Demolition of Occasio House underway as part of major rebuild of Harlow Town Centre

Business / Tue 1st Aug 2023 at 04:18pm

DEMOLITION of the derelict Occasio House site has started as Harlow Council’s major rebuild of Harlow Town Centre gets underway.

Work has started by contractors DSL, to demolish and strip out the four-storey block on the site. Over the coming months the whole site, which includes the main six-storey block, will be cleared as part of a phased demolition programme to enable delivery of Harlow Council’s £20m Arts and Cultural Quarter project. 

The scheme, which the council secured a £20million government grant for, will include:

  • A new live performance/music venue
  • Major 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
  • 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

Occasio House has been empty and derelict since 2016. Its buildings are covered in aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding which is similar to the cladding used on Grenfell Tower. There is a substantial cost of more than £7m to bring the buildings back into use, therefore, the whole site is being demolished and redeveloped. The council purchased the site back in December 2022.

Photograph by Brian Thomas Photography

Work is being undertaken in phases to ensure the safe demolition of Occasio House; starting with a soft strip of internal finishes, furniture and equipment, along with sequenced mechanical demolition. This process caters for ongoing services disconnections and the logistics of demolishing and removing material from site, starting with the smaller four-storey building and finishing with the larger six-storey block. These works are programmed to complete by December 2023. Over the last few months, the council has been removing all usable equipment and furniture to donate to local charities.

Stakeholder engagement surrounding the design and delivery of the Arts and Cultural Quarter will continue with specific events planned between now and Christmas as the project progresses towards a planning application. These events will be held in the new Engagement Hub within the Harvey Centre. Free art workshops are being held in August where designs by local children will feature on hoardings around the former Occasio House site once demolition is complete. 

Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, who was on site today (1 August 2023) as demolition started, said:

“Today signals a crucial moment for the regeneration of town centre and our priority to rebuild of our town with the beginning of the demolition of the derelict Occasio House site. The phased demolition will enable delivery of our £20m regeneration scheme which will transform the Playhouse and College squares with a new live performance venue, upgrades to Harlow Playhouse, high quality residential apartments and much more besides. 

“There is no doubt that the demise of the Occasio House buildings is a sad one – these have stood derelict, unfit for use and blighting this area of the town centre for too long. The action we are taking will ensure we inject new life into this part of the town centre and restore pride as part of our phased approach to regenerating the whole town centre.

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46 Comments for Demolition of Occasio House underway as part of major rebuild of Harlow Town Centre:

2023-08-01 16:31:01

When will the council have the nerve to slap a CPO on the old cinema and demolish that too?

Jim O’Sullivan
2023-08-01 16:51:50

So The Square has been demolished and nothing has happened, the buildings next to the old Odeon have been demolished and nothing’s happened, Little Walk has been partially demolished and nothing’s happened, the service bays at the Stow have been demolished and nothing’s happened. See a pattern?

Alderman Durcan
2023-08-01 16:59:41

Whilst I welcome that the Tories have finally got round to knocking this building down,it’s taken far too long. The Labour administration bought this site when in power but it took the Tories over 12 months to sign the contract. Then nothing but false promises for another 12 months and all we have is another empty space until all the planning is in place. Sadly another ego opportunity for the leader of the council.

Dan Swords
2023-08-01 17:01:28

Alderman Durcan, this is a complete lie. The Labour party did not buy the site - this is of public record. The site was acquired in December 2022 as council documents state. You are also wrong about this being empty. £20 million has been secured to deliver the scheme, for which the plans are already in place. I am sure you will now correct the record.

2023-08-01 17:04:56

Lets hope something actually gets built. There are already too many demolished sites waiting for building to start.

Luke Burton
2023-08-01 17:05:55

Good. Now knockdown all of Market Square. Utterly disgusting place. Also, stop developers landbanking or at least influence those in your party to pass laws to prevent it.

Kim Oconnor
2023-08-01 17:20:56

20 million, Dan swords, 200,000 for a cycle race to go through Harlow,,, blink and your miss it... Theses are all your VANITY PROJECT S.

2023-08-01 17:23:54

Jim - the buildings next to the old Odeon, the strip of shops outside the Harvey Centre entrance (where TSB used to be on the corner) and Little Walk (and the whole block down to Lloyds Bank) are part of the Strawberry Star residential development. Not sure when that's meant to really get going beyond some demolition, though.

Nogin the nog
2023-08-01 17:46:54

Wy couldn't thay have done occasional house up and made it into 1 bed flats for young people who work and whant to get on in life

James Leppard
2023-08-01 17:50:53

Alderman Durcan is absolutely in no position to even comment on regeneration. He was the portfolio holder for regeneration under the last Labour administration and other than wasting over £1.2 mn on consultants' fees for projects that never saw the light of day, his regeneration efforts amounted to open air table tennis tables for drunks in Market Square. Had he been employed in the private sector he would have been summarily fired for abject incompetence. His comments are untrue and quite frankly laughable given his and the Labour administration's track-record of failure.

James Leppard
2023-08-01 18:09:14

Nogin the Nog, the building is full of asbestos. Had to come down under any circumstances.

