Planning application submitted for another phase of town centre regeneration with the £20m Harlow Arts and Cultural Quarter

News / Tue 2nd Jan 2024 at 12:05pm

THE transformation of Playhouse and College Square in Harlow into a new arts and cultural go to destination has moved a step closer to construction with the submission of a planning application.

The application for the £20m Harlow Arts and Cultural Quarter has been validated by the council’s planning team with consultation on the plans set to start shortly. Following consultation, a decision on the application will be made before 7 March 2024.

Thousands of residents have been involved in the design of the new scheme, both before the bid was made to the Government, and since the money has been awarded with many having a say on the plans by visiting the council’s Discover Harlow Hub in the Harvey Centre.

The plans can be viewed in full at https://planningonline.harlow.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=S5B188HXFHW00&activeTab=summary

The scheme, which is being funded by the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, will form a new western gateway as part of the regeneration of Harlow town centre.

The scheme will complement Harlow Playhouse’s current offer as well as bring forward a range of new and improved spaces such as:

Flexible live performance and exhibition spaces

New café/restaurant and booking office for the Playhouse

Music school and recording studios

Flexible studio spaces for commercial and community use

New location for the Gibberd Gallery

Improved public realm to provide opportunities for performances and a new public square and pocket-park

Upgrades to the Haydens Road underpass

47 high-quality residential apartments

The existing taxi rank will be relocated along with the disabled parking and rear access will be maintained for businesses trading in The Water Gardens.

The submission of the application kicks off a busy year for the regeneration of the town centre with the demolition completed of the derelict Occasio House site and work starting on the redevelopment of Market Square. The council will shortly publish exciting plans for Market Square and updated plans for Broad Walk and Terminus Street with work expected to start on these three sites in the coming months.

Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, said:

“We’re kicking off 2024 as we mean to go on to rebuild our town and put the heart back into Harlow town centre. With the Harlow Arts and Cultural Quarter scheme application submitted and work underway to get major transformation projects started, 2024 is going to be the year that the regeneration of Harlow town centre finally starts with so much construction work scheduled for the coming months.

“This scheme is just one phase of our town centre regeneration and I would invite all residents to find out more about all of our plans in the Discover Harlow Hub in the Harvey Centre.”

The Discover Harlow Hub is next to The Works and is open every Thursday from 10am to 2pm.

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41 Comments for Planning application submitted for another phase of town centre regeneration with the £20m Harlow Arts and Cultural Quarter:

Bruno g
2024-01-02 12:51:38

Any homes for local people???

2024-01-02 12:59:45

My understanding was this money was supposed to improve the town for it's residents yes? Can you tell me what housing list I need to go on for the "47 high-quality residential apartments" ?

2024-01-02 13:08:22

Although I'm still not sure what the deal is with the flats going up in the place of the old Occasio House (isn't the levelling-up money just for regenration projects? Are the flats going to be council/social housing or to be sold by the council at market rates?) I hope this all comes out OK even though it's cramming another large, rather featureless, building in a relatively small space. However, claiming that thousands of residents have been involved in its design rather than just looking at the existing plans on display in the Harvey Centre is, I think, pushing it a bit.

2024-01-02 13:09:59

It's really good that this investment progresses, but the redesign of the Playhouse with the box office and cafe is not high quality. Looks dated and it is visually unappealing when it could have been something to match this ambitious regeneration plans. It's easier to have the vision than deliver the execution

Bruno g
2024-01-02 13:11:45

Seamus I don’t think these new homes will be for local residents. They will be for all the doctors and nurses arriving by boat via France.

2024-01-02 13:21:00

What about some decent shops.

2024-01-02 13:40:30

Yet another environmentally poor design. All those flat roofs should either have solar panels or gardens full of plants which will help clean the air and provide food for our struggling insect population. All those brick walls should be living gardens. Along the path shown in the illustration why are there no trees? These would provide much needed shade during the summer months, which we know are going to get hotter.

2024-01-02 14:33:01

Fantastic overall news for the town. However I do agree, they should have solar with roof and wall gardens. There's literally no reason why not.

Mr McGuffin
2024-01-02 14:56:30

Well, let's do it then! :) That side of the town centre needs some love. Would be nice to have more novelty shops too, I think we have enough shoe-stores and chicken places.

2024-01-02 15:14:25

And the housing estates continue to be forgotten about as usual,but at least it will be all sorted within walking distance of the civic centre. Thats the main thing Dan Swords,it dont matter about the rest of us living in the slums of Harlow,trying to navigate the pavements and cyclepaths and wrestle with the overgrown bushes that we get caught up in as we just try to walk on the pavements.Its all about you.

