Harlow Conservatives pledge to bring Marks and Spencers back to Harlow

News / Thu 4th Apr 2024 at 08:02am

IT was one of Harlow’s favourite shops but it left the town in 2015 when the then Council blocked the company renewing its Harlow base, but could the retail giant be set for a historic come back to Harlow asks the Harlow Conservatives.

Now, the Harlow Conservatives have pledged that if they win the council elections on 2nd May and continue to run Harlow Council, they will “bring a full food and clothing M&S store back to Harlow”. 

Making the pledge today, the Leader of Harlow Conservatives, Dan Swords, said: “Everyone loves M&S. It is a truly fantastic shop and the old Harlow Labour Council should never have driven it out of our town with their planning policies and allowed the town centre to decline.

“We are rebuilding our town centre and securing investment into Harlow and with that work, if you re-elect us to finish the job, we will bring Marks and Spencers back to Harlow. An all singing, all dancing store back in the heart of our town.

“Even on something like this, it shows why we must never let Harlow Labour back in to run the council. The choice is clear: Harlow Conservatives rebuilding our town with fantastic new shops and investment or Harlow Labour allowing our town to decline and driving investment away.

“If you want M&S back in Harlow, vote for Harlow Conservatives to run Harlow Council on Thursday 2nd May”.

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55 Comments for Harlow Conservatives pledge to bring Marks and Spencers back to Harlow:

Alex Kyriacou
2024-04-04 08:08:23

How on earth can the Conservatives promise to bring back a shop? Do they have an agreement in principle from M&S? This is just barefaced pork barrel politics.

Peter Henegan
2024-04-04 08:14:52

Alex, think about it, would you make such a pledge if you hadn't done some groundwork. Harlow owns the Harvey centre. This is great news. Labour stopped an M & S food hall in Templefields, now we have cheap shops cheap is but nice to have a mixture).

George Michael
2024-04-04 08:19:36

All say....and no do. We the conservatives pledge this, we pledge that.....yes ok, see it to believe it!

2024-04-04 08:20:18

LOL. What next?

2024-04-04 08:24:06

Harlow owns the Harvey Centre not the Tories. If one party can do it (and I seriously doubt they can force any retailer to open here) then so can the others. I also doubt that M & S decision making is in any way connected to our local election results.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-04-04 08:26:28

Nothing new from the Conservatives, they will make any sort of claim in order to try and keep control of Harlow Council. A new hospital, Public Health England move to Harlow, claims they can stop development to the south and West of Harlow, mis-leading residents when removing 2500 applicants from he council's waiting list and now this. M&S will make a commercial decision about whether to return to Harlow, not one that suits politicians. They left the Town Centre for commercial reason. If there is any suggestion that a move to the retail park will take place, well you can just imagine how even worse the traffic congestion will get there. Lets not forget they have a huge shop just a few miles away at Brookfield.

David Forman
2024-04-04 08:30:27

M&S is a favourite of Robert Halfon and he needs something to do now that he is retiring from Parliament.

James Leppard
2024-04-04 08:30:52

If Alex Kyriacou's understanding of commerce and regeneration strategies much his understanding of financial forecasting, it goes some way to explaining why Labour never achieved any regeneration in a decade. Having them return to running the council will probably lead to more table tennis blocks in Market Square for the drunks.

gary roberts
2024-04-04 08:33:05

Why not promise/pledge to bring back locally based council services. Something the council can actually do. But Cllr. Swords told me that will not happen. Will he also promise/pledge to bring back Woolworths? It is all political nonsense and not really relevant to the needs of residents' who have major issues in paying all their bills.

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-04 08:33:42

Do I hear more promise s.

2024-04-04 08:35:11

Be happy if anyone could fill the potholes outside harlow hospital to save the damage to ambulances.. This town, and country are finished, thank you tory government.

