Jul 2020 at 08:36am

Harlow Alliance Party’s response to Town Centre Plan

HARLOW Council has made known their plan for the future re-development of two areas within the Town Centre. This will form their bid to the Government who have given an undertaking to give financial support to Councils who have schemes in place to help regenerate town centres. Members of The Harlow Alliance Party like all those using Harlow Town Centre want a return to the days when it was a bustling centre for shopping and leisure and look to a future where the centre is also used in the evenings and decent homes are built in and around it.

The Council have in our view given little if any opportunity for residents to comment on the scheme before finalising it’s bid, which we understand will be submitted later this month.

The Council’s Plan can be summarised as follows:

The area around The Playhouse

The taxi rank is to be moved into College Square.
Occasia House will in due course be used to provide homes for nurses, doctors, teachers and other key workers who would pay affordable rents.
A large block of flats is to be built on the green area in front of The Playhouse.

Market Square

It’s name will be changed to Stone Cross Square and yet another attempt will be made to make it a community based centre providing a safe place for people to meet. Over £250,000 has already been spent in the last two years. Cross Street will be opened up to traffic public transport.
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The Harlow Alliance Party’s (HAP) responses to these Plans are as follows:

We believe that the taxi rank is well placed where it is. Work to create this space was carried out only a few years ago. Moving the rank some hundred yards from it’s present location will require passengers to walk much further to the entrance of The Harvey Centre and The Playhouse, bad enough in bad weather let alone if you have a physical impairment. Such a step will surely lead to more visitors to the town centre using their car. We believe that the rank should stay where it is and the area between it and The Harvey Centre and The Playhouse should have a well designed roof or canopy to afford protection against the weather.

The grassed area nearby should become a garden area with seating, making best use of the sculpture that sits in the middle of the green. This would make this entrance into the town centre far more appealing to visitors. Building a block of flats on this site will do nothing to enhance the shopping or leisure experience of visitors to the town or increase their numbers.

With the opening of a new hospital adjacent to the new junction 7a of the M11 it seems very unlikely that nurses and doctors will want to live in Occasia House some 4 miles from the new hospital. Staff living on the present site and in homes nearby already faces the prospect of either having to move nearer to the hospital or travelling to work, most likely by car. There is a desperate need for purpose built homes for older residents in the town, set to get much worse in the next two decades. A site close to shops and leisure/cultural facilities is an ideal site for such homes and therefore The Harlow Alliance Party would like to see Occasia House demolished and replaced with a purpose built unit for older residents, where space for social and other events could take place. There is a thriving U3A in Harlow who could be invited to use some of this space.

The building in Market Square known to many older residents as ‘The Lyons Buttery’ should be demolished to make the square bigger and allow the shops behind it to become part of the Market Square’s boundary. This would also open out the space as you enter the square from Bird Cage Walk. Whilst many might wish to see a market returning to Market Square, before any attempts to create one takes place, the Council would need to consult with market traders elsewhere to see whether or not it would attract traders.

In any event, we believe Market Square should have a roof placed over it, which would allow it to become a community space in all weathers, hosting events such as vintage car exhibitions, toy fairs, French markets and a host of other events making it a ‘go to’ place within the Town Centre. The area created would be big enough to have garden areas and trees and we suggest some sort of centre piece such as a sculpture similar in the size to the one in front of the Leisurezone. All this would help enhance the appearance of the area and compliment the new homes surrounding the square.

Photo taken in 2019.

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