Potter Street residents put pressure on Harlow Council over plans for regeneration

News / Fri 4th Nov 2022 at 10:19am

TWO Potter Street community residents have put pressure on the Tory-run Conservative council on plans to regenerate the area.

Gary Roberts and Colin Thorp asked a series of questions at Thursday nights meeting of the full council.

Film and transcripts of their questions is below.

Gary Roberts to Councillor Russell Perrin (Leader of the Council):

You have claimed your administration is about regeneration of local areas
and providing locally based council services. Therefore please explain why:
The former Potter Street neighbourhood office has remained empty for over
ten years and when will locally based council services return to Potter Street?

Reply from Councillor Russell Perrin (Leader of the Council):

Thank you for your question, Mr Roberts and I commend you for your ongoing
campaign to improve community services in Potter Street.

As you will be aware, the neighbourhood office closed many years ago. I am
committed to ensuring that building is no longer left vacant, and the Portfolio

Holder for Regeneration will announce details of a scheme to regenerate that
vacant building in the near future.

Gary Roberts to Councillor Russell Perrin (Leader of the Council):

In February this year you stated this to me:
“However, the Council is working with local residents to deliver a new Potter
Street Health and Community Hub. This has been supported by the Council’s
staff to get this over the line. I am informed refurbishment work will start soon
on the site”

Please explain why nothing has happened since on the refurbishment of the
Potter Street Health and Community hub?

Reply from Councillor Russell Perrin (Leader of the Council):

Thank you for your further question.

As you will be aware, the Portfolio Holder for HTS, Properties and Facilities is
reviewing this project given the enormous rise in costs. This was not foreseen
at the time I responded to your previous question and the relevant Portfolio
Holder will be outlining the next steps for this project. I am aware he recently
met with the Community Group and will update them again shortly.

Colin Thorpe to Councillor Steve LeMay (Portfolio Holder for HTS,

Properties and Facilities – with special responsibility for the roads):

At the full Council meeting held on the 22nd July 2022 in answer to my
supplementary question regarding the cost of repairs to Osler House

Councillor LeMay stated “But I will review it all and I will meet with your group,
and I will go through it line by line”

Following a brief meeting at Osler House on the 20th September 2022 with
Councillors LeMay, Leppard and an officer in attendance Councillor Leppard
sent an email on the 21st instant with the statement as follows;

  1. Cllr LeMay to obtain an updated budget and spec from HTS as soon
    as possible and then review this with the officer and Colin Thorpe
  2. Agree a final works schedule and budget.
    At the Harlow Common Residents Forum held on the 5th October 2022 with
    Councillors LeMay, Leppard and Wilkinson in attendance the assurance was
    given that the repairs budget would be discussed in full
    However at the meeting I attended held at the Civic Centre on the 14th
    October 2022 with Councillor LeMay and the officer the revised HTS tender
    was not available and Councillor LeMay refused to discuss any of the cost
    saving measures put forward by the group and with complete disregard to the
    Harlow’s 10 Wellbeing Plan 2018-2028
    The Local plan section L2-L4
    Harlow Councils Resilience Strategy 2021-2022 specifically the reference to
    Osler House
    The Social Values Act regarding procurement
    Harlow Council’s procurement strategy
    The Equalities Act
    I ask again when will the Council fulfil its commitment made to the
    disadvantaged groups of Harlow and commence the repairs to Osler House
    as promised?
    Reply from Councillor Steve LeMay (Portfolio Holder for HTS, Properties
    and Facilities – with special responsibility for the roads):

    As I have explained to Mr Thorpe, I am committed to the best possible
    healthcare provision in our town. I was previously the Chair of the Harlow
    Health Centres Trust (HHCT) before resigning to become a councillor. This
    charity has done enormous amounts for healthcare in Harlow and I was a
    trustee for many years.
  3. The meeting at Osler House was not brief, it was extensive, and I made very
    clear the financial constraints, we as a council face. The price of the works
    has nearly double and there is an extremely large funding gap. That is why I
    have made clear that small savings from the list Mr Thorpe has will not cover
    the funding gap.
    I also met with the community group and made clear I am not dismissive of
    the project, I care passionately about healthcare provision, but explained in
    detail the financial constraints we as a council face and that we have a large
    gap in the finances/funding between what we have the allocated budget and
    what is required.
    I have now received the revised figures from HTS and am working with
    officers to finalise the new project cost. Once I have this confirmed, I will do
    as I have always committed to doing, advise the community group on the way
    forward. I have done exactly as I promised to throughout.
    This is purely based on what we can be afforded and the best value for
    money to the taxpayer.
    4 Colin Thorpe to Councillor Alastair Gunn (Portfolio Holder for

