Letter to Editor: Is this what Harlow Council calls consultation?
News / Wed 17th Aug 2022 at 07:07am
THE leader of the Harlow Alliance Party has slammed the consultation process over the future of the area surrounding the Harlow Playhouse.
Nicholas Taylor said: ‘Harlow Council’s dismal attempts to consult with residents continue despite the Community Engagement Strategy adopted by the Council earlier this year.
The Council recently completed its consultation about the future of The Playhouse Square. Cllr Swords reported that consultation had taken place with 55,000 residents and 130 stakeholders but who knew about this consultation? Did it appear in the Harlow Times, no, were Residents Associations asked to inform their members, no, was any information placed on the council owned notice boards dotted around the town, no, was the consultation document produced in any other language, no.
It comes as no surprise then that just 240 responses were received, and 499 comments made, at most just a 1.4% return from those consulted.
It is clear that this has just been another tick box exercise carried out by the Council and far from the responses strengthening the Council’s bid as claimed by Cllr Swords, it might be the opposite.
“The Council has clearly not learnt lessons from the past. We can only hope that if the bid to Government is successful, it undertakes a much better attempt to consult with residents before any money is spent on vanity projects”.
Think it's there plan Don't want to hear what residents have to say. Then make a little story up instead. People do realise there not being listened to.
Just to add to this article, the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town team are carrying out a survey at the moment, one of the questions is "To what extent do you agree or disagree that you personally can influence decisions affecting your local area". The vast majority of responses are either disagree or definitely disagree. This is at the heart of why about 70% of the electorate now fail to take the trouble to vote any more, fed up with politicians who take no notice of or indeed fail to engage with them.
Consultation could be much improved. Re hggt everything from them is basically spam, retrospectively papering over the massive cracks, indifference and lip service paid to Harlow residents and ignorance they displayed of the petition signed by thousands to Save Our Stort.
Instead of wasting money on this project, The Playhouse itself needs revitalising, it is dingy, needs redecorating, it will stand out like sore thumb with this playhouse square redevelopment. The benefits could attract more theatre lovers, and become the in place to go, look at Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch as an example.
Fairy2 the Councils bid for money from the government does I understand include carrying out work to the Playhouse, but it will remain the smallest theatre in the region and thus Harlow will never become a regional player when it comes to culture and the arts. The town needs a new, much larger theatre, a large music venue and exhibition hall where events such as car shows, stamp fairs, toy fairs, Christmas market and much much more can be held, attracting thousands of visitors to the town centre. The Council needs a bolder vision for our Town Centre, buy up Market House and the land around it, demolish it and build a new centre of culture, turning Market Square into the vibrant place it once was but for a different reason.
I would like to add that I believe the council should bid for the Harvey centre which is currently for sale. They could open up the first floor of the centre to provide access similar to the cinema for the Playhouse. With both the playhouse and cinema on this floor this would attract evening activities.The ground floor of the playhouse could then be used for other activity including a new bar similar to what we had 30 years ago. The old BHS site would provide some unique opportunities if we had people with vision instead of quick headline grabbing quotes. Sadly there is little new in the bid except for the con of a music venue. Just like the worlds best cycle lanes or funding for a new PAH just a lump of lies. I want the bid to be successful based on truth and community aspiration. Not sure we have either.
Blow me Tony, it is a shame that you did not have such a bold vision when your Party put in a bid which failed. I understand the old BHS store is not in the same ownership as the Harvey Centre and has been up for sale for some years. Creating a physical link into the Playhouse would enable the ground floor to be used as exhibition space whilst creating a larger theatre and live music venue. I would still say that my earlier suggestion is a better one if only because I cannot see how the northern end of the Town Centre and Market Square will ever become vibrant again just by allowing two flat blocks to be built adjacent to the latter.
The joy of regeneration is that you need to look differently at what you see. The Harvey centre was never available to consider and we never had the funding available. Funding is now due to the strategic boards that were set up by partners including the council when under Labour control. BHS is a huge site and would be better suited as a music venue and an indoor outdoor market of small outlets and stalls. You need the Harvey centre first as it’s all connected. If I was in charge I would be bidding for this as well as having a serious conversation over Livingston house. Like occasio house I would hope the council would buy the site and develop self contained independent homes for vulnerable adults run and owned by the council. The key building is the old post office building for market square.get that and you open up massive opportunities. Shame the current administration is only about criticism not engagement. Don’t get me started about the old court building or the field opposite the water gardens,amazing opportunities.
