Playhouse Square to be transformed as Government awards £20m for Harlow Council regeneration scheme

Business / Thu 19th Jan 2023 am31 07:17am

A NEW live music venue and upgrades to the Playhouse will be delivered following Harlow Council successfully securing £20m of government funding to transform and regenerate Playhouse Square and College Square.

The scheme has been backed with funding from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund which was announced today. The area will be transformed into an Arts and Cultural Quarter as part of the regeneration of Harlow town centre and will include:

· A live music and performance venue (including music school and recording studio)
· Upgrades to the Playhouse
· New pedestrian focused and engaging public square for events, outdoor performances, cinema, and outdoor dining
· Contemporary bar and café
· Artist and maker studio spaces
· High-quality residential apartments
· Flexible studios for creative and performing arts, rehearsal space, events, smaller and outdoor performances, and community uses
· A new art gallery and associated spaces for literary arts, spoken word, education events and visiting exhibitions and installations
· Green pocket park with natural play installations
· Accessibility provisions including disabled parking and accessibly designed spaces
· Upgraded and secure underpass beneath Haydens Road

The scheme will bring together a diverse range of artistic, entertainment, cultural and heritage disciplines to establish a regional hub of innovative and engaging events and activities.

The iconic buildings – the Playhouse Theatre and St Paul’s Church – will remain at the heart of the new quarter.

As part the scheme’s delivery the council purchased the derelict Occasio House site in December. The buildings will be demolished, and the land used for a new high-quality residential development. Following the council’s recent purchase of the Harvey Centre, there is also the opportunity to integrate part of the centre into the regeneration scheme.

Councillor Dan Swords, Deputy Leader of the Council, has hailed this as another historic moment for the regeneration of Harlow town centre. He said:

“This is another historic moment for the regeneration of the town centre following the recent purchases of Occasio House and the Harvey Centre, the £46 million investment from Strawberry Star and approval for the £15m redevelopment of the bus station and Terminus Street being funded by the government’s Towns Fund.

“Not only will this Levelling Up funding regenerate another part of the town centre, but it will also support leisure, art and culture and boost the local economy. The brilliant Playhouse and iconic St Paul’s Church will remain the centrepieces of this regeneration scheme, a scheme which will improve lives.

“From the consultation we carried out earlier this year there is clear public and stakeholder backing for this scheme which clearly strengthened our bid. I also want to pay tribute to the council’s regeneration team who worked so hard to improve the bid and secure this funding for Harlow.

“I also want to pay very sincere tribute to Harlow’s MP, Robert Halfon, without whom we would not have secured this money. He has lobbied tirelessly in Westminster and that is the reason this fantastic bid has been approved.

“We are delivering on the council’s commitment to entirely rebuild our town centre. We are also continuing our work with all our other regeneration priorities for the town, like building new council homes, repairing existing council homes and restoring pride in the town.”

Cllr Lesley Wagland OBE, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Renewal, Infrastructure and Planning, said: 

“This funding will boost the Harlow town centre economy, helping make more of its arts and cultural facilities and enhancing the town centre for residents and visitors alike. 

“Essex County Council is committed to our own Levelling Up Strategy, in which Harlow is one of our six priority areas, and we look forward to working with Harlow Council to bring these plans to fruition.”

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37 Comments for Playhouse Square to be transformed as Government awards £20m for Harlow Council regeneration scheme:

Bobbly Bobbler
2023-01-19 07:25:39

the artist seems to have forgotten to add the e-scooters, skateboards, bikes and gangs from the green pocket park

Chris Snow
2023-01-19 07:57:57

Excellent news! This is the right project in the right place - as a community I hope we all get behind it. The hard work of making it happen starts now!

Tony Durcan
2023-01-19 07:58:32

Very pleased that this long held aspiration has finally been achieved. The plan has been worked on for nearly 10 years and some of the council staff have been working on this from day 1. This is a reflection of the importance of partnership working with community groups and external bodies. Good to see that the majority of the original application which was rejected by the govt has now been approved.Lets hope the sprit of partnership and working together is maintained and all are recognised. Either way a good day for Harlow.

Luke Burton
2023-01-19 08:10:26

It will turn into another dump. I do hope I am wrong so good luck to the council and developers.

Yasmin Gregory
2023-01-19 08:19:53

As part of Harlow’s Levelling Up campaign, will we see the office block slums disappear? Three buildings were featured in an exhibition by Rob Clayton entitled “These are Homes”. We appear to be heading up the Slum league table with someone somewhere making money from displacing families from other parts of the country. If the office blocks were converted to the same standard as the Pearson building, there would be no reason for mould, respiratory problems or increased mental health problems. Levelling Up has been described by Lord Nigel Crisp as a missed opportunity. His Healthy Homes private members bill is looking to address the gaps. Meanwhile, save the glossy brochures and start building homes for those in desperate need. Let’s look at the empty homes that can be re-let.

geoff turner
2023-01-19 08:30:00

another complete waste of money try fixing the roads and council estates first before starting a new development.does the town really need another cafe and bar this will be another market square disaster

2023-01-19 08:59:36

Fabulous news! Great opportunity to transform one of the key areas of the town centre and get some life back. Let's get on with this and the other redevelopments - 2023 could be Harlow's year and goodness have we been waiting long enough for it.