    Is it now par for the course that regardless of which side of this Chamber you
    sit for Councillors to disregard emails sent to them?
    Out of the 33 emails I sent to the Councillors who supposed to be
    representing the people of Harlow I received 4 replies with one stating that
    the particular Councillor was on holiday giving dates in May 2022!!
    With those emails was an attachment of the Potter Street Health and
    Wellbeing Trust’s proposal for a Wellbeing Hub situated in Potter Street but
    available to all the residents of Harlow
    Councillor Code of Conduct (Part 1) General Provisions
    1 Introduction and Interpretation
    1.1As a Councillor you are a representative of this Council and the public will
    view you as such Your actions impact on how the Council as a whole is
    viewed and can have both positive and negative impacts on the Council
    4 General Obligations
    4.1You must treat others with respect
    As a resident of Harlow the Chair of Harlow Common Residents Forum and
    the Treasurer of the Potter Street Health and Wellbeing Trust by ignoring 29
    out of the 33 emails sent have Councillors created a negative effect on the
    Council as a whole and treated me with respect as laid down in that Code of
    Reply from Councillor Alastair Gunn (Portfolio Holder for Governance):
    Councillors are elected to serve residents in their ward. Except insofar as they
    may have wider responsibilities such as being a Portfolio Holder or being a
    Member Champion, Councillors would not be expected to reply to any
    correspondence received from those they are not elected to represent and to
    whom they are not democratically accountable.
    It is also important to recognise that Councillors are not full-time officers and
    have to balance their public sector responsibilities with jobs, families and
    other commitments.
    I trust this explains to Mr Thorpe why he was unlikely to receive responses
    from Councillors that do not represent the Harlow Common ward.
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8 Comments for Potter Street residents put pressure on Harlow Council over plans for regeneration:

gary roberts
2022-11-04 14:20:29

So the leader of the council can get a new microphone in under 30 seconds. Pity he couldn't get the well-being hub in Potter Street up and going in over ten months. I hope his constituents' took note at his patronising approach to an issue important to the residents of Potter Street. Leadership eh!

gary roberts
2022-11-04 15:32:03

Then of course there is the former Potter Street council neighbourhood office. All we got was jam tomorrow after nineteen years of it sitting empty. The leader wants you to know his administration is committed to regeneration. Isn't that encouraging to know: So what regeneration in Harlow has happened so far? Any answers not including the word "nothing" would be appreciated.

From Potter Street
2022-11-04 17:34:56

Why can’t the old neighbourhood office and the COMMUNITY CENTRE be used both are supposed to be for the community but then the dance school has been allowed to take that over & nothing for the local community takes place there. They just block the road when classes are taking place.

John Spencer
2022-11-05 00:09:31

After 3 years of emails and a number of complaints, petition, Harlow council still land a giant communal bin shed right outside the living room of 49 Mercers. The only view is a giant, in your face tree wall, but it had a tiny patch of grass, but it was too much luxury? So now it's become a giant enforced communal bin shed, a claustrophobic brick wall to go on the tree wall. Councillor Lemay came round and said he's done it much closer than this before, indicating a few feet. Cllr Lemay has destroyed 49 Mercers. Don't let him tell anyone else it was wanted by the residents. This is the opposite of making homes nicer, it's trashing them down to bin tip sites, degrading Harlow homes. Regenerating, what a laff, to rubble more like. Who do I vote for, to put the residents interests first, not last !?

2022-11-05 10:30:24

It was a series of disasters that the neighbourhood office, the community and the health centres have been closed. The team there and in the community centre did a great job for the community. The town was designed to have Neighbourhood services the effects of these closures have been to literally attack the community putting it under stress. The Council put distance between itself and the community becoming more worried about backing rampant property developers and idiotic road building schemes than residents and the community, just like the current government. The costs of their mistakes are bourne on the backs of the population. As for wellbeing government, County and local government haven't a clue how to improve it. Go back to basics, the drawing board of Sir Frederick Gibberd's design philosophy, ideas much the same as these are being adopted in towns everywhere.

Nicholas Taylor
2022-11-05 10:53:06

As the last Neighbourhood manager at the Potter Street office I would concur with Nostradamus. Closing offices was the beginning of the end of the Council not only providing it's services in the neighbourhood but also other services being provided locally. Harlow Council had been at the forefront of decentralising services, building on the principles set out by Frederick Gibberd. Area Committees were closed down so that Councillors could no longer be scrutinised by residents in the area they represented and visiting the Civic Offices meant that you could not actually see officers who were providing services. The Council has a Community Engagement Strategy, quite frankly this is not worth the paper it is written on. Councillors are supposed to represent their constituents, it seems that as soon as they walk through the doors of the Civic Offices they suffer from memory loss.

2022-11-05 12:33:36

Nicholas, agree, the engagement strategy that closed the neighbourhood offices was disengagement. The Council has worked diligently to reduce services and disengage as with the theatre, study centre, Science Alive centre, Pets Corner and cut facilities like the ski slope and on and on. It's been downhill for 30 or 40 years putting Harlow as 20th in the list of most disadvantaged towns in the country.

House owner
2022-11-05 17:47:54

House owner.I agree with your previous posted comments about the use of the community centre in Potters Street,it should be used by the community not just the dance school.I would not cost to much to be used by the new. Hub.

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