Well as I understand it Tony, indeed signage on the former BHS store says so, the idea of an indoor type of market was mooted and advertised for that space but there were no takers. As for the Post Office site, you have obviously come round to the thinking within the Harlow Alliance Party, we have been saying for years that this should form part of a whole new development on the northern side of the Town Centre, to include Market House. As for the original article, your Party was just as bad as the Tories when it comes to consultation, the very reason that whilst you were in power, the Harlow Alliance Party was set up.
So Mr Durcan what do you have in mind for the field opposite The Water Gardens by which i take it you mean the one with the horses in to the South of Third Ave?
Jarrett. Sculpture field a mixture of wild flower planted areas with a path ways to a number of new large sculptures . Some park benches and water points etc. Would look brilliant looking down from the Watergardens and from the new school. The field doesn’t belong to the council but at the time the owners were interested.
Just to add, it is a good job you are not still in charge then Tony, the idea of developing the Occasia House site for homes for vulnerable people is not what our Town Centre needs. This is an ideal site for two bed homes for the over 55's, close to all amenities and occupied by residents who have moved out of homes which they no longer need.
I agree that the whole of the Town centre outside the Water Gardens needs to be considered regarding demolition/regeneration. Having lived in Harlow most of my life I visited the town centre other than the Water Gardens shops for the first time in about 3 years. Including the Harvey centre sorry to say there are only 2-3 shops outside of the Water Gardens that are of any attraction to me. And the whole of broadwalk is filthy, not with rubbish but grained in dirt on the walkways and paving. with more and more food outlets this will only get worse. Its just not a pleasant place to go. Refurbishing playhouse Square on its own will make little difference. I really think demolition and rebuilding in carefully thought out stages leading to an overall redesign of retail, arts, leisure, work and living quarters can be the only answer. Partnership will be needed with all current owners of land and buildings. It must be understand assets will be worth less and less unless concessions to overall development of the area are made.
I agree that the whole of the Town centre outside the Water Gardens needs to be considered regarding demolition/regeneration. Having lived in Harlow most of my life I visited the town centre other than the Water Gardens shops for the first time in about 3 years. Including the Harvey centre sorry to say there are only 2-3 shops outside of the Water Gardens that are of any attraction to me. The whole of Broadwalk is filthy, not with rubbish but grained in dirt on the walkways and paving. With more and more food outlets this will only get worse. It is just not a pleasant place to go. Refurbishing playhouse Square on its own will make little difference. Demolition and rebuilding in carefully thought out stages leading to an overall redesign of retail, arts, leisure, work and living quarters can be the only answer. Partnership will be needed with all current owners of land and buildings. they must understand assets will be worth less and less unless concessions to overall development of the area are made.
Nicholas you lose the argument when you trigger personal attacks Let’s stop it. Happy to engage if civil only.
Tony, personal attacks? I simply expressed a view that your idea for the future of Occasia House was not what the Town Centre needs and criticised your Party's past performance on the subject of my letter. The new plan for the area is as bad as the one that your Party made an unsuccessful bid for, but that will be the subject of another article in due course.
Tony, Thank you.
The problem with the Town Centre is that we lack a legally run council that will act in the interests of the people of Harlow. Look at Little Walk, it has been part demolished for many years, and businesses had to move out. The Odeon is an eyesore, and has been for many years. Someone from Harlow Council who acted fraudulently towards me was moved to Head of Regeneration instead of being sacked. Until we have a legally run council we will not get any proper consultation, no proper management; and public money will be wasted on council officers who are not fit for purpose, carrying out quasi consultations that will amount to nothing. We lack democracy in Harlow to hold anyone to account. This is truly a sham of a council, and a disgrace to the people of Harlow who are not getting value for their council taxes. To a very large degree I agree with Mr Taylor.
Regardless of politics both parties agree we need investment into this quarter of the town centre. We can argue who has the best ideas but we all agree on the principles. If you look at the last plan compared to the new one the core principles are the same. The Tories are very confident they will get full funding for this project this time. Sadly last time none of the Essex applications were successful. I sincerely hope we as a town get what we deserve and receive full and funded approval. If not I can’t wait to see who gets the blame. It need to happen this time.
Readers will note that the Conservatives have made no response to this article, that is, their dismal consultation exercise.
Everyone needs to stop bickering, consult the tax payers of Harlow and give us a town that we can be proud of again