2023-08-01 18:23:03

James Leppard, the article above states that the reason for demolition is that the buildings are covered in aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding which is similar to the cladding used on Grenfell Tower, not asbestos. As these buildings were built in the early 2000's, surely asbestos would have been banned at that time. Just as a reminder of why the ACM cladding use was due to this government's neglect: https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/government-failed-to-warn-of-acm-cladding-dangers-despite-2001-test-showing-catastrophic-fire-74275

Michael Hardware
2023-08-01 18:25:21

Alderman Durcan comes out with yet more rubbish. His administration did not acquire Occasio House, this Conservative administration did. Is his comments deliberate disinformation to mislead Harlow residents or an attempt to take credit for something his administration actually failed to achieve? The comment is on par with last cabinet when he criticised this administration for daring to build 107 council houses - farcical considering we have achieved more in two years than his administration did in a decade!

Nicholas Taylor
2023-08-01 18:28:39

Dan, you say the plans are in place, yet there appears to be no Planning Applications made. When will the public get to see what we are getting for 20 million quid?

Alan Leverett
2023-08-01 19:15:51

The facts about the original construction of Ocassio House need to be corrected. The building was designed and checked by fire engineers. It had fire stopping at all party walls compartment floors and around all openings internal and external. The cladding was compliant with the regulations in force at the time of its construction however it is unlikely to comply with current reguations. It is entirely different construction to Grenfell Tower and should not be compared. I would have thought the £7m would be to upgrade the existing flats internally as well as replace the cladding. It would be interesting to establish what the final cost of the new building is estimated to be in comparison.

David Forman
2023-08-01 19:19:37

I'm surprised councillor James Leppard says Occasio House is "is full of asbestos". Occasio House was opened in October 2001. The Government's website has this to say on asbestos: "...the importation of blue and brown asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1985. This ban was extended to include white asbestos in 1999." So, not full of asbestos. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/asbestos-properties-incident-management-and-toxicology/asbestos-general-information

Andy kewin
2023-08-01 19:39:45

What a complete waste of money occasio house ever was, the police were always there sorting out anti social behaviour, cost millions to build just to be torn down, yet again the tax payer cops it.

2023-08-01 20:15:31

It is truly shocking all what is happening to Harlow. It seems that there will be many more homes in what has always been a shopping centre. Big high rises everywhere and it will make the town feel so small and closed in. We are losing our privacy and it will feel so claustraphobic.This is about cramming as many properties into a space,so building high rises does that,such greedy vile developers and councillors. I cannot see how all of this overbuilding and overpopulating Harlow will be any good for anyone. Has anyone thought about how many cars could come with these high rises? There is nothing good to come out of all of this,people living so close to eachother,everyone will be overlooked wherever they go,there will be far to many cars and drivers will not be able to find anywhere to park,the roads will be gridlocked,the list is endless and its all negative.I am just gonna watch,wait and laugh at the many many problems that this is all going to cause in this once lovely town.🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

2023-08-01 20:43:26

I thought that the money was for improving the town, hence the sprucing up of the bit of land in front of The Playhouse but it seems that Occasio House is being replaced by 'High-quality residential apartments' Are these council flats to be rented out by the council? Even then, I'm not sure that's what the £20m grant is meant for. Would have been nice if that whole bit was left clear and landscaped nicely in a contrast to the pig ugly mess the Water Gardens has now become.

2023-08-01 21:37:48

Why is Dan now referring to the promised live music venue as ‘a new live performance venue’? Terminology is important. What actually is it? And if it is to still be a live music venue, what will it’s audience capacity be, and why?

2023-08-02 00:20:40

I'm a Harlow resident through and through still didn't get housing all these bsht projects help the residents

Bruce Downey
2023-08-02 06:51:09

YESSSS..Let’s get this show on the road..🥳 🍻🎤🎸

Harlow resident
2023-08-02 07:53:05

That's great news but what is going to happen to Broadwalk I did hear that end to was going to be knocked down flats ect put up in its place disagreed to start but now all I see is drunks there and empty buildings houses flats total new area is so needed to help Harlow gets its good name back will it happen??

Guy Flegman
2023-08-02 07:54:24

Hear is a money saving idea. Why don’t they cancel council meetings and have them in this comments section instead. Should save us taxpayers some money.

Guy Flegman
2023-08-02 07:56:17

Should say here. I blame the spellchecker!

2023-08-02 07:58:30

Full of asbestos, I've heard if all now! As for the leader of the council coming on here and arguing with people, pathetic childish behaviour. Maybe if you all spent less time on your Harlow trying to fact check people you might achieve something other than continuously spunking money up the wall.

James Leppard
2023-08-02 08:37:29

David Forman, my apologies. I stand corrected. Confused it with another building. Thanks.

Kim Oconnor
2023-08-02 09:38:18

This council will tell the public anything, to make excuses to why something is to be knocked down... James Leppard, how can you confuse this building with another. 😂 It's like telling people, the trees are dead, that's why they came down.. Funny that there all shooting again. I don't know about any any body else, but liers need good memories...

