Letter to Editor: If residents’ of Potter Street do nothing..they must accept possibility of being ignored in the future

General / Sun 26th Nov 2023 at 05:13am

Dear Editor,

I HAVE now had a meeting with Cllr. Swords with Cllr. Leppard in attendance. I had a brief look at the plans for the former council neighbourhood office and surrounding area. Cllr. Swords was clear that there would not be a return to providing council services from that office and the adjacent green area next to Brenthall Towers and Meyrick Mead will cater for thirty eight car parking spaces. Cllr. Swords stated all those residents’ affected by this development were written to to get their views. Apparently these plans have been available for a “few” weeks. I ask how many residents in Potter Street have looked at those plans and how many residents had any idea there were any plans? I suspect very few. 

As for the former doctors’ surgery based in Osler House, Cllr. Leppard told me the MIND charity will occupy the derelict building. Who will pay for making the building habitable, safe and secure? If the council pays for the update why wasn’t that money available for the Potter Street well-being hub?

Finally, if the residents’ of Potter Street do nothing given the matters outlined above they must accept the possibility of being ignored in the future as in the past.  

Gary Roberts

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23 Comments for Letter to Editor: If residents’ of Potter Street do nothing..they must accept possibility of being ignored in the future:

2023-11-26 08:43:34

If the Council persist in being so bad at consultation and working with communities, as they undoubtedly are and especially since neighbourhood offices were closed by tory councillors then they can expect to be voted out in future elections. Most people are busy struggling to make a living and bring up families and don't have the time to seek out obscurely posted surveys buried on the Council website. Consultation means writing to every household, setting up a weekly stall in the local hatches (not a flash event for a morning in the Harvet or Civic centres) and counsellors that effectively communicate with everyone in their ward, ( not just their party pals). Dan and all counsellors should remember the duties of Councillors under the Nolan Principles is to serve the whole of their electorate not dictate, nor be biased to keep their friends happy. The Neighbourhood offices were closed not to save money as perported but to break the community and the direct access between community, Councillors and officers. Finally, it would be far better if no Councillor should live outside of the ward they represent. We've had enough of "we know better" Councils, they have sold Harlow down the river to private property speculators & developers and are intent on letting Epping and East Herts Councils dump thousands of houses around the town, projects that will damage Harlow and overload it's infrastructure and green environment.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-11-26 09:43:49

The creation of Neighbourhood Offices by the Council in the 1990's was only part of the changes made by the council under the banner of 'Decentralising and Democratising' of council services. Seven local Area Committees were set up, held about every seven weeks, served by up to a dozen Councillors where for instance Planning Applications would be decided and residents could ask questions of Councillors. Each neighbourhood had a Tenants Advisory Group (TAG's) where tenants could meet council officers in the Housing Service. Collectively hundreds of residents would attend these meetings and see just how the council worked. It was the Labour Party which began the closure of these offices, aided in the end by the Conservatives, leading to the re-centralising of services to the Civic Offices. Thus began what we see today, Councillors completely out of touch and distant from residents and staff working remotely who could be living anywhere in the Country. I wonder Gary whether you asked Dan if there was a covenant on the building that it must be used for community uses and if so when and how the Council will consult with the public about lifting this Covenant? I would be happy to have a chat to you about this and other issues in Potter Street. Nicholas Taylor, former Neighbourhood Manager, Harlow Council, Potter Street.

Guy Flegman
2023-11-26 09:49:20

As the council can get “Harlow news” to every household I don’t see why they can’t send the planning info to every household. If the council think the cost would be too high then I think most residents would be happy to not get Harlow News and use that money to keep residents up to date with local planning. It’s also worth noting that our would be politicians and councillors find the time to knock on doors during election time, but are apparently too busy to keep us up to date with local planning.

gary roberts
2023-11-26 13:13:34

Mr. Taylor, I did not know there was a covenant on the building. The purpose of the letter was to make as many residents' in Potter Street aware of what the council is doing without consulting them. In this instance I suspect the residents in Brenthall Towers and Meyrick Mead do not know that they could be living next to a car park with all green spaces gone. And that any hope of regaining a doctors' surgery in the area would be ended if Osler House is sold by the council without any consultation. These plans have to go to the planning committee and I have asked some of those councillors on that committee to vote against these plans. Will they do so?

2023-11-26 15:08:33

Local Democracy, Consultation, Accountability and Communication Lesson 1. Step 1. Restore neighbourhood Offices

2023-11-26 20:16:22

Guy, it is called Harlow Times and does not go to every house in Harlow. I know this as I had to collect one from the civic centre this week. A member of staff there says they only print 38,000 copies to post out.

2023-11-26 21:49:14

To the best of my knowledge there are covenants on both buildings

Nicholas Taylor
2023-11-26 23:48:26

In that case Colin, the Council will have to consult residents quite separately from the Planning Consultation, to include every resident in Potter Street, not just notices on lampposts and residents living in close proximity to the building. We know from experience that the Council will make as little effort as possible to consult,, try asking residents living in Bushy Croft when the council took action which saw them build on land which was designated as allotments. I suggest that either Colin or Gary ask Cllr Swords a question on this subject at the next Full Council meeting.

James Leppard
2023-11-27 10:22:48

Mr Gary Roberts, I thought I had made it clear during our meeting that the Council is not paying towards the repairs of Osler House.

