New £20 million bid could see more regeneration for town centre

Lifestyle / Fri 18th Jun 2021 at 02:24pm

A £20m bid for more government funding has been submitted by Harlow Council which, if successful, will bring further major regeneration opportunities for Harlow town centre.

The focus of Harlow Council’s Levelling Up Fund bid to government is to completely transform Playhouse Square, College Square and Market Square with fresh proposals for the regeneration of these areas revealed today. Proposals unveiled last year for the Playhouse Quarter and Stone Cross Square projects have been developed further and improved by the council.

The council submitted its bid yesterday (18 June 2021) after being invited by the government to apply for a share of £4.8 billion of funding from the Levelling Up Fund. The fund was announced by government in March 2021 and will support town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets.

The proposals in Harlow’s bid are:

· Playhouse Quarter – creation of a vibrant arts and cultural plaza improving the setting of two iconic landmark buildings – The Playhouse Theatre and St Paul’s Church. Proposals include a new building to extend The Playhouse with a new box office, café, exhibition and workshop spaces, and studios for creative uses and rehearsals. Playhouse Square will become an area for outdoor performances and College Square and the area outside St Paul’s Church will be improved. The proposal includes purchasing Occasio House to redevelop into new housing. The nearby underpass will also be transformed. The existing taxi rank will be relocated within the area.

· Stone Cross Square – regeneration to provide a new green, social and leisure-focussed event and activity space. Proposals include an outdoor cinema area, outdoor hospitality and dining spaces, areas for trading, exhibitions and specialist markets, new public sculpture and more landscaping to improve the look and feel of the area.
If successful the bid will be a further boost for Harlow town centre’s regeneration. Just last week it was announced that Harlow will receive money from the Towns Fund, which includes making improvements to Broad Walk and replacing the existing town centre bus station with a new commercial and transport hub. Construction work is currently taking place to improve East Gate (between Market Square and Broad Walk) following £1m of government funding granted last year.

Brian Keane, Chief Executive of Harlow Council, said: “I would like to thank council staff for their work in recent weeks to put together and complete another bid for further government funding. I would also like to thank Essex County Council for their support with the Playhouse Quarter proposals. We are hopeful that, following the £23.7m of government funding announced last week, we will get even more support to improve our town and specifically the regeneration of our town centre. Our refreshed and improved proposals for the Playhouse Quarter and Stone Cross Square will breathe new life into two public spaces, which will be transformed. Both projects will link to the Towns Fund projects helping to make the whole town centre a more vibrant place to visit.”

The council is expected to hear later this year if the bid has been successful.

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12 Comments for New £20 million bid could see more regeneration for town centre:

Connie Sosa
2021-06-18 14:38:22

After many years of neglect, this is great news and will enable a complete and desperately needed transformation of the Town Centre into an attractive and vibrant destination hub, offering genuine leisure and retail options for residents and visitors. The Northern end of the town from the old Odeon around to Terminus House is a disgrace and a testament to the indifference and ineptitude of previous Council administrations, who have negligently presided over stagnation and decline. Hopefully, the new bus station can be moved to the area currently occupied by the unspeakable car park and Terminus House, which should be demolished. The Town Centre should be a safe and pleasant environment for our residents. The town is in great need of an ambitious and transforming uplift. This plan is most welcome.

Paul Henderson
2021-06-18 15:03:38

I hardly ever go to the Town Centre. It is terrible and feels unsafe and unwelcoming around the Bus Station and Market Square. There are many shady looking characters and drugs. Hopefully, this regeneration will make permanent changes raising the tone and atmosphere in general so that decent people can return and enjoy new leisure experiences in a safe environment.

2021-06-18 16:17:16

I'm sceptical this will make a long-term difference. The town centre needs more than just a few more cafes or restaurants and redesigned street furniture to draw people in.

Tony Durcan
2021-06-18 16:26:38

This bid was put together after we lost the high street funding but links directly to part of the bid about the playhouse area. This bid has been worked up over the last few months and signed off over the last few weeks.pleased that most of the Labour aspirations are being retained . Many ideas were taken from the concept of Tony Tours 2 years ago were we took local residence around the town on a walking tour and discussed options and opportunities. Thank you to everyone who took Part in those tours Awaiting the outcome of the bid Labour made to buy and develop occasio house site.