2023-08-02 09:56:56

Now also bulldoze the following ugly buildings! 1/ little walk and the whole block where polish supermarket is right across to market square-virtually all units now empty! 2/ old odeon cinema right down to Wetherspoons ! 3/ complete buildings surrounding market square & move on all the druggy/piss heads & low life’s that sit in market square! Once these are all bulldozed and modern buildings erected, then Harlow may have a future!

2023-08-02 11:15:46

Good riddance I guess, those two were the biggest eyesores in town. On the other side I think Harlow could actually use a youth centre. Also, maybe try actually developing some of the already cleared land before doing more demolitions? Just a suggestion...

James Leppard
2023-08-02 12:00:46

Kim O'Connor, you are right and I am wrong, as you usually are.

2023-08-02 16:07:09

What about Little Walk? And the bus station?

2023-08-02 16:29:03

I am so confused with what is goi g where? Is there any images/ plans etc something.

2023-08-02 17:54:41

Cp Playhouse Quarter and Stone Cross Sq (the old market sq) - https://aresdesign.co.uk/projects/playhouse-quarter-stonecross-square-harlow/ Harlow Quarter (next to the old Odeon, West Gate, Little Walk and the whole block down to the market sq) - https://www.strawberrystar.com/projects/harlow-quarter-essex/ Bus station (sorry, Transport Hub) - https://mcbains.co.uk/news/harlow-sustainable-transport-interchange-and-hub-shortlisted-for-planning-award-2023

2023-08-02 17:56:42

Sorry, can't format the links nicely on here. I'm sure you can work it out, though.

Peter Henegan
2023-08-02 18:05:34

Ha ha, we have an article about a project that is actually improving the town and we get loads of not overly positive comments. As someone not committed to any political party, I dont see how labour can defend its own record,as Jim O Sullivan referred to, lots of demolition,not much building. I will also add the superb building at Sydenham house, not knocked down but mostly empty during Labours, and now, the tories. And you tories, I asked about the millions sitting in banks that could be used for the town, no response, guess you are toi busy renaming roads.

2023-08-02 19:19:39

Good job James Leppard was telling porky pies The dust from the demolition blew straight across to Dad's wood and through open windows. Maybe he meant the square music venue that was demolished for no good reason

2023-08-02 22:15:14

There seems to be a lot of people here saying they want change whilst not wanting to see any change whilst also advocating change and deriding the change when it starts - very confusing

2023-08-02 22:15:31

Wil thankyou so much for responding to my comment,much appreciated.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-08-03 07:37:39

In response to you comment Peter, the devil is in the detail. Apart from sketch drawings and some warm words about a music venue, no details have been published as to what residents can expect of this once in a life time opportunity to improve the town centre. What we do know from what has been said is that millions of pounds will be spent on new paving, seating and the planting of trees, but we will still be left with the smallest theatre in the region, to date a music venue of an unknown size and now apparently flats very close by of an unknown tenure. Even if Planning Permission was sought today, the site is likely to lie derelict for at least another year, adding to the bomb site appearance of others in the town centre.

James Leppard
2023-08-03 09:37:46

Nicholas Taylor, you are wrong. Full plans exist and have been published regarding the full regeneration of the Town Centre. https://www.harlow.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Town%20Centre%20Masterplan%20Framework%20Supplementary%20Planning%20Document.pdf

2023-08-03 12:02:29

Thanks for that link James, I'd not seen it before and it's quite the read but I would say it seems more of a 'in an ideal world, we'd love to do all this, with all the ideas and considerations we, as architects, love to think and talk about' than specific plans for each individual element. I'd be great if each development followed this masterplan with regards to how everything fits and (hopefully) works together. I'd definitely encourage everyone to take a look at the plan even if it might be a bitter pill to swallow if you're hankering after the market coming back or the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping centre returning any time soon.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-08-03 12:55:44

James, as Wil says, that is not a full plan in any sense of the word, it is more like a Tory wish list which will see many huge flat blocks being built in the Town Centre. With rampant inflation since the document was published, we need to see just how far £20 million will go by the time a spade is put in the ground. When can we expect a Planning Application to come forward so residents can see exactly what is proposed and indeed what the Hill Group will be getting out of it?

2023-08-03 16:10:50

This place was a life saving grace for me as a previous resident - not all residents where bad. Occassio House supported me through tough times and helped me prosper into the person I am today. I will always be eternally grateful to the many people who helped me. Its just a shame some ruined the lifeline it offered to so many people over the years. I just hope they do do something worthwhile for the future of Harlow

2023-08-03 16:51:18

Just been reading about the car free living high rises that are supposed to be built in market square lol,so in other words 2 huge ugly high rise buildings making it all very closed in where it has always been an open space,it will obviously house many many people and many many cars. Car free living lol,as if.

Martin Sharp
2023-08-05 12:10:15

More homes for immigrants in my opinion and why are all these buildings being demolished when f all is done to build afterwards. As for the Odeon what a joke that is. Harlow Council are total wa**kers and the place is a total s**thole and I’ve lived here 50 years

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