James Leppard
2023-01-19 09:21:04

While it is satisfying to see Cllr Durcan’s broad support for this ambitious and much needed regeneration and cultural uplift, it is disingenuous of him to attempt to claim credit and associate the previous Labour administration with this. In 10 years in administration, during which time he was the Portfolio holder for Regeneration, they achieved next to nothing as the decline of the Town Centre clearly shows. The new Masterplan, including this latest initiative, is the exclusive work of the current administration. In less than two years, it has turbo-charged regeneration and is delivering on its electoral pledge radically to improve the Town Centre and provide the promised new live music venue. Labour’s outdoor table tennis tables and weed beds in Market Square don’t really cut it and amount to more waste of taxpayers’ taxes; a hallmark of the previous Labour administration.

2023-01-19 09:29:14

Be nice if you do the pot holes in the road first.

Moaning murtle
2023-01-19 09:43:27

Harlow council can't even maintain what they have, the answer of course is to build more houses and regenerate a place for gangs, graffiti artists and alcoholics. Get your house in order first!! Fix the roads, address cctv in shopping centres, stop other coucils dumping residents in this town.

2023-01-19 10:08:42

Make this The Square mark 2: pity that Essex CC then Harlow Council shut it down and turned it into "a parking lot". Harlow Rock school should be given first dibbs in the new building at zero rent: just get the market traders back and street entertainment into the market Square and refurbish the shop fronts so they lose the drab 50s post war look so they at least have the exterior character of traditional Essex towns and villages and then we might have a chance to restore the fortunes of what was once a thriving town centre

2023-01-19 10:19:29

3...2...1...Nicholas Taylor, Nostradamus and Kim O'Connor incoming to pee all over this. How about for a nice change of pace you three try to find some positives?

David Forman
2023-01-19 11:18:12

Wonderful news at last. Changing Labour's brutal architecture of the 1960's for the better. Shame Tony Durcan tried to hang to the Tories coattails when he had started his comment so well. A bit more effort next time Tony.

Bruce Downey
2023-01-19 11:26:36

Brilliant News!! It seems forever since the bid was made and waiting for the go-ahead finally ✌️ Harlow is on the UP! 😁

2023-01-19 12:13:56

This is great. This can be another feather in the councils cap with all the other fabulous developments they have carried out in this town. Tongue firmly in cheek!

2023-01-19 12:56:01

Alex: why include Nostradamus? Don't assume on the basis of your biases. I took part in the consultation for this development and succeeded adding features to the plan. Making the town centre for affordable access to sports, the Arts and entertainment and providing creative spaces and as suggested by others in this thread, bringing back The Square and giving Harlow Rock School a first class home are all extremely desirable features. It works as a healthy regeneration : see Sariavo and developments of towns in Holland. Harlow was identified as one of the worst places in the uk for the Arts by The Arts Council: so much so they actually offered funding unfortunately Harlow wasn't able to get a bid together. It's stuffing the town centre with awful high rise flats, unworkable unsustainable "sustainable corridors, trashing the environment of the Stort Valley, filling ex office buildings with substandard rabbit hutches to house people dumped there by the London Boroughs to which I and others object. The negatives are the strategies that the Council has pursued that have led to the decline of the quality of life here over the last 40 years.

2023-01-19 13:07:31

James you forgot to mention that the Labour administration was undermined and under funded by a hostile Conservative County Council and even more daft Tory Government. As we can see after 12 years of Tory Government and the heritage of Maggie Thatcher' philosophy the result is total meltdown and chaos. £20 million is nowhere near enough to put right the damage here, it's just a sop leading up to an election. Meanwhile all of the other plans being put forward for the town will simply make matters worse.

2023-01-19 13:57:08

Harlow could do with some levelling up of its roads.... Pothole City!

2023-01-19 14:19:46

"High quality apartments" - anyone else hear alarm bells ringing? Will these be more flats locals can't afford? And how long before this tidy little square is neglected and un-useable? Y'know, like most of the town's roads.

gary roberts
2023-01-19 15:38:45

Apparently this development is funded by a government "levelling up" grant. How does building a new theatre, a new music venue and unaffordable housing, level up those unable to feed, house, and keep warm their families in this town?

2023-01-19 15:44:03

Please deal with the awful roads in Harlow first. Not only the main roads but those that run through the estates.

2023-01-19 15:45:28

Let’s deal with getting our roads sorted out before dealing with other things.

2023-01-19 16:13:48

20 million won't even be close in the money needed to build everything they're saying there. So where is the money coming from? Be better to fix what you have first surely?

2023-01-19 18:10:48

Gary Roberts, I know so many people in Harlow who never frequent the Town Centre. It is bleak, miserable and devoid of decent shops and leisure options. They and many others from Harlow shop in neighbouring towns, whereas in the past, Harlow Town centre was a magnet. Just look at the contrast with Bracknell in Berkshire, a new town that was built around the same time as Harlow. Their town centre was also dated, but never allowed to sink to the levels of Harlow. They undertook massive regeneration and the results and positive impact are astounding. It has become a regional destination. A good town centre with quality shops, entertainment and leisure offerings will be a catalyst as it has been in Bracknell and other more visionary towns to stimulate growth and investment. How can we expect to attract quality companies here offering well paid employment when we have a town centre like at present ? This is a much needed and long overdue measure.

Clare Harrison McCartney
2023-01-19 18:12:49

This is fantastic news. Well done!

2023-01-19 18:18:01

Bang on Moaning murtle, add to this that's all there interested in is building more houses, apartments and eye sore high rise flats, they really need to get their act together and sort out what we already have. "High-quality residential apartments" How the hell will that help the homeless of this Town.

2023-01-19 18:27:57

Gary Roberts and rasp, you might recall that this Conservative administration was elected with a manifesto pledge to regenerate the Town Centre precisely as it is proceeding to do. Your criticisms are misplaced and incoherent. The administration is doing what it promised and what people in Harlow want.

2023-01-19 18:44:47

What people in Harlow want is to have what we have now to be cleaned up, roads and road signage to be sorted and get rid of the dangers that this is presenting to us. Ask anyone if they would prefer this over high rise or high quality apartments, thousands of more houses and a hospital that cant cope and see what reply's you get. Misplaced and incoherent are you kidding. You sir started off so well with your last post but you really need to have a word with yourself.

peter henegan
2023-01-19 19:39:14

1. This is OUR money that is being spent, raised by the highest level of taxation in 70 years I believe 2. This is a massive project so do hope that it succeeds. However will the bomb site formerly known as the Square be developed, and will the former Odeon also be included. Part of the Stow was also knocked down a while back and remains knocked down. 3. Given the proximity of the hospital to the town centre, when that moves what will the impact on footfall be. I can't understand how two such major projects can be considered in isolation. 4. As others have stated, our infrastructure is crumbling. Do we really want a shiny new centre when our roads, footpaths and cycle tracks look more like those of an undeveloped country every day. Perhaps YH could run a survey on what people prefer. I know I sound negative but I just can't understand why there isn't money to do basic maintenance but there is money to spend on improvements .Did i see the other day that £3miilion is spent PER DAY on the houses of Parliament?

2023-01-19 19:42:10

Rasp, these matters are not mutually exclusive. A number of interesting initiatives are in the offing for a number of issues you raise where Harlow Council has authority. You will also note the biggest council house building programme in many, many years and an estates regeneration programme. This is a specific grant for a specific purpose. It is not an either or.

2023-01-19 21:39:52

Having just moved here & hearing the town will get a face lift is great news - but I don’t think I have ever seen so many huge potholes in the roads around Harlow. Really damaging for all cars and they need to be fixed first.

2023-01-19 23:17:02

What they need to do is sort the roads out in harlow make it look decent Guess what people need to do is stop paying car tax and stop paying council tax maybe then they will do something The roads near schools should be there first priority especially by burnt mill well maybe when someone gets killed they will act on it

gary roberts
2023-01-20 06:52:42

James, manifesto promises? Incoherence and misplaced? Really? My question: How does building a new theatre, a new music venue and unaffordable housing, level up those unable to feed, house, and keep warm their families in this town? Have a go at answering that before suggesting my comment was misplaced. In Potter Street people's health is more important so that investment would be better used in providing buildings that deal with that such as the well-being hub in your area. Isn't it?

2023-01-20 13:13:30

Yes, Gary, it was a major manifesto pledge and it is being honoured. Again you are mixing Apples and Oranges. The Levelling Up funds are for specific capital projects. Harlow Council submitted a compelling case and was awarded£20 m for specific town centre regeneration, an area where Harlow has declined and seriously lagged behind. The aspects you mention are part of the Levelling Up funding process and are covered by other programmes. You should be delighted that this regeneration is going ahead. It will be a vast improvement to the local economy and stimulate more Harlow residents to shop and spend their leisure time here, rather going to neighbouring towns as virtually everybody I know does.

gary roberts
2023-01-20 13:30:17

Again James you failed to answer my question sadly. I know it will appear on your next election leaflet but seriously is it relevant to the current issues many have in this town. Will these developments get people to come to this town? I suspect not because prices will be inflated and people will not come just to admire the facade of so called change.

2023-01-20 15:48:17

Dear Gary, what point do you think I failed to address? As I made clear, these Levelling Up Funds are awarded for specific capital projects nationwide. Councils make their own submissions. The issues you mention are not eligible under these grants. As for whether these will attract people, just visit and read the experience of Bracknell, built as a new town the same time as Harlow and with an almost identical layout and design. The contrast could not be starker. We need to look beyond the narrow confines of Harlow to see successful regeneration projects. The Harlow team has done painstaking research in this regard. The whole project will be expertly partnered.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-01-20 16:28:29

I have made many comments about this bid in the past, I think it is a wasted opportunity to make a real difference to the residents of Harlow. The real issue now of course is that of raging inflation in the building industry since this bid was made. It is really difficult to see how all the scheme will be completed within the budget allowed and if there is a shortfall, where will the money to complete the scheme come from?

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