2021-06-18 16:32:59

This new bid looks very similar to the bid made by the Council when Labour were in control earlier this year. I believe that bid failed because Council officers and Councillors were not ambitious enough. The Council have again failed to consult with residents and they propose to spend even more more money on Market Square having spent some £272,000 on "improvements" just a few years ago. The town needs a much bigger theatre to attract big name acts as well as to take into account the huge increase in the population of the area in the next decade. Moving the taxi rank further from the entrance to The Playhouse and Harvey Centre cannot be a good idea. The question is ..... will these changes bring more visitors to the town/ The only good point is the purchase of Occasio House. It will be interesting to see how the Government responds to the Council's bid now that it is Conservative controlled.

Jim Brown
2021-06-18 17:42:17

It is important that any visual art studios/ projects intended for the quarter are managed in an inclusive and fair way to give equal opportunity to all Harlow artists. As the UK's only 'Sculpture Town', the visual arts is a high profile asset and how it is managed and allowed to develop in the future is relevant to all artists who have invested interests in Harlow.

Paul Henderson
2021-06-18 18:13:07

It would be great to have a covered market area, functioning all year round. The market could hold rotating themes: farmer’s market, art & crafts, including local artists, Continental style markets, Christmas markets, etc. We need to attract people from the town and beyond. It can be an attractive night time destination with a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars. Hopefully, it will not include the awful pub that is currently there. That is precisely the type of venue we do not need.

2021-06-18 18:44:17

Totally pleased with these upgrades.well needed in harlow.when I read the headline I thought please no more flats.but to upgrade and modernise playhouse is what this town needs.

Tony Durcan
2021-06-19 09:44:13

Reply to Paul Henderson. When the new department store opens in the Harvey centre part of the unit will be an outdoor market in doors.

2021-06-19 20:57:11

As I understand it Tony they are having difficulty finding anyone/enough traders to want to occupy this vacant store. This former store would be an ideal ready made exhibition centre for things like toy fairs, stamp fairs, coin fairs, model train exhibitions, vintage car shows, modern car shows, Christmas wonderland/market, makers market etc, All would attract more visitors to the town, not just to shop. Just one of the ideas for the future of the town centre promoted by the Harlow Alliance party. A few seats here and there, some grassed areas and a few more trees will never attract more visitors. I am afraid that all the time that officers and Councillors have such a lack of vision things will never take a big step forward in improving Harlow's Town Centre.

2021-06-20 10:00:27

What is the point of upgrading the street furniture when the choice of shops is so awful . The loss of Monsoon, Marks and Spencer's, Robert Dyas and BHS means there is no reason to want to go into the town. They need to attract a far better standard of shops than Primark and Greggs if you want people to come into the town. We need at least shops such as Marks and Spencer's, Waitrose , Monsoon , Seasalt, Joules, Mint Velvet , White stuff who all position themselves in the mid market niche. We also need a much better type of restaurant and cafes than fast food burger bars and fry up places. As for the theatre and cinema, the choice they show is very unappealing, we need an arts theatre and cinema that shows good quality drama or dance from the UK and Europe, not super hero rubbish, and tribute artists . I would sooner travel to Bishop Stortford than shop in Harlow .

Paul Henderson
2021-06-20 10:27:08

Carol makes a good point. Many prefer to shop on Bishop’s Stortford, Epping or Hoddesdon as they are much better experiences. The point is that because Harlow Town Centre has been so run down for years, footfall has declined greatly so there is no incentive for good stores to move here. Also rents and business rates are high and only compound the problem. The once attractive Little Walk has been closed for years. The area around the former Odeon looks like a Bomb site and the less said about the Market Square and Post Office Walk, the better. It is too awful for words. Given that nobody with any alternatives wants to frequent the Town Centre, the only way to turn the tide and attract the types of businesses that the town desperately wants and needs is to build a vision along the lines of that presented. A fundamental and complete regeneration that will offer quality shops and leisure options including a vibrant covered all year round market in the Market Square. Without such a vision and plan, the Town Centre will continue its unrelenting slow death and decline.

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