Masterplan to rebuild Harlow town centre takes a step closer

News / Sat 16th Oct 2021 at 12:25pm

A MASTERPLAN which could result in the “mass rebuilding” of Harlow town centre has been endorsed by civic chiefs.

Harlow Council’s cabinet voted to approve a first draft of the plan last night (October 14), which provides a framework for building new transport, retail, leisure, hospitality and gardens in five key areas.

Senior councillors said it will protect the town centre from private developments by earmarking the areas for the council’s own plans reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

Additionally, a transport corridor is being planned, which would run from the station and through the town centre, as part of the wider Harlow and Gilston Garden Town development.

According to council documents, the distance and lack of connectivity between the station and town centre is currently a barrier to growth.

Labour councillors at the meeting said they supported the proposals, but claimed “95 per cent” had been lifted from their own ambitions for regeneration during their time in power.

They also criticised the cabinet for not including Princess Alexandra Hospital, the town’s largest employer, as part of the town centre, and said they had not focused enough on social housing.

Councillor Dan Swords (Con, Bush Fair) portfolio holder for regeneration, said he envisioned the town becoming a “hub of leisure and culture” that people from across the whole of the east of England would want to visit.

After the meeting, he told the LDRS: “What this document really is doing, is the first building block to that major regeneration. 

I’ve made it very clear, we’re not talking about tinkering at the edges, repainting, repaving. This is a mass rebuilding.”

At the meeting, he said the council’s failure to acquire large parts of the town centre has left it vulnerable to poor private developments, which could risk derailing the regeneration before it begins.

He said: “That is why we are acting now, comprehensively, to arm the council with every possible tool to protect the town centre from an apocalypse of private developments.”

However, Labour councillors at the meeting took issue with the fact the draft did not envisage Princess Alexandra Hospital as part of the town centre.

Councillor Tony Durcan (Labour, Little Parndon and Hare Street) said the area around the hospital was also public space and that employees, who use public services and contribute to the town centre, were being left out.

He said: “In my opinion it is absolutely, critically important that that public area is put into the masterplan.

“It seems strange, and I ask why are we choosing a private company such as Sainsbury’s to put them into the masterplan, but we’re not actually putting in a public service, which is Princess Alexandra.”

Five key areas have been highlighted for regeneration by the document.

These are Terminus Street, for transport, Stone Cross Square, for leisure and hospitality, West Square, for a town centre garden, Playhouse Quarter, for culture, and Broad Walk, for retail.

But the guidance won’t become a material consideration for future planning applications for the town until a final version has been adopted by the cabinet.

Cllr Swords did also claim this would not result in a “rigid” divide of the town centre.

The supplementary planning document approved by the cabinet will now go to public consultation.

This comes after a broader Town Plan, which included plans to lobby for a London Underground station in Harlow, was endorsed by the cabinet last month, and is currently awaiting the results of a public consultation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

18 Comments for Masterplan to rebuild Harlow town centre takes a step closer:

2021-10-16 14:21:55

So let's build a yellow brick road from Hggt to the town centre. Will all of the major retailers rush back into the town centre? I think not. The high street is dead. Hggt residents won't want to travel down from the Emerald City into Harlow. The proposals are as practical and as successful as the trees in flower pots in the Market Square. Build a tube station and increase the population by building 130000 new homes, high rise flats and take the hospital out of the town centre and build a smaller replacement inaccessibly at the edge of town. As Tony says the effect of not including PAH in the plan shows many Cllrs have little understanding of town planning and the way Humans work. Obviously Cllrs have been taking to property developers and consultant companies like those who propose hggt pfp Gilston and Epping developments to overload the town and are dazzled by the colour of golden profits; more likely fools gold. How red and blue parties have been sucked in is appalling. Looking like the downward path Harlow has begun will turn into a kamikaze dive. Many of our most talented individuals and bright youngsters will continue to leave the town and the quality of life here will continue to be downgraded.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-10-16 15:00:03