Tony Wiseman
2024-01-02 16:01:10

Dear Eddie and Mr McGuffin, the reason why there are no "decent shops" - you words not mine - is that the people of Harlow do not shop in them! They would rather travel to out of town shopping complexes or buy online. This has been shown time after time with shops such as M&S and BHS closing down. If you don't use it, you lose it!

Luke Burton
2024-01-02 17:04:12

Get on with it then!

2024-01-02 17:09:52

Good, another area to be smartened up, loving the new playhouse look and open space! Well done, now to work on a decent deal with odeon owner and bulldoze to smarten and little walk across towards market to bulldoze and smarten - only Specsavers and polish left in there now! However, what a good start!

2024-01-02 18:13:04

I agree with Tony. @"me". Don't be ridiculous. There are any slums in Harlow. If you think so, then you live a very sheltered life.

2024-01-02 18:24:57

This is great news. Harlow had a very vibrant arts and music scene in the 60s to 80s. From some of the comments both here and on YH Facebook, there seem to be a lot of philistines in Harlow. The arts and culture are essential and will provide a better offering for both residents and visitors. After years of decline, we should support the efforts of this Council to restore aspiration and ambition.

2024-01-02 18:29:16

Lol are you being serious HarlowIsNice???? You are the one that is beimg ridiculous or are you walking about with your eyes shut????you have lived a sheltered life for sure or maybe you are more than happy to live in a slum.

Sharon Watts
2024-01-02 20:38:08

Doubt this will work out.

Clare Harrison
2024-01-02 20:39:32

I agree with what Sylvia said. Harlow used to pride itself on the arts . There are probably people living here who don’t know the history of sir Frederick gibberd. Art is important , if we take the arts away we are just animal nature. To create and admire the arts is a gift to humanity. Harlow got rid of a lot of art when the square closed. Comedy is art, music is art , we need this in Harlow. Why do you think all the kids are going off the rails? Because they have nothing to channel their energy in to. In my day (I’m old now), we had places to express ourselves and our individuality . We had quite a lot of nightlife here and it was safe. I loved growing up in Harlow. There are so many kids with wasted talents who need nurturing in music, acting, art, and comedy . These children are our future and we are responsible for providing facilities where they can nurture their talents. Everyone goes on about Dan swords being too young but I disagree, I think the youth need to be making these decisions, because it’s their world and we are leaving it to them. I know we need housing, this will happen, but we desperately need this new artistic venture in Harlow. I tried to get this done when I was with the Labour Party, I even went to parliament and fought for the youth justice bill to get things in Harlow for young people. Robert Halfon wanted to work with us to make this happen. It’s been a long time coming and I think this needs to be celebrated . The levelling up fund was to create and rebuild spaces such as art to make towns attractive again after the hell we have all been through. Regarding people saying Harlow is a slum, yes some parts arnt attractive, but have you ever been to a third world country ? I have , I studied in Mumbai for seven months. Harlow is hardly a slum and it can be saved by the arts if only people let it.

2024-01-02 21:15:42

Tony Wiseman. I don't disagree with you about people shopping out of town. The answer is to make sure there is decent shops here, so it brings the shoppers back and shoppers from other towns . The problem with our town centre is it does not have a covered market and the rents are too expensive. Still concrete table tennis tables will bring them flocking in.

peter linden
2024-01-02 23:19:43

The money will be waisted as Usual. How many hundreds of thousands were spent on elaborate Marble paving from the pictures to the market squre. For 2 years the builders were working on that. Ripping up the decent paving to put the new stuff down, when the estates have broken pavings everywhere... Pathetic

2024-01-03 01:20:34

Sadly and not for the first time, the massive disconnect between the majority of residents needs and the council leaders wishes, stand front and centre. Claire you said this "I know we need housing, this will happen, but we desperately need this new artistic venture in Harlow". Claire, If you want to improve the resources for the town then you build up from the bottom and not build down from the top. It's just another example that the council leadership build what is important to them, rather than what is needed for the towns folk. Harlow is not Brighton, nor is it the louvre, broadway or the Guggenheim, it is a real town with real people where housing for genuine local people at a social rent rate should be the most important need for any council. That will be the roots of building Harlow up and the gentrified arts district on the town halls own doorstep, will continue to show Harlow and it's council are miles apart.

2024-01-03 06:08:05

Surely we need to stop kids stabbing each other first.

2024-01-03 09:20:53

Seamus, I think you miss the point that Clare is making and overlook the fact that Harlow had a strong arts and cultural setting in the past. This lack of ambition that you highlight is what has led to Harlow's decline and will keep it down. You suggest that places that have a strong cultural offering are not 'real places with real people'. That is nonsense. There seems to be an obsession with building council houses as a priority. This is unrealistic. Harlow is already overpopulated and there is little if any land left to build without destroying our green areas. With a population close to 100,000, Harlow desperately needs a better arts offering as it used to have. Let's stop talking the place down and have more ambition. This will also be good for young people.