James Leppard
2024-04-04 08:35:31

Nicholas Taylor, this administration brought about the excellent regeneration partnership with Hill Group. Do you think we are like your Harlow Alliance and Harlow Labour, just sitting idly waiting for things to happen (which is why under Labour nothing positive happened)? Do you not think we are engaged with companies and businesses looking to operate here? You are and Labour are totally clueless!

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-04 08:48:46

James Leppard, your missing the point.. Don't promise until you can deliver, then and only then , share the news..

Guy Flegman
2024-04-04 08:52:10

Er, so that’s not a M&S at Staple tye and at the m11 round about( m11 round about technically not in Harlow I know). Seems jobs a good’n all ready

Alex Kyriacou
2024-04-04 08:56:48

Atta boy James, when you know your argument can’t win, ad hominem attacks always work! Nevermind pork barrel politics, Harlow Tories are engaging in barrel scrapping politics. What’s next…?

Nicholas Taylor
2024-04-04 09:08:59

James, I am not here to defend Labour of course but when your leader recently said that no-one from Band 4 had been housed in the last 5 years when the FACTS show that dozens have, why would anyone believe what you and your Party say? Your Parties claims about the hospital, public health England, building to the south of Harlow are all hot air and ones I notice you have not tried to defend. We as a Party have a fundamentally different view of the future of the Town Centre, yours full of coffee bars and huge tower blocks, a tiny theatre and music venue. Ours to create a leisure and cultural based centre fit for the huge increase in population which will be seen in the next two decades within a 3 mile radius. Spending millions on a new bus station just yards from the present one, when the town is so badly served by bus companies is just one example of the errors of judgement made by your Party. Finally it is the job of any council whichever Party leads it to talk to developers, I have no doubt that such work will continue after May 2.

James Leppard
2024-04-04 09:11:49

Alex, my criticisms are factually correct as you well know. Harlow Labour is third rate outright. If you genuinely think otherwise, get Chris Vince to face the proposed public hustings as all the other local party leaders are willing to. Ball in your court. What's next? Will he show? I wouldn't bet on it, but would certainly welcome a robust but independently organised public hustings debate.

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-04 09:19:39

James Leppard, ignoring what Mr Taylor has said,,, and going straight to his favourite topic, labour hustings. We have heard it Mr Leppard, again and again, stick to the topic.

Leave him alone!
2024-04-04 09:20:51

James Leppard LEAVE NICHOLAS TAYLOR ALONE!!! WHAT???"Sitting idly waiting for things to happen?He doesnt stop .Has he touched a nerve?Sadly M&S will never come back now cons have trashed our town.

Tony Edwards
2024-04-04 09:24:16

Dan Swords is yet again deliberately misleading the people of Harlow. For the record here is the Your Harlow report of the cross party Development Management meeting in 2014. https://www.yourharlow.com/2024/04/04/from-the-archive-harlow-conservative-labour-and-ukip-councillors-reject-marks-and-spencers-planning-bid/?_gl=1*3vg6zk*_ga*MTgwNTg4OTMyMC4xNjk1MTk0NDM5*_ga_VG46TH43S2*MTcxMjIyMTg1My40NzQuMS4xNzEyMjIyMjIxLjAuMC4w

