Local Development Plan Emerging Strategy Consultation (read-only)

Ended on the 30th May 2014
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4. Harlow’s Future Development Requirements

4.1 The following section sets out Harlow’s future requirement for development between 2011 and 2031. As a minimum the objectively assessed development needs of Harlow must be met. However, the Council proposes to ensure that sufficient development is provided to deliver the long term investment required to regenerate Harlow.

Housing Requirement

4.2 The National Planning Policy Framework requires that local plans meet the full objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area. When assessing future housing requirements the National Planning Policy Framework requires that local plans:

  • meet household and population projections, taking into account migration and demographic change,
  • address the need for all types of housing, including affordable housing and the needs of all people in the community,
  • caters for housing demand and the scale of supply necessary to meet this demand.

a) Demographic Needs

4.3 In 2011 the population of Harlow was 81,944 people. The Greater Essex Demographic Forecasts Study (Phase 4) was commissioned by the Council and 23 other local authorities in Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, to provide a consistent and up to date assessment of population forecasts; this shows that Harlow’s population is expected to grow by 14,036 people over the next plan period (2011 - 2031). This means that based on population trends there is a need for an additional 7,500 dwellings in Harlow (375 per year).

4.4 The Greater Essex Demographic Forecasts Study can be accessed via www.harlow.gov.uk/ldf-evidence. However, the population forecasts do not provide the only source of evidence to determine the future level of housing development required in Harlow.

b) Housing Affordability

4.5 In addition to population forecasts, the need for affordable housing in Harlow needs to be taken into account when setting the amount of development required. Factors such as rising house prices/rents and worsening affordability effects the amount of affordable housing that is needed in an area. If affordability is a particular issue (and if the trend is worsening) then the Council might need to address this by providing more market and affordable housing in the area than the level of development based solely on population projections.

4.6 Harlow Council together with other local planning authorities commissioned Opinion Research Services to prepare a Strategic Housing Market Assessment for the London Commuter Belt East / M11 Sub Region. The Strategic Housing Market Assessment highlights that property prices in Harlow have increased by approximately 150% between 2000 and 2012 with the average price of a home increasing from approximately £85,000 in 2000 to £175,000 in 2012. Moreover, resident incomes have not kept pace with the cost of homes in Harlow meaning households have found it more expensive to buy their own home.

4.7 As a consequence of this and other factors the Strategic Housing Market Assessment concludes that there will be a growing demand for more social-rented accommodation in Harlow over the next 20 years. The Strategic Housing Market Assessment forecasts that the future housing requirement for Harlow is approximately 8,000 dwellings. Of this 55% (4,400 dwellings) will be required for open market housing and 45% (3,600 dwellings) for social rented/affordable rented.

4.8 However, current economic conditions suggest that 45% level of provision is unlikely to be achievable; the evidence on viability4 suggests that rates could be as low as 10% - 15%5. Nonetheless, provision of up to 35% on sites above 15 units is considered to be reasonable6. Therefore for Harlow to meet its affordable housing requirement an increase in the total amount of housing is required.

4.9 At this stage a 30% affordable housing target is more reasonable. This would require a total housing requirement of 12,000 new dwellings between 2011 and 2031 to deliver Harlow’s need for market and affordable homes, as required by the National Planning Policy Framework. This figure will be subject to refinement as further information on development viability and infrastructure costs are known.

4.10 The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for the London Commuter Belt East / M11 Sub Region and the Viability Assessment for the London Commuter Belt (East)/M11 Sub Region, 2010 can be accessed via www.harlow.gov.uk/ldf-evidence.

Employment Requirements

4.11 Housing and employment policies are interlinked and a balance between homes and jobs is needed to ensure Harlow is sustainable in the long term. In addition to boosting employment the objective is to reduce the mismatch of jobs in Harlow and to improve the skills of residents to reduce in-commuting and the consequential congestion at peak times. Moreover, a wider economic approach is needed to reflect Harlow’s status as an Enterprise Zone and the economic aspirations for the town set out by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

4.12 The Employment Land Review projects employment in Harlow will increase by 3,900 jobs in the period 2011 to 2031. However, if the job losses arising from the recession are taken into account there would still be a net loss of jobs in Harlow between 2008 & 2031 despite the new firms that have recently been attracted to Harlow.