William Warner
2024-01-03 12:06:40

This rubbish Harlow want house and flat for the homeless people and care for old and sick people not a art center shop are closed down all councillors you have more one house and flat like my landlord as 32 house and flat just put up rent so they can get more money from people

2024-01-03 12:39:16

In reply to your comment clare Harrison,we had a music venue until that got demolished,we used to have all the music that went on at the bandstand in the Town Park many years ago and that used to attract thousands from as far afield as America etc,but nothing like that anymore.Good for you that u worked in Mumbai for 7 months andno i have not been there amd i would not want to,i used the word slum but obviously i know that Harlow is not a slum,i do know what slums are and it was just a word,sodont get upset about it,lol.you are entitled to your opinion and views as am i andDan Swords is certainly forgetting the older generation and the older areas. All lives matter not just the younger people.

2024-01-03 13:09:02

Just in case anyone is still not aware but the money for this comes from a government 'levelling-up' fund. It's only awarded for schemes like this and not for housing, filling in potholes, reparing pavements or any number of things folks consider more of a priority. Having said that, there is a block of flats going up in the Ocassio House space which seems to be part of this 'arts quarter' development so I'm not sure what's going on there. While I'm on here, I was intrigued by the second picture in the article which seems to show a lovely open park area outside the church. Looking on the plans, that's the bit that used be right outside the entrance to the tech so not that open and backing right up against the Pure Gym building. Gotta love those architect renders.

View from Afar
2024-01-03 13:18:02

Tony Wiseman - BHS closed because of the owner Philip Green not people not shopping there

Tony WIseman
2024-01-03 13:30:16

Eddie, I agree and now that Harlow Council owns the Harvey Centre why don't they split the old BHS shop into 2 units, ground and first floor, offer a reduced rent for a limited time and get M&S and a BHS like store back into the town centre. The council would make the difference in the rent back via the extra revenue generated in the car parks.

2024-01-03 14:22:44

In my opinion the pavements are by far a priority. I am sure our council have got some say when it comes to everything Harlow???? Town is crumbling and Dan Swords and his buddies just seem to have a tunnel vision and cant see the state that Harlow is in.start at the bottom and work up,but just focusing on newbuild this and newbuild that,and all the while the original Harlow New Town is being left to rot.

2024-01-03 14:58:40

Nothing in the plans for the Harlow Arts and Cultural Quarter makes sense to me. I have been told that the new music venue will have a capacity of 200 people. The Playhouse has 404 seats, and if you take out those seats needed for sound people and promotors’/producers’ guests, you are looking at around 390 - 396 seats. Look at what Harlow has been awarded for arts and culture, £20 million, possibly a once-in-a-lifetime award. Then look at the projected population with all of the new housing schemes; roughly 250,000 people will live here, all fighting for tickets for such small venues. Add to this the residents of the “luxury apartments” Harlow council wants to build who will object to the noise from the music venue and crowds leaving the venues. I hope there is heavy-duty state-of-the-art soundproofing at the new music venue with triple doors holding some of the sounds in, plus state-of-the-art air conditioning, so any windows and doors need not be open. Remember when the Square was open and the sound could be heard within the hospital when the windows were open? Why not build a bigger Playhouse on Market Square, and knock down the old office block and Post office? Harlow Council already owns the Birdcage / HiWire disco music venue, or at least they did a few years ago. Then there is a Harlow Arts and Cultural Quarter that livens up the North of the Town Centre like it used to be. I think Dan Swords is obsessed with the “luxury apartments”, in the original plans the owners of Rank House and Giston New Town “Places for People” were shown on the plans for two new towers on Occasio House old site.

2024-01-03 15:45:10

"new arts and cultural go-to" "47 high-quality residential apartments" It is a Good idea to try and attract a more up-market clientele. We have enough spit and sawdust places for the masses to spend their benefits in.

Clare Harrison
2024-01-03 17:39:46

Thanks Christine , I couldn’t have put this better myself. Thank you for backing me up here. There is certainly a lack of ambition in Harlow, there is no denying that you’ve just got to look around to see it. This venture will help bring back ambition to the town. The old hiwire night club would be great for a new Square venue . That night club is great and so sad it’s not being used for anything. Harlow has so much potential, it’s just nobody wants to invest into all of it. It really could be a marvellous place for art and culture. Think of all the DJs and bands a nightlife here would bring in. People need to express themselves young and old.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-01-03 17:44:56

Tonyb, you are absolutely right, something we in the Harlow Alliance Party have been saying for the last 3 years or so. The regeneration of the Town Centre will as things stand still leave the north side bereft of any reason to visit it and of course in the hands of property developers sitting on their asset whilst buildings fall into even more decay.