The report being referred to cost tens of thousands of pounds from our council tax, which really only sets out some sort of vision which a school boy or girl could have written. If anyone in that Council chamber really believes that: 1 Sainsbury will relocate elsewhere allowing flats to be built on their site, when every other proposal is designed to attract more shoppers. 2 Stone Cross Square (known as Market Square to everybody else) will become used for leisure and hospitality, when none of the existing buildings are to be knocked down, indeed Market House is due to be converted into flats and another storey put on top of it. 3 Playhouse Square will be come a centre for culture when The Playhouse is already to small to attract top names and there is precious little space to put anything else close by, indeed can any Councillor tell us what they think would take up such space? As for Terminus Street, well we have a bus station already, but due to a lack of regular maintenance it is in an appalling state and must give a very bad impression of Harlow for those arriving by bus. What Harlow will end up with is a town centre comprising of many huge flat blocks, take a look at Wych Elm for the first example of this. Harlow Council and it's Councillors are failing the residents of Harlow, as was said at the meeting, this plan is 95% the same as the one that Labour were proposing before May's election.

2021-10-16 16:36:55

If the plans are supposed to be positive and emphasising culture, yet I do not see any mention of a live music venue to replace The Square. There is huge demand for this and it would bring a buzz to the Town Centre, yet it is being actively ignored in the plans. The Report sounds like more scattering of glitter and is hardly radical if decaying buildings are remaining.

2021-10-16 17:00:16

Nicholas, our children are far smarter than the Council: you do our students a great disservice if you think they would plan so badly! How do you think Greta Thunberg has succeeded, children took up the cause and the adults followed.

Dan Swords
2021-10-16 17:07:33

Hi Nicholas Taylor, You are completely wrong in your assessment and just about everything you say. Mistruths are damaging. I would be happy to sit down and discuss this at any time with you. Kind wishes, Dan Swords

Dan Swords
2021-10-16 17:20:20

I have made very clear that as part of our once-in-a-generation programme we will deliver a new live music venue. You can see my public answer to a question on this on question 4 here: https://moderngov.harlow.gov.uk/documents/s18479/Questions%20from%20Councillors.pdf

2021-10-16 18:00:50

Do any of these plans include filling in the potholes, ???

2021-10-16 19:39:57

So where is Sainsbury's supposed to go to? It serves those of us to the west of the town , who do not want to go to the east side were Tesco where there is no bus service to the shops. The council cannot make the buses go to a certain area. The bus station is awful and urgently needs improvement , its so shabby and full of winos and drug takers. The town is a dump and needs much better quality shops and food stores like Waitrose and a large M and S food, not yet another Lidl and Iceland. and proper restaurants, not just burger bars and fish and chip shops. . The town urgently needs to get rid of all the wino's and other undesirables who litter the town centre.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-10-16 21:34:18

Hi Dan, Very happy to sit down and discuss the plan with you. For readers interest however, can you explain which bits of what I have said are completely wrong? For example have the Council discussed with Sainsburys the possibility of moving from their site, or is this just a fanciful idea just like extending the tube from Epping, when it is a fact the TFL are basically bankrupt.? My assessment about your plan for the four areas is my view. You and the Council have a different view. The are not mistruths, just a different view. Only The Harlow Alliance Party have set out credible and realistic plan for the town centre, which would provide for a new live music centre, a new larger theatre, an exhibition centre and other ideas to bring more people into the town centre. I will email you in a couple of days time to arrange a meet.