4.13 To address this the revised strategy seeks to capture the 4,000 forecast jobs for the period 2011 to 2031 and to replace the 4,000 jobs lost over the period 2008 to 2011. This would result in a net increase of approximately 8,000 jobs between 2011 and 2031 giving a total of 51,000 jobs in Harlow by 2031. In order to provide sufficient number of people to support these jobs an additional 9,200 people would need to be added to the town’s labour force to correlate with the jobs growth aspirations. The Council’s evidence (set out in the Harlow Future Prospects Study: Linking Regeneration and Growth) forecasts that an increase in the town’s population of approximately 23,000 people would be needed to deliver this. This equals approximately 11,500 new dwellings.

4.14 The Council will need to assess future employment land requirements in Harlow and consider how best to accommodate future employment growth. At this stage the requirement for further employment land allocation (if any) has yet to be determined. The Employment Land Review can be accessed via www.harlow.gov.uk/ldf-evidence.

Future Retail Requirement

4.15 An appropriate level of retail development for Harlow is needed to ensure that the Town Centre is maintained and reinforced as a key centre serving West Essex, East Hertfordshire and beyond. In addition there is a need to protect and enhance the Neighbourhood Centres and Hatches to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of communities across Harlow.

4.16 The regeneration of the Town Centre is a key priority and will form part of any future strategy for Harlow. The strategy will need to address a number of issues affecting the performance of this Centre, including poor public realm and accessibility issues.

4.17 In setting the appropriate level of growth in retail development a balance between growth in housing and shopping provision is needed to improve the town’s retail offer. The Retail Study can be accessed via www.harlow.gov.uk/ldf-evidence.

The Development Scenarios for Harlow

4.18 Based on the evidence set out above a number of development scenarios for Harlow have been developed.

  • Scenario A Do Nothing More: +3,929 dwellings and -1,207 jobs - This option assumes that no more housing is built in Harlow other than those developments which benefit from planning permission.

  • Scenario B Meeting Development Needs: +7,485 dwellings and + 3,057 jobs – This option reflects the demographic modelling undertaken by the Greater Essex Demographic Forecast Study but updated to take into account updated data on household formation rates.

  • Scenario C Jobs Led: +11,490 dwellings and +8,060 jobs - This option looks to provide enough jobs in Harlow to meet the town’s economic aspirations (including capturing the jobs lost during the recession). The level of housing is set to ensure sufficient people of working age in Harlow.

  • Scenario D Growing Centre: +15,000 dwellings and +12,099 jobs – This option assesses the approximate level of development set out in the East of England Plan.

  • Scenario E Transformed Centre: +20,000 dwellings and +18,121 jobs – This option is based upon sufficient growth to support a ‘transformed’ Harlow Town Centre (particularly in the retail and leisure offer).

4.19 The Council commissioned The Harlow Future Prospects Study: Linking Regeneration and Growth to assess the implications of each scenario. The study considered the impact of population growth, age structure, labour force changes and household changes. It also assessed the economic outcomes of each scenario on jobs growth, business growth, household spending change and business rates. Finally, the likely regeneration outcomes that each growth scenario offered were assessed.

4.20 Each scenario has different implications for Harlow ranging from the continued stagnation and eventual decline of the town up to a transformed town under the highest level of growth. Scenarios A and B fail to provide sufficient growth to deliver a wide number of key objectives for Harlow whereas Scenarios E and D, and to a lesser extent Scenario C, provide the critical mass that would deliver a wide range of the Council’s corporate objectives. In regeneration and economic benefit terms a greater level of growth would give Harlow the best possible platform to secure prosperity and tackle deprivation across the whole range of themes.

4.21 The outcomes are summarised below. Further detail on the outcomes can be found in the Harlow Future Prospects Study: Linking Regeneration and Growth can be accessed via www.harlow.gov.uk/ldf-evidence.

Figure 4.21

Regeneration Outcomes of Development Scenarios

Assessing Development Scenario

4.22 The five development scenarios provide different options for growth. The pros and cons for each scenario have been assessed below.