Tony Edwards
2024-04-04 09:34:52

Here is what Your Harlow report of the meeting stated HARLOW Council rejected a planning application for a Marks and Spencer (M and S) food store in Edinburgh Way and in doing so may have cost the town over fifty jobs. It appears that last minute negotiations between Harlow MP Robert Halfon and M and S, were not enough as the councillors based their decisions on the constraints of planning rules. Every single councillor on the planning committee voted to refuse the planning application. Those rules were laid down as follows: The main issues to consider in respect of these applications are whether the proposal represents sustainable development, is in compliance with the sequential test, impact on vitality and viability of the town centre….and then matters obtaining to parking and highway safety. A Harlow Council officer explained what “The sequential test” meant. She said: “This looks to explore town centre first development, moving to the edge of the centre if the town centre’s not suitable and only once these areas have been fully explored should out of centre locations be considered. The sequential test is designed to promote the town centre first to ensure the ongoing vitality of the town centre. “There are two sites within the town centre that can be readily adapted to accommodate floor space and delivery mechanisms which are required by a Simply Food store.. “The applicant states that a level car park is essential and is unwilling to be flexible on this point, regardless of the fact that many of the Simply Food stores do not have such parking provision. “Many do not have the parking provision Harlow town centre has which is within easy walking distance of the site proposed. “It can only be concluded that the sequential test is inadequate as there are suitable alternatives sites within the town centre and the applicant is demonstrating a lack of flexibility in their approach to this test. “Impact on the town centre must also be considered. There is no control over the closing of the existing M&S store if that’s the way in which they wish to go but it is fair to say that this is a strong brand within the town centre and its presence helps underpin the overall attraction, vitality, viability and competitive edge of the town centre. A spokesperson for Sapphire Harlow Nominee Limited, the owners of the Harvey Centre and also Standard Life, owners of the Water Gardens spoke to the committee. He said: “The application is very detailed full of technical points, but the issues are quite simple. Planning policy is clear: it is about putting the town centres first and about encouraging sustainable development. The proposals by M&S do neither. “As I’m sure members are aware, our client has invested considerably in the Harvey Centre, improving its attraction to shoppers. They’ve also invested heavily in incentives to attend to ensure the Harvey Centre maintains its existing occupiers and attracts new ones to town centre. “You will also be aware of our client’s proposal to bring a new cinema and a range of restaurants to the town centre in Harlow which are in delicate stages of negotiations. “Many of the retailers in the Harvey Centre have also invested their own money. Primark, Tesco, Wilkinson and Argos to name just a few have all spent significant sums in recent years to improve their offer and of course their performance. “Primark refurbished their store with a five million pound injection and trades extremely well. So with investment there are clearly opportunities. It’s clear then that both our clients and our tenants have confidence in Harlow town centre and will continue there to see it thrive. “They put Harlow town centre first. It’s disappointing that M&S does not share this. They haven’t invested in their premises for many years and rather than do so they propose to leave. By their own admission, they have not considered alternative sites within the town centre or held discussions with land owners. “Our clients have recently been given permission to demolish Little Walk and this will provide an excellent opportunity to keep them in the town in whatever form they wish. The next speaker was Head of Property at M&S, Adam Colton Mr Colton said: “I would like to explain the background to our proposal for a new simply food store at the Queensgate centre. We have had a long association with Harlow town centre and we first started trading here in 1969. “Trading levels however of our town centre store have been declining over a sustained period in real terms by 30% over the last seven years. This decline in turnover has been related to the impact of the water gardens opening and the consequent shift in the retail pitch away from our current location from the early 2000s. “While objectors have criticised us for not investing in the town centre store, its trading performance is simply not that we could not justify an increase in the cost space of the store with no likely return. “The Harlow store is an underperforming store and we have reached a situation where we need to take