2023-11-27 10:37:35

James L, why is the Council determined to run down community infrastructure in Potter Street eg by actively working to block the restoration of a doctor's surgery and community centre ? The first duty of a Council must be to ensure such centres are provided

Bruce Downey
2023-11-27 11:19:22

🎶They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, they took all the trees put ‘em in a tree museum🎶.. Car park to join the other car park..plans are a disgrace, no thought to the residents living in nearby tower blocks..

gary roberts
2023-11-27 12:56:03

Cllr. Leppard, You did not make any such comment to me about Osler House funding. If you had I would have included that in my letter. You stated the MIND charity were moving into the derelict building. So who is paying for the repairs to Osler House? Unless you are suggesting the charity will be paying at least £400,000 for the full refurbishment of the building: Are you? Remember that is what HTS costings amounted too! The council would not allow the charity to work in Osler House in its current state, would they?

James Leppard
2023-11-27 14:28:53

Gary. I will give you the benefit of the doubt. I have been working closely on this over the past two years with Colin Thorpe's group and Council officers. The HTS budget came in at over £400k and subsequent inflationary pressures indicate that the cost of repairs would currently exceed £500k. I repeat, for the sake of absolute clarity, that Harlow Council will not be making making any contribution towards repair costs of Osler House. You also said that the current Neighbourhood Office was needed for 'Council Services' even though it has been closed since 2003. When Cllr Swords asked you to specify which services, you mentioned rent payments, to which he informed that these can be made at the Post Office at adjacent Prentice Place. Furthermore, you claimed you had not been made aware of the development plans for the new council houses and parking spaces planned. He did show you a copy. You asked where this could be found. He told you online on the Council website. You replied that how would people without access to the internet manage. He said that details could be obtained at the Civic Centre, to which you said Potter Street had no bus links to the Town Centre. We were somewhat surprised as we were all standing almost next to a bus stop and opposite another, across the road, by the Baptist Church. When we enquired, you said they only went to Epping and North Weald, to which Cllr Swords asked: "what about those going on the other direction across the road"? You then confirmed that they did in fact go to the Town Centre. So, in other words, there is a regular bus service to the Town centre (420 and 420a) and rents can be paid at the Post Office. Hope this clarifies any misunderstandings. For your convenience, the link to the planning application is here: https://planningonline.harlow.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=RPGHO2HXJWI00&activeTab=summary

gary roberts
2023-11-27 15:12:10

Cllr. Leppard giving me any benefit of doubt does not impress and missing out some of my comments at the meeting does not impress either. The Neighbourhood office was closed in 2003 but the residents' group that I created and chaired presented a large petition to stop it closing because it was a vital service for residents. That led to a council working group that I was co-opted on to without voting rights. The Conservative and Liberal groups ignored our arguments and closed not only Potter Street but all the other neighbourhood offices claiming the council would save £1m. I asked for a breakdown of that figure but that was refused. But baffling me with inconsequential information still does not tell who is paying for the refurbishment of Osler House: Perhaps you as the financial officer for the council should be able to provide that information. Will you?

James Leppard
2023-11-27 16:32:02

Dear Gary Roberts, Yes. MIND is paying for all repair and refurbishment works. It will be a very valuable community asset for Potter Street. As for 2003, I will defer to you as I was working and living abroad at the time.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-11-27 16:34:04

What about the Covenants then James? As I said in an earlier post, the loss of the Neighbourhood Offices was only part of what was lost, the Area Committees and the Tenant Advisory Groups were lost as well. What about all the people who have difficulty in using computers or indeed those that don't have one? Are residents expected to keep looking at the website in case a Planning Application comes forward in an area? The fact is, the Tory Administration is just as bad as the previous Labour one.

Gary Roberts
2023-11-27 17:09:50

Cllr. Leopard, thank you for the information on MIND, I will contact the CEO for confirmation of that information tomorrow.

Gary Roberts
2023-11-27 17:18:13

My apologies cllr Leppard for getting your surname wrong my Device failed again

From Potter Street
2023-11-27 18:27:43

I am in this area and yes I did receive a letter about the proposed plans. The plan to turn the waste land into additional parking spaces are very much needed as parking is becoming very difficult hopefully these spaces will stop those in Meyrick Mead & those using the Dance School from causing chaos along Southern Way. With regards to the plans for the office space it was never ever going to reopen as an office after all this time despite what anyone says or wants & properties are very much wanted & needed. So hopefully this will go through planning & works can commence.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-11-28 00:19:03

Gary, the future of Osler House is on the agenda of the Councils Cabinet meeting next month.

James Leppard
2023-11-29 13:12:22

From Potter Street, your comments and observations are well presented. It is encouraging to see that there are Potter Street residents who would prefer to see new council housing and residential car parking rather than a mothballed non-productive relic of 20 years standing, together with an ugly, neglected, overgrown wasteland.

David morton
2023-12-03 11:56:55

Why would the council write to residents to get their views? They would go ahead regardless, it's just another pen pushing exercise to make themselves look good, good old corrupt councillors.

2023-12-12 15:10:37

Yes lets build even more homes in Harlow and lets take away yet even more of nature to build car parks.ugly neglected overgrown wasteland,lol. Well if the council had kept on top of the wasteland then it would have not been so overgrown etc... i have to laugh!!! Lets get rid of all our remaining lovely green natural open spaces and beautiful wildlife and replace it all with ugly vile concrete. Restore pride,surely that is a joke??????

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