Level of Development Pros Cons

Option A: Provide 3,929 new dwellings including those that already have planning permission over the next 20 years (196 per year). This would could result in the loss of 1,207 jobs and limited retail development (< 500 sq m convenience and < 1,000 sq m comparison).

Minimal amount of land required and therefore minimal impact on traffic and the environment.

Less likely that greenfield land would be required.

Does not meet objectively assessed needs for development as required by Government policy contained in the National Planning Policy Framework.

This level of growth would fail to meet the needs arising from the town’s growing population and demand for affordable housing.

Option B: Provide 7,485 new dwellings over the next 20 years (374 per year). This would be enough to meet the town’s population. This would result in 3,057 new jobs and 3,365 sq. m (convenience) and 10,944 sq m (comparison) of new retail floorspace.

This would meet the growth required by the town’s growing population need as set out in the Greater Essex Demographic Study.

Would provide more affordable housing than option A.

Majority of growth could be accommodated with Harlow’s administrative area.

Does not meet objectively assessed needs for development as required by Government policy contained in the National Planning Policy Framework. This level of growth would only provide 2,250 affordable homes (only 60% of the 3,600 affordable dwellings required).

Growth scenario would fail to deliver a net gain in jobs growth between 2008 & 2031.

Would require greenfield development within and around the existing urban area of Harlow.

Option C: Provide11,490 new dwellings over the next 20 years (575 per year). This could result in 8,060 new jobs in the Harlow area.

This would meet the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework by meeting objectively assessed needs for housing. This option provides 3,447 affordable dwellings (95% of the 3,600 needed to meet full needs).

Would regain the jobs lost during the recession and provide a net increase of 4,000 jobs over the plan period and begins to ‘trigger’ wider regeneration of Harlow (Future Prospects study).

Would require significant development in and around Harlow including green belt land and would be dependent upon agreement of some provision in adjoining districts.

Would require significant upgrades to the local and strategic road network to accommodate growth and transport.

Option D: Provide15,000 new dwellings over the next 20 years (750 per year). This could result in 12,099 new jobs and 9,730 sq m (convenience) and 21,888 sq m (comparison) retail floor space.

Would exceed population requirement & provide 4,500 affordable homes which is 25% more than the 3,600 affordable homes required.

Provides substantial regeneration benefits (Future Prospects study).

Potential for larger developments to create new sustainable communities including local services and facilities.

Would require significant development in and around Harlow including green belt land and would be dependent upon agreement of some provision in adjoining districts.

Would require significant upgrades to the local and strategic road network to accommodate growth and transport.

Option E: Provide 20,000 new dwellings over the next 20 years (1,000 per year). This could result in 18,121 new jobs in the Harlow area.

Would exceed population requirement & provide 60% more of the 3,600 affordable homes required.

Transforms the role of Harlow into current day Cambridge. (Future Prospects study)

Potential for larger developments to create new sustainable communities including local services and facilities.

Would require substantial development in and around Harlow including green belt land and would be dependent upon agreement of some provision in adjoining districts.

Would require significant upgrades to the local and strategic road network to accommodate growth and transport.

4.23 The following chart illustrates the main outcomes of each development scenario on affordable housing provision, housing provision, jobs growth and for regeneration objectives.

Figure 4.23

Outcomes of Alternative Development Scenarios

Proposed Level of Development for Harlow

4.24 When setting the proposed level of development regard must be given to the National Planning Policy Framework. The Council is required by Government policy set out in the National Planning Policy Framework to boost significantly the supply of housing to meet the needs of the community. This means that ‘no growth’ is not an option for the Local Development Plan. The Council is required to develop a positive strategy which meets the objectively assessed development needs of the area. Regard has also been given to local priorities for housing, economic growth and regeneration set out in the Council’s Corporate Plan and in the South East Local Enterprise Partnership in setting the required level of development.

4.25 Evidence suggests that to meet Harlow’s objectively assessed development needs for market and affordable housing 12,000 dwellings would need to be provided between 2011 and 2031. To deliver wider regeneration and economic aspirations at least 11,490 dwellings would need to be provided and 8,060 jobs. To secure substantial regeneration benefits 15,000 dwellings and beyond are required. However, it is anticipated that growth in excess of