action. “We want to retain a store in Harlow, and continue to provide an M&S service to customers and to retail the jobs for those existing employees in Harlow. The only way we can do this is through the relocation to a new Simply Food store selling food and drink. “We do not make this decision lightly, as closing the town centre store will inevitably mean that in the short term we may lose some trade especially in clothing. However for the medium to long term this is the only commercial solution for our business. The new simply food store will also mean that shoppers can pick up non-food goods locally they’ve bought on the internet though click and collect. “We employee 63 staff in our town centre store and we will offer all the existing staff jobs in the new store. “It is clear from the comments made by objectors and the council retail consultants that there are some misconceptions about our current programme of Simply Food stores. “Over the last five years 40 of 41 new Simply Food stores we have opened have surface level parking. The absence of adjacent surface level parking is the reason why converting our town centre store to a Simply Food simply would not work. At this point, cllr Christine O’Dell (Labour) asked the key question. “Just for clarification, would you close the town centre store if the application is turned down? Mr Colton replied “As I’m sure you’ll understand I have to use very particular wording to respond to that. “So in this situation we will opening consultation with an M&S employee representative on the proposal to close the existing Harlow store. Labour councillor Jean Clark offered her comments: “This is an extremely important planning application for the people of Harlow, not just for M&S itself, because it is an anchor store and that affects the vitality and viability of the town’s centre in general. “I agree with the officers that sustainability is absolutely crucial in economic, social and environmental terms. In economic terms it will in my opinion have a harmful impact on the town centre if it moves to Queensgate and also on its own economic development. “I think there is a comment that over half of the revenue comes from the food hall and that’s without any investment at all of this two million pounds; that in itself is an argument for remaining in the town centre and using the existing site, improving the existing site, which would also assist the 63 staff, provide more security of jobs and also they have the use of a bus service. “It has been argued somewhere here by M&S that there can be a reliance on buses – that is not the case. If we look at social inclusion this is also a major, major factor which has been completely neglected by M&S. I live just ten minutes’ walk away from Queensgate. I travel frequently along Edinburgh Way and I have never seen a bus in use along that route. Cllr Muriel Jolles (Cons) echoed cllr Clark’s sentiment. She said: “I would like to reiterate what Maggie and Sue said. I don’t know whether or not the M&S crew have understood just how Harlow is beginning to buzz. “We’ve got the best sixth form college, young kids: change your produce and make it younger. Secondly you’ve got the food and you can have it in little walk, you can build up something as big as three storey place before Debenhams or John Lewis get into it. We’ve got not just 1000, 2000 houses coming, we’ve got around about 18,000 houses that are going to be built around Harlow and the place is buzzing, we’ve got our first university. We’re getting in the picture, we’re getting a lot of investment. “It’s such a pity that you’re pulling out when it’s just going to begin, and it’s a shame but you say it’s a commercial interest. It’s not China, it’s not Russia, you can do what you want, we can’t stop you, but it’s such a shame and you will be sorry. UKIP cllr Jerry Crawford slammed Marks and Spencers for their “attitude” Cllr Crawford said: “I re-iterate what all cllrs have said. I think I would question what M&S’ attitude was towards this store in the town centre. “They started there in 1969 and it would appear that we’re now in the year 2014 and it’s still stuck in the 1970s. There’s been no investment made in that store at all. It is very tired and I think that must impact on what customers think. You might have nice M&S expensive suits in there but if the décor is shabby people aren’t going to stay around to buy. “So I think that the argument that for that reason trade’s gone down is probably self-defeating. I wonder whether M&S have actually listened to their customer insight unit which I understand they operate, because I’m sure if they’ve actually spoken to the current customers in the town centre store the majority of them would probably be unable to make their way down to Queensgate. “Moving the food store down there would be self-defeating and it’s a non starter straight away. The last thing, I’ve gone through this very thorough document, the number of times I’ve written the words down: “no flexibility”.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-04-04 09:52:36