2021-10-17 09:11:06

Carol, Have you not heard of supply and demand? Harlow is a relatively poor town hence Aldi Lidl and junk food outlets so perhaps you should relocate to Bishops Stortford where it will have all you need but it will also have people with addiction problems the same as anywhere else, Maybe then when you are moving in a better socio economic class you will not notice them.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-10-17 10:02:15

Harlow Council failed to take legal action to stop offices being converted to flats as soon as it could because it believed such conversions would bring more footfall into the town centre. It failed to recognise that shoe box sizes homes would not encourage residents of a higher socio economic class to live in the town, indeed just the opposite has happened, with for example 220 families living in Terminus House, all with a range of issues, without any support from where they previously lived. Carol's choice of words can be questioned, but as has been asked numerous times, if these flat blocks are emptied of their current occupants what can or will Harlow Council do to ensure that they are used for something else? Such blocks in the town will do little to encourage people to buy the hundreds of new flats which are set out in the Town Centre plan, perhaps that is why Strawberry Star's time scale for it's development is already well behind schedule?

2021-10-17 11:38:29

Not everyone in the area are poor. The local villagers around Harlow also shop for food in Harlow and we want a much better choice than the awful choice at the moment, along with good quality independent food retailers . The loss of Sainsbury's when yet another Lidl is planned is indefensible. Pandering always to the lower socio economic groups will not bring in those with actual spending power, who are prepared to actually spend their money . PHE soon will be moving in thousands of employees with real spending power , ignoring the needs of this group will just mean this will become a white elephant , run down and seedy as soon as it is built.

2021-10-17 15:16:03

I don't know where you got this about Sainsbury's but they are expanding the home shopping service as witnessed whilst trying to park yesterday, If you do not like what Harlow offers in the retail sense plenty of other places are available locally.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-10-17 18:22:32

Exactly Jarrett. They only recently got Planning Permission to expand their property. Dan, I am still waiting for an answer from my question to you, I am sure readers will be interested. Just what mistruths do you think I expressed?

2021-10-19 10:54:46

Nicholas, genuine question - you mention that HAP would build a new theatre venue on the Market House and Post Office land. Can you walk me through how you'd achieve this, something a bit more fleshed out than an idea - specifically how much you'd think it'll cost to purchase the land, plans, construction and fully build, and also where the money would come from? For what it's worth I agree this is the right idea, but I don't think you'd ever be able to fulfil this. I need convincing otherwise.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-10-19 22:46:11

Hi Matt. Well firstly, Harlow Council have recently agreed that they will use compulsory purchase powers to acquire property and indeed they have said they will soon be doing this but for commercial reasons they are unable to announce this at the moment. Secondly, they do have a pot of £100 million, gained from various sources to kick start the regeneration of Harlow Town Centre and a couple of other key objectives. This is in the public domain. Steps need and should be taken to identify money from other sources which are specifically for cultural activities. In the past the Council did have an officer whose job was to do just that and may still have one (and if not, why not?). The building should be designed so that it faces both into the square and the post office car park in a way that does not create a visual barrier to the north side of the town centre as Market House and the Post Office building do now. We also said that the Post Office car park should be turned into a big electric car charging point area, where with additional planting it would provide a much better entrance into the town centre. So Cllr Swords is right when he says that this is a once in a life time opportunity to regenerate the town centre, we believe however that as things stand, just like the money thrown at Market Square, this will be squandered. The four key areas identified in the report are wishy washy, lack ambition and leave little room amongst many high rise flat blocks to provide facilities which will attract visitors, whether to shop or for leisure purposes.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-10-19 23:12:44

Hi Matt again. I should of course have mentioned the payments paid by the Government called 'New Homes Bonus' paid to Councils when they allow new homes to be built and the sums paid by housing developers paid to contribute to things such as infrastructure projects. Whilst the former sums are not as generous as they were, residents were informed that Epping Forest DC would get £25 million if they allowed the building of 1050 homes planned for Latton Priory. This is one of the reasons why HAP said that at the outset the Harlow Boundary should have been extended to include the Green belt around the town so the financial benefit of any homes built would come to Harlow DC.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-10-22 23:03:53

Just to add again Matt, I see that Hitchin opened a new facility last year, to include a 17 metre swimming pool and 511 seater theatre. Take out the swimming pool and put in a music venue/exhibition centre and I would suggest that it would cost less than the £19 million the Hitchin centre cost.

Leave a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *