Tory-run Harlow Council’s multi-million pound “levelling-up” bid for town centre unsuccessful (this time)
General / Fri 29th Oct 2021 at 11:16am
HARLOW Council’s application for a multi million-pound regeneration boost has been unsuccessful in the first round of winners, leaving some councillors worried for the future of the town centre.
Harlow Council’s bid for £20million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund to help regenerate Playhouse Quarter and Stone Cross Square was absent from the list of successful applications published by the government earlier this week.
But there will be a second tranche of funding allocations in spring 2022, which is when the council now expects its funding bid to be approved.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporter (LDRS )after a council meeting last night (October 28), leader of the opposition Chris Vince (Labour, Little Parndon and Hare Street) said Harlow had suffered under the austerity years, and that he would be asking the new leadership what could be done to ensure the council was successful during the next tranche.
He said: “I’m hugely disappointed, before we get into the politics of it, ultimately this is a real disappointment for the people of Harlow.
“We want to see our town regenerated and obviously this funding would go a long way to do that.”
However, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration Dan Swords (Con, Bush Fair) said the £20 million was only a “small pot” and not the total funding for their regenerative ambitions.
He also said the council welcomed the extra time to better align the funding proposals with wider plans for regeneration, and that it was his personal preference for the bid to be approved in the spring.
He told the LDRS: “We were given very strong feedback on our bid at present.
“It was scored very highly by officials, and it’s being taken forward to tranche two of funding which we expect in Spring 2022, which I and the council strongly welcome because, as I’ve said many times, we are going to roll out the biggest programme of regeneration this town has ever seen and rebuild the town centre.”
The cabinet have endorsed several ambitious plans for regeneration over the past few months, including building new transport links, retail, leisure, hospitality and gardens.
The £20 million from the Levelling Up Fund would go towards creating an arts and cultural plaza in Playhouse Quarter and a social and leisure-focused events space in Stone Cross Square, according to earlier council documents announcing the bid.
This would form part of the wider town centre masterplan, a supplementary planning document for which was approved by the cabinet earlier this month and is currently out for public consultation.
In September, cabinet members also approved the Harlow town plan, which included plans to lobby Transport for London for an extension of the Central Line to the town.
The Levelling Up Fund is a £4.8 billion government fund towards town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets, according to the council statement.
According to reporting by the Independent, almost £2 billion has been cut from the overall pot.
The government allocated £1.7 billion to successful applicants as part of the budget earlier this week.
The remainder is expected to be announced during the Chancellor’s spring statement.
How about levelling-up the roads, fill the pot holes in, towns a disgrace.
It is of course disappointing to hear that Harlow has missed out on these funds and hopefully success will come in the next Tranche. The politics of this are that in the run up to the local council elections Conservative councillor Michael Hardware in a letter to the editor of this publication published 10th Feb 2021 claimed "We have secured up to £76 million to regenerate Harlow"......"but it can only be delivered with a Conservative Council". Clearly the funds were not secured and still aren't. Failing at this first hurdle does not bring confidence the Conservatives can deliver.
While it is true that the Conservatives lied about the funds that were secured, those areas that have benifited from this "levelling up" are a long, long way from being level. https://bylinetimes.com/2021/10/29/levelling-up-fund-gives-1-25-billion-to-areas-that-have-lost-25-5-billion/ English local authorities that have benefited from the first round of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up Fund’ lost £25.5 billion in spending power after 2010, a Byline Times analysis reveals. Even if the numbers look big, they are far, far from what has been lost during the Conservative ecconomic "austerity" experiment.
"Levelling up " is a totally misleading sound bite, just like "Get Brexit Done" Neither really are adequate to tackle issues that really matter. Just sound bites. "Levelling up" seems to mean build build build regardless for example executive homes, that do nothing for the town, high rise rabbit hutches that nobody but property developers want, rather than building quality Council and houses for young people and families ( as was the case when Harlow was built). Levelling up, for the Conservatives means overloading the town with traffic and increasing the population by 130k x 4 = 460000, doing nothing to improve the quality of life or GP services or protecting the environment eg Stort Valley or opening more youth clubs or bring back venues like The Square or fixing the roads or restoring reliable bin collections . Time for Labour and Conservatives to recognise that more shops in the town centre and NS EW traffic corridors are outdated concepts that damage the environment: the high street is dead, repeated attempts to resurrect high streets fail, traffic corridors attract traffic and congestion increasing pollution. People shop on line and shopping complexes have for many years been more successful when built around the perimeter of towns. Park and ride works, and I see green campaigners have proposed more cycle, electric bikes and scooter routes and free and very low cost public green transport, unsurprisingly it's less costly than building new roads. As for Harlow who asked us, the electorate if we wanted to live in an overcrowded and polluted mini city? This is the problem with the party system and party manifestos, Cllrs sign up and think that a vote means we the people agree with every crack pot idea they list. Don't they realise we vote for the least objectionable. Cllrs are encouraged by the party system to "never think for themselves at all" in order to rise politically: when faced with a decision they tend to toe the party line rather than anything else. If anyone wants to live in a city then they can choose to live elsewhere, go live in London. Harlow is a well designed town, it has seen better days and the question is how come successive administrations have failed to live up to the vision of Sir Fred? Local shopping hatches, libraries and community buildings, walking and cycling routes, very few private car journeys, good public transport, green spaces, woods and wedges, low rise housing, affordable homes for with gardens are all principles upon which Harlow was designed and are all bang up to date concepts that Cllrs ignore. Mini city, Ba Humbug! Not needed, not wanted. The Torys laughed at Labour for failing to secure funding and failing to empty the bins and have shown they are just as incompetent. Both red and blue have failed to secure substantial funds offered by The Arts Council to improve the quality of life in Harlow. The Arts Council actually identified Harlow as a town in great need of investment and invited the town to apply but neither Labour or Conservative administrations managed to complete the forms or get their acts together. It hardly inspires confidence in either district or county councils.
Novoman, you have hit a number of nails on the head, which our political representatives of both Parties just don't seem to be able to grasp. The Town Centre Plan (just the latest in a long list of Plans) is just full of hot air, which cost us Council Tax payers £93,000 and counting, some £500 per page. It says nothing about how the Council expects it's aspirations will be met, indeed looking at the four 'areas' they believe will be created they are simply far fetched. Take the Playhouse Square as just one example, the taxi rank moved into college Square, a huge flat block in front of The Playhouse, some sort of shops enhancing the area ......... will any of this attract visitors to the town, I don't think so. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but as things stand it will be throwing money after bad, work in Market Square is a present day example of how money will be squandered.