Bearing in mind that Cllr Swords was at school at the time that M&S departed from the town, neither he or Cllr Leppard will be aware of all the hard work that officers undertook to keep M&S in the town and indeed of the work to regenerate the town centre back in 2011. Tony Edwards' post clearly lay out the facts as does the other article on this subject. The local Conservatives are not good when it comes to dealing with facts, trying to we-write history and making claims which are patently untrue.

James Leppard
2024-04-04 10:24:09

Tony Edwards succinct summary overlooks a fundamental point. The Labour administration made the policy that made it unattractive for M&S to remain. It is the role of the administration to set planning policy; not the Planning Committee. Members of the Committee represent all parties but they must follow the planning policy and are advised accordingly by the Officers. Tony Edwards is often on the current committee so he knows this. The sole responsibility for M&S departing rests on Harlow Labour's policy. Credit where it is due.

2024-04-04 10:36:18

Closely followed by C and A, Littlewoods and Woolworth's.

2024-04-04 10:37:14

And then James Leppard will get back to me as promised

Nicholas Taylor
2024-04-04 10:52:57

James, any evidence that the Conservatives back in 2014 objected to the Planning policy? I think not. They were inept in opposition just as they were with the Local Plan in 2018.

2024-04-04 11:07:55

James Leppard,I think it was down to M & S to leave Harlow.

James Leppard
2024-04-04 11:08:30

Nicholas, that was before my time on the Council, as you know. However, this administration is taking a lead and bears no resemblance to past administrations. As I said, Labour's majority would ensure that their policy was implemented, just as Labour voted in February to scrap the Council Tax Support for our most vulnerable residents, our majority ensured that it was retained.

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-04 11:39:59

James Leppard council tax may be frozen, but there be something else that will go up, rents probably..

Conservatives out
2024-04-04 11:49:43

So a blackmail from the conservatives gets posted, ''Vote conservatives to get M&S back'' I would rather drive to Cheshunt or Stevenage than have the conservatives in charge any longer.

A Tigerman
2024-04-04 11:52:13

the conservatives cant even bring back hanging, never mind M&S. I bet they've confused it with S&M and are missing their sordid soirees. Harlow's not even ready for Waterstones, never mind out of date M&S clothes.

A Tigerman
2024-04-04 13:00:07

I'm excited to see Tandy, Timothy Whites, Woolworths, Laskys, Parrot Records and Our Price all coming back under the 4th Reich. *thumbs up*

Mr Grumpy
2024-04-04 14:48:47

Don't forget Times Furnishings, Benjis, the market, Startime Records ............................

2024-04-04 15:28:44

James what you fail to see is that the future plans the Tories have will if seen through, will further degrade the Town. Smoke and mirrors and worse still all fur coat and no knickers. As for fulfilling promises we are still waiting for Dan to lay down in front of the bulldozers at Purford Green.

2024-04-04 16:01:53

More false promises.

2024-04-04 18:49:09

Tony Edwards presents facts of the matter at the time, James Leppard responds with standard Tory playbook: don't present the "policy" he has repeatedly mentioned, say "we are a changed party since then", then go full on what-about on an unrelated issue. Obviously James has forgotten the years of austerity that prevented any investment thanks to greedy bankers, a huge number of whom are now elected MPs including one Rishi Snake!

James Leppard
2024-04-04 19:51:13

Dan, please understand Planning Committee is not party political. It is genuinely quasi-judicial. The planning policy is set by the administration: fact! It is not open to Committee members to oppose applications based upon personal preference, ideology, etc. fact! It can only be challenged based upon planning law or regulation: fact! Tony Edwards has not explained this. He is trying to apportion blame, when it resides solely with the former Labour administration; fact!

james nicholson
2024-04-04 22:17:14

Seems like more empty promises during election time.

Maybe it's amazing
2024-04-04 23:46:47

If you're prepared to ignore the state of literally everything and vote tory cos you might be able to get percy pigs in the town centre then good luck to you.

James Leppard
2024-04-05 02:54:39

How about this for a fact: 1. During COVID, Harlow's Labour run council was designated "the worst in Essex" for making business relief payments. 2. In just 3 short years, Harlow Conservative run Council has been shortlisted by the fully independent Local Government Association ('LGA') : Bath & North East Somerset Council Harlow Council Lichfield DC Walsall Council as the "Most Improved" council England. This shows the degree of genuine, objective change that has occurred across the entire Council structure and HTS.

2024-04-05 07:18:09

What real difference would bringing back 1 retail shop/store make to Harlow overall would it solve ALL THE ISSUES THIS TOWN HAS???? Of course it would not this must be one of the daftest issues I’ve ever seen on/in Your Harlow so far. Reply’s at the ready 1-2-3 Send!!

2024-04-05 07:39:00

Always happy to see new employment opportunities etc. but I'm not convinced that M&S would do well in Harlow. I may be wrong. I'd buy the odd bits & pieces out of there and perhaps some clothing now and then, but overall they are too expensive for most Harlow residents to do their weekly shop there.

Conservatives out
2024-04-05 07:49:33

Mothercare - sits empty Old b&m - sits empty About time some poxy shops move into these, Retail park can’t cope with the volume of traffic, Iceland is in the wrong place. Should have gone into mother care, We have more coffee shops in this town than actual decent shops. About time things get done, want the votes, start to change these issues.

2024-04-05 07:59:56

I repeat my point made elsewhere James Leppard. Westminster Conservatives made planning policy to allow residential use of commercial properties, little to no noise from Conservative local party against this. Labour Council at the time and the Alliance party campaigned to get the rules changed, they didn't throw their hands up and say "we can't challenge policy". The report on MnS departure clearly shows that the company had planned to depart the town centre for years, it wasn't down to local policy.

2024-04-05 08:19:56

As much as I dislike the Tories. I don't want to back to the useless Labour council run. I have lived in Harlow for 10 years and it has gone downhill. I don't care what party is in power as long as they make a difference.

James Leppard
2024-04-05 08:33:37

Kevin speaks wisely. Much of local government is not 'party political' but rather about efficiency, sound administration, solid management, quality control, etc. Councillors who come from backgrounds that develop such skills tend to achieve more. There is not a Labour or Conservative way of cutting grass. It is either cut properly and efficiently at the right frequency or not. On this, like virtually every other Council service or function, this administration performs better than the previous Labour one. If we were performing to their standard we would not have been short listed for the Most Improved Council in England 2024 Award by the independent LGA.

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-05 08:47:39

Oh may, I've heard it all now Mr James Leppard,, you talk of services,, do you live in the real world,, think you should go out of your office occasionally and visit our services... There an absolute, and I mean an absolute disgrace, the worst ever I've seen our services,, take of your rose tinted glasses James,, oh wait a minute leave them on, your need um for your awards, you all like to pick up.

James Leppard
2024-04-05 08:55:41

Kim O'Connor could you kindly stop trying imitate Chris Vince and be specific as to the services you are mentioning. Otherwise, it is just vague waffle and generalisations a la Chris Vince.

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-05 09:14:21

What is James the truth. Not that I'm a Labour supporter, but if his said it, like many thousand s of people, then it surely can't be true..because you have said so. 🤔 😄 🤣

2024-04-05 13:17:05

Kim O . Your rents go up every year no matter what. Do you think the greens if they were in power😂😂. They would never put anything up . Sorry to say this Kim I have read most of your post , you moan at JLbecause hr goes on about the hustings , which by the way your glorious leader suggested , but your no different going on about Burnt Mill flats. Do you think your really up for standing as a Councillor for Netteswell. Greens have no chance , Sorry.

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-05 14:40:10

Turkey,, I'm a gobby person, what can I say, I can't help it..haha..if my posts don't interest you don't read them . Oh by the way still no response from burnt mill flats, James, we're they cash bought or a loan.. Keep up Mr Turkey.. I'm no longer a green party member, left for personal reasons. Very slow ain't you.

2024-04-05 16:09:55

You only said you was standing a few days ago , make your mind up

2024-04-05 16:15:48

This is the problem with you Kim , jumping to conclusions, letting your mouth run amock , what makes you think I am a man

Fact or Fiction
2024-04-05 18:14:23

Interesting turn of phrase Mazzy! A false promise is a commitment made deliberately without the plan or ability to fulfill it. It is made with the aim of deceiving or defrauding someone. A person commits a false promise when they make a promise to do something without any actual intent to perform what was promised. Perhaps sometimes a trait of all political parties and trade unions, mixed with social media and spin? But things do get done, or else nothing would change would it? Sometimes successfully, sometimes not, which actually becomes the measure of political satisfaction or not (as per comments above)!

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-05 19:18:08

Turkey, I don't give a pigs ear if your male or female, if you use a silly name like Turkey, it's a lucky guess.

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