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Letter to Editor: The Square, Harlow Council and the developers

Politics / Mon 21st Dec 2020 at 08:32am

Dear Editor,

The Square, the Council and the developers

IN early December Kingsbury Consultants, a firm of property developers, publicised online their purchase of a site on Fourth Avenue Harlow, described as a ‘former community centre’. This turned out to be the site of the Square, dear to the memory of very many people in Harlow, and very many musicians all over the country.

Groups, bands and individual entertainers were playing to regulars at the Square before they made their names .

On 31st January 2017 the venue closed after a last night to remember, at the end of a desperate attempt to remain open with a series of gigs starring many grateful and now well-known artists.

The management of the Square had been in negotiation with Harlow Council about the possibility of a new centre, but nothing came of this. Essex County Council had made an arrangement with the original purchasers guaranteeing an alternative venue for the Square’s activities. Again nothing was done to implement this. It would be in the public interest to find out what exactly was done. Essex County councillors from that period must have information regarding this breach of the undertaking.

Circle Housing, later to become Clarion after merging with Affinity Sutton, became the new owners after Essex County Council ceased funding the public amenity, renting the building to the Square management. Harlow Council decided it could no longer financially back the venue and so it had to close. At first there were vague ideas about building affordable not-for-profit housing there. The building itself was demolished in March 2017, the site was boarded up, everything went quiet. There was no planning permission for change of use.

Between then and now there has been at least one change of ownership. Now Kingsbury Consultants intend to build 120 housing ‘units’ on the site.

They paid £2.5million for this prime area close to the town centre of what will become a much larger town when the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town development takes off. So much for promises that there would be no commercial development.

The town has lost an incalculable asset, providing live music, rehearsal spaces, tuition, support and friendship to young people. The flats or houses to be built will be inhabited mostly by commuters.

Close by, on the site of the Hospital Pharmacy, another block of housing units is nearing completion. It will be called The Square.

Barbara Burge

Press Officer Harlow Civic Society

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