Letter to Editor: Why Harlow will suffer due to plans for Harlow and Gilston Garden Town
News / Tue 29th Dec 2020 at 06:59am
Letter to the Editor
The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town
IF anyone had any doubts about how badly the Labour administration in Harlow is running the council and how ineffective the Conservative group have become in recent years, readers should take a look at the film of Harlow Council’s Development Management Committee Meeting of 16 December on it’s youtube channel.
As a back drop, one should remember that our MP has been the “champion” of an enlarged Harlow, supported by Conservative councillors in Harlow and those at East Herts DC and Hertfordshire CC. Harlow’s Labour Council signed up to work with the these Councils and that of Epping Forest to create “The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town”, which will see the population in the town increase from it’s present 90,000 to over 140,000 in the next 20 years or so.
Since it’s inception, The Harlow Alliance Party have argued the case that the creation of such a Garden Town should at the outset have included a change in the town’s and the county boundaries so that the whole physical area in question came within just one council area, namely Harlow.
Residents would then have been consulted and kept informed of progress across the whole area in the same way and at the same time and decisions about the future of the town would be made by politicians representing residents in this town and not by ones living up to 15 miles away and in Council offices in Epping and Hertford.
Any attempt to create an integrated community where services will be provided by five councils, each with their own political priorities will never work, especially as the nearest houses in Harlow will be over half a mile away from those on the new Gilston estate. The reason why these other authorities would resist such changes to the boundary is of course money. The government gives money to a council when it gives permission for homes to be built. This money together with the council tax paid by residents of these new homes will all go to these other councils and not benefit either Harlow Council or Essex County Council.
Harlow Council now finds itself at best merely being able to influence what is going on at Gilston despite the effect these changes will have on residents who already live in Harlow. Having worked with these other councils and Places for People (a Housing Association) for some years now, it comes as a shock to find that it is only at this late stage as Outline Planning is being sought that Labour and Conservative councillors have publically raised concerns.
These concerns include: who and how new transport and other infrastructure proposals will be paid for, when such work will be constructed, the lack of a commitment to those on Harlow Council’s housing waiting list that they will be nominated for some of the new affordable homes being built and at the real heart of the matter, what benefit Harlow and it’s residents will see as a result of such an expansion of the town.
The residents of Harlow have been let down by the Labour administration at Harlow Council and the Conservatives have had to be muted in their response to this plan. Whilst thousands of people will be living on nice new estates ringing Harlow, those of us already living here now face years of disruption as new transport corridors are built, more heavily congested roads and more pressure on doctors surgeries and at the hospital, without seeing any benefits at the end of the next twenty year period.
Harlow Alliance Party
The County and local councils might do better if they spent some time studying different attempts to solve town planning problems wrt transport, pollution, quality of life, environment and housing in cities and towns across Europe and the world. Good and bad ideas can be evaluated for instance looking at the past development in Sariavo and at the future planned development in Barcelona under a new female mayor and team of architects. New thinking is needed. It's obvious that the current plans for Harlow are based on old thinking that has been proven wrong time after time at great cost. The transport corridors are a short term fix that will be a disaster and simply fail on all counts. More roads in the town simply equals more cars, pollution and congestion. Complicate this by the fragmented approach with several councils with self interest dominating as described by your letter and we have a horse designed by Committee ie a camel. Boundaries do need to be redrawn and all that is Harlow needs to be under Harlow control. QED
Nicholas Taylor states that Harlow has been let down by our Labour Council, and I agree with him. Harlow was a beautiful new town in the countryside when it was first built and for years afterwards. However, substantial expansion of Harlow has eroded our green spaces and services and has urbanised and densified Harlow to an unsustainable extent, so that we are now swamped in traffic jams. Can anyone name a single benefit to the people of Harlow that all of this runaway expansion has brought? I can't. All Harlow Labour Council have come up with to deal with the congestion is their utopian plan for a monorail, which would cost us millions and only cause more congestion. Harlow Allliance Party says it would consult with the people of Harlow, but it appears to have no action plan of how it would do things differently and, anyway, no means to put an action plan into effect since it's such a tiny party. Harlow has had a number of consultations on the local plan and the results of these have been swept under the carpet and sytematically ignored by the Labour Council. Isn't the truth that a group as small as the Harlow Alliance party has no hope of either taking control of the council, of making Harlow Labour Council listen or of changing anything?