Letter to Editor: Harlow Labour must stop talking the town down
Politics / Mon 27th Feb 2023 at 11:08am
I write in response to the litany of articles from the Leader of the Harlow Labour group, Cllr Chris Vince, and his constant defeatism and talking down of Harlow, particularly in response to the new hospital Harlow is getting.
It is high time that the Harlow Labour group stopped talking down the new hospital and instead look at the incredible opportunities this will bring, not just bringing healthcare in Harlow into the twenty first-century, but creating the best possible environment for the incredible staff at PAH. Furthermore, the fact that thanks to another major Government investment into Harlow, namely the move of the UK Health Security Agency (into which the Government has already invested nearly £400 million) as well as Harlow’s Enterprise Zone (yes a further £27.5 million Government investment into Harlow), Harlow truly will be the public health science capital of Europe, creating thousands of high-skilled jobs for Harlow’s young people, and more investment to build an even better Harlow.
Since 2010, the Government have invested many tens of millions into PAH – significantly more than the previous Labour Government did. In fact, as far as records show until Keir Starmer visited PAH a few weeks ago, no senior Labour figure had visited for decades – such is the commitment the Harlow Labour group had to the successful campaign for our new campaign. Not once did they support Robert Halfon MP in his tireless crusade to secure a new hospital, and not once did they press the Labour Party nationally to support this. Most recently, in last year’s Autumn Budget, Labour MPs voted against the £3.3 billion additional funding for the NHS.
And to the sceptics and doomsters, the Government has been abundantly clear whether it be in the House of Commons, official Government papers such as the Levelling Up White Paper and Spending Review, or in Ministerial visits to Harlow – Harlow is getting a new hospital, in fact a “new, integrated high-tech healthcare campus”, backed by £3.7 billion of initial capital funding to support the New Hospital Programme in its first four years.
Of course the impact of Covid has delayed the works. Most fair-minded residents know this and also accept that debate over the location of the site has caused further delays. Some residents have called for it to be built on the existing site, some have called for it to be built on the new site which in itself takes more time and is more complex due to ongoing negotiations with land-owners to purchase the site as well as the time taken to receive the necessary planning permissions. But that said, I am resolutely confident that this will now accelerate significantly.
And for that reason, I sincerely hope that the Harlow Labour group no longer talk down this major investment and moreover, talk down Harlow. We live in an incredible town which is entering its next chapter – a chapter only made possible because of billions of pounds of investment from this Conservative Government whether it be the £45 million announced for the town centre in the last two years, the £85 million Junction 7a, the £800 million move of the UK Health Security Agency to Harlow, our new hospital, our Enterprise Zone and Innovation Park, the huge investments into our school infrastructure and over £20 million into Harlow College in recent years – I could go on. We are situated at the heart of the London-Cambridge corridor, we can reach central London in a mere 30 minutes on the train or fly from Stansted, just 15 minutes away. We are the home of some of the UK’s most impressive SMEs and have truly ridden the wave of innovation, inventing fibre optics, antidepressants, the franking machine, the post it note, and yes, the recipe to Baileys.
And yes, the previous council did allow our town to decline. But we now have the possibility to rebuild our town, making it one of the best in Britain to raise a family, work, start a business and live. I passionately believe that the future of Harlow is the brightest it has been since the town was first pioneered and built and that is in no way thanks to the constant talking down of our prospects from the Harlow Labour group.
Cllr Dan Swords
Your not building for 5000 people waiting on council housing. Your building to bring thousands of more people into this town , with no infrastructure in place. What people write is what they see. We see a new bus station, when all it needed was maintenance. We keep hearing of new hospital, but to no avail. We see our roads in such a disgrace, that it's now becoming a danger. We see our green belt being destroyed 8n abundance through theses unaffordable housing estates, being built round our wet lands, we see a road being built right through our river stort. We see house repairs not being done, or you wait . We see our voices not being listened to over theses issues, and the list goes on and on. I'm not against the regeneration of town centre, but residents and local issues must come first.. After all we are the ones who keep you all on your thrones.
Problem is Dan - we just don't believe you. You have said so much, and for so long, around the hospital and other elements with literally nothing happening - and we know the government promise of 40 new hospitals was just not true. Perhaps people would be less jaded and more optimistic if something, just something moved forward, whether it be the hospital, mending the roads, mending the council housing stock, regenerating the town centre - just give us something!
I am afraid Dan that the two previous comments sum up why residents have little faith in either of the two main pollical parties whether nationally or locally. Public Health England bought the premises in Harlow some 6 years ago and is presently mothballed, the cost to convert has more than doubled in the meantime. We now know that the pledge to build 40 new hospitals was nothing more than pie in the sky, latest estimates are that just 8 will be built. The PAH move to another site was supposed to mean that it could be open a year earlier than if it remained on the existing site, that is 2025. As yet the land has still not been bought and the latest news on an opening date is 2030. Lets not forget it will not be in Harlow but in the EFDC area. I have posted before that many residents talk down the town despite all the wonderful facilities in a town so small, the rugby club being just one of which we should be very proud of.
Dan Nothing damages the town more than a Party in power that is falling apart, doesn't listen to the residents, trashes the environment, has Cllrs blocking projects because of personal grudges, others that apparently work for property consultants who work for hggt for the Epping Latton development, whilst the Council throws £21 million dabbling in retail property speculation, is supporting Epping and East Herts Councils to gain government grants to meet their housing targets by dumping thousands of executive homes butt up to Harlow (at no benefit to Harlow) and whilst dumping all the traffic, surface flood water and sewage overflow from said expansion into Harlow. As for the new hospital, no site, no or sight for it or for it except that it's going to be 4.5 miles away from the town centre and well away from the current and new bus station: also, perhaps Herts new rail planners know something we haven't been told, because on the plans for their new transport system to be built in the future, the hospital is shown as being on its' present site. The Eastern raised road Crossing (Stort Valley wrecking plan), The Market Square and Purford Green were a tests of the Conservative government and Harlow and Essex Councils, they failed. Previously Labour were either fooled, naive or levered by the property speculator backed Conservative Government either way it doesn't look good for Harlow residents. We would like to hear about better policies, strategies and actions that benefit the residents rather than those escaping London and from all parties, rather than just the usual ya boo left right red blue politics. Perhaps it's time to go green? Councillors once elected always toe the party line ahead of those they are supposed to represent, the electorate.
The present administration has only been in office for less than two years after a decade of decline, waste and inaction by previous Labour administrations. •It has delivered on its promise to cut and then freeze the Harlow element of Council Tax. •It has started the biggest regeneration of the Town Centre since Harlow New Town was established. It has in this short time become a major landowner in the Town Centre, something Labour was never able to achieve. Works are already commencing. •It inherited a huge backlog of housing repairs, the legacy of Labour incompetence , and has already launched an emergency roof replacement programme that has seen over a 100 roofs replaced since December using Harlow based contractors. • Its recent budget not only includes new investments in Pets Corner, The Playhouse, Harlow Museum, playgrounds and paddling pools, but a 5-year £102 million programme for housing repairs including to tackle the disgraceful issue of mould and damp that afflict so many residents. • It has launched the biggest council house building programme in decades with a £35 mn programme on a number of sites commencing this year. The contrast between this administration and the decline and abject failure under Labour could not be starker. There is much to do to catch up with comparable new towns established after WW2, but Harlow is finally on the right track. We cannot risk a return to Labour waste.
Nicholas, you obviously have not been to the UKHSA site recently. I have and it is far from mothballed! And yes, it seems no matter what is brought forward, not just Labour but a small group of doom-mongers have to find fault, and it is always the same group of people!
Ok, all well and good. When is the playhouse quarter, and new bus station getting underway??
Michael, I have not had the opportunity of going on site, but it is clear from driving by many times that there are very few if any people working on the site. Lets not forget that the site was first identified by PHE as long ago as 2015 and 3 construction firms were appointed back in January 2018. It was said at the time that up to 2750 people would be working on site by 2024, but reports circulating in April last year said that it had been mothballed. Which ever way you look at it, the Conservative Government and Harlow Council have misled residents by the promise of new jobs and the need for hundreds if not thousands of new homes in the area on the back of this development.
There's a lot of you on here that seem to forget that we've only had the present people running the Council and the Town for the last couple of years!!!! The Labour Council did bugger all and left us all to rot for years under their control and my parents were some of the many that voted for them. All of the repairs, shoddy workmanship, potholed roads etc etc were left year after year. The Terminus House Bus Station that actually put some people out of business, was built and then left! When did anybody see anyone out there painting it and keeping it up. The same goes for the housing stock. The Labour run council replaced SOME of the metal frames windows with double glazed units but not all in the same property so the double glazing for warmer homes was a non starter. Plus, they only last so many years before they have to be replaced, mine have been in 30+ years and are rubbish but the Labour council were not interested in replacing them or maintaining the properties both inside and out. You can't expect ANY new Council to come in and make everything better within a couple of years when they have Inherited the previous LAZY councils pile of rubbish AND some of the unhelpful staff.
Michael Hardware, if its doom and gloom, then that's because it probably is. People write the truth as we see it.
Let's not forget that destruction of the environment and making the mistakes again and again wrt traffic and transport will overload the town. Also what happens in Harlow has been governed by 13 years of a tory government manipulation of grants and region strategy. The decline over these years is directly traceable back to the tory Government as is the perilous state of the public services. The rich have got richer and the poor poorer. The attempts to catch up are misdirected and inadequate to make up for so many years of decline. The town is still within the top 30 in the list of most disadvantaged towns in England. On virtually every measure Harlow is failing. Hggt pfp, 16 story hi rise blocks of flats and unsustainable sustainable routes and the Council buying the Harvey Centre aren't going to solve the problems and will definitely make them worse. The rest is all fur coat...
If the outlook is so robust Cllr. Swords why did you walk away? The new hospital is not even in Harlow and is planned to be built at the earliest 2030 if ever.
Would be great if everyone could, regardless of political views, all get together behind the need for us all to make Harlow a better place, secure funding for a new hospital, improve housing and the town centre for all and make Harlow a place that we can all be proud of again.
Should have left harlow as it was because we had a excellent town here and it has been destroyed. I bet there is not many people living in harlow now that know what it was like, but i do and i can honestly say that not 1 single thing has got better nothing at all. The town has been ruined and it is so over populated it should be a crime.lol. Its shameful to see a once beautiful happy lively town turned into a concrete jungle and over populated, so many beautiful green spaces lost, pubs lost, thriving lively excellent market lost,play schemes lost, swimming pool lost and the by far better sportscentre and running track and football club lost. Nothing has been done for the better. Overloaded the town with people, houses and cars. Harlow has been well and truly ruined for ever.
To Me. Totally agree , we must be of similar age. I used to be proud to say I lived in Harlow. But that was a very long time ago
Nick Taylor, what do you k ow about politics. You was a instigator in the Hollywood party from 2014 to 2018. So stop giving it the biggern
Nicholas Taylor. What do you know about politics. You and the rest of the Harlow Alliance party are former instigators of the former UKIP Harlow party.
Dan, working for Harlow Council and Epping Council much of it in a fairly senior position for a total of 44 years, I was involved with politics every day of my working life. I have also been a member of the Chartered Institute of Housing for over 50 years. The Harlow Alliance Party has many members all with differing views on many subjects but what we have in common is concerns about the future of Harlow and the way that Councillors in the Conservative and Labour Party take no notice of anyone else's view and take a we know best attitude. I know you have the same concerns from what you have said and posted in the past.
Nicholas Taylor is spot on about the "we know best attitude", but I would say that established factions in the Labour Party do this well, but bettered by Momentum. The Decent Homes project under the last Labour council was a classic case of contractors not coordinating their work and no council appointed Clerk of Works to keep them on track. Electrical works did not always conform to accessibility standards, such as consumer units being sited above front doors or elesewhere at similar heights (see para 1.18 of Approved Document M of the Building Regulations available free online ). These issues were routinely raised by former councillor Waida Forman and I at Decent Homes meetings chaired by the council's senior housing officer Wendy Makepeace and attended regularly by John Phillips of HTS. At a Decent Homes roadshow at the Town Hall I explained to the rep of United House (I still have their Jute carrier bag giveaway) how they should create a Snagging team to hoover up remedial work so as not to disrupt scheduling. They later took up this idea in conjunction with the other main contractor. Sadly, despite this useful input my wife and I were treated with disdain by the great and the good. The Labour Group were of no support and allowed the council officers to do as they pleased with no direction given. No direction sums up the Labour Group of councillors now. At least the Conservatives have a vision for the town and been successful in their bids for government money. I would not trust the Labour Group to run me a bath, let alone the town.
Dan until you can use committed statements such as "Will Get by date XXX" rather than "is Getting" with respect to a new hospital then as Stuart says you cannot be believed. The HGGT developments must not proceed without a committed date for a new Hospital and the new Hospital must be delivered in time to keep pace to serve the ever expanding size of the local population.