2024-01-03 19:02:19

M&S pulled out of the town because they were not allowed a Simply Food on the Queensgate Centre. Strange that we now have a Lidl and Greggs on the site. The old Mothercare building would be ideal for them.

2024-01-04 12:14:26

🤔This is going to be interesting , wonder how long it’s going to take and although I am no accountant is £20m going to be enough to accomplish this scheme or are we to see council tax rises to help fund it?

Nicholas Taylor
2024-01-04 12:22:55

Interesting point Rob. East Herts DC have had to reign in the plans for a new theatre because the building costs have increased by 25% since their plans first came forward. I suspect the 47 flats will not be let to those on the council's waiting list but sold off to shore up the finances for this scheme.

2024-01-04 13:31:12

Thanks for the reply Christine. It would be lovely to return to the halcyon days of the 60's 70's and early 80's in the same way it would be lovely to return to the days where there was one car per house but that is never going to happen. I am of an age where I remember avery cages in birdcage walk full with small and overseas birds, would you suggest we bring them back too given our current youth? When we ask for more social housing at fair rents, it's for our kids and their kids to come. London overspill into Harlow has seen the type of people coming down from London that has now made Harlow the second most dangerous place in Essex (Your Harlow, 4th May 2023). You will not make Harlow's feral youths change with a bit of glitter, a brass band or local over acting classes. You will help our young take ownership of the town if we given them something to value, their home. Let's leave that artistic polishing of a turd at the moment, have you seen the plans? Let me just throw a few things out there and there are plenty if you look at facts rather than emotion. Where is the parking for the 47 flats, the disabled parking and where are the access roads leading to them. How will the hgv's the playhouse currently uses, get to the loading bays if it is now a pedestrian only area. How many different consultants and architects have been used so far, why does the planned development plans have multiple different layouts and how much has that cost and lastly, Don't forget this is an election year, as it was when SFG's failed school build was promoted and Harlows new hospital will take far longer to build and it will be much smaller than promised. NONE of that is people putting Harlow down, Those are real facts, actions and failure of our MP and BOTH labour and Conservative council. Now, if some think putting tutu's on, sprinkling glitter over everything that moves whilst saying nothing to see here, move along, then may I politely suggest that some peoples views of Harlow are at a distance to the vast majority of people.

Sue Harris
2024-01-04 16:37:36

We are in a sad place. It would be great to have more cultural and arts offerings as we had in the past. Maybe to quality of people and education levels have changed. There seems to be an obsession with council houses as the solution to everything, but it is a pipe dream. Homes for me and for my kids and grand kids. Where do all these houses come from? Simple fact is we have too many people in Harlow and the UK. It is impossible to build houses at the rate of population growth (mostly migrants) and in Harlow we have no land left to build private or council. If we want to protect our green areas on the town and not live like sardines, we have to stop building. Our population increased from about 81,000 in 2011 to 95,000 in 2021. The area of our town did not change. We have no land left to build anything. Let's just stop. If people can't afford to live in the South East, well move somewhere cheaper. My kids moved away and have bought homes in cheaper areas and are happy. That is what usually happens. We have stop so many coming to the UK. We are full up.

2024-01-04 17:25:42

All of these grand plans for Our town look good . How about sorting out all the bad stuff. Lack of housing, anti social behaviour, transport, disgraceful shopping centre and the obvious corruption within the council for allowing this to happen. How are are councillor's allowing this to happen. Are you taking backhanded. If not stand up are protect and be counted when it comes to your electorate

Nicholas Taylor
2024-01-04 19:54:28

Jasper, the Council are not allowing this to happen, it is their own project, using £20 million they obtained from Government. As is the new bus station at a cost of another £8 million or so and borrowing another £21 million to buy the Harvey Centre and another £1 million to buy the Occasio House site. There is nothing corrupt about it all, it has been in the public domain for at least three years and both main Parties will say that is what people voted for. Many others will of course think otherwise. Whether this is really "Levelling Up", is a matter for debate but it is a done deal whilst either the Tories or Labour control the Council.

2024-01-07 10:48:02

This is all well and good, all the private developments with the new flats, most of the social housing isn’t going to Harlow people on the waiting list. Going to Newham and Hackney. Shame on the council not stopping the greedy developers doing this, allowing them to dictate who gets the social housing. The planning office of Harlow give the approval for this buildings to be built so where’s the council not asking the questions. Three horseshoes road development SHERRARDS HOUSE are these houses going to Harlow folk, I can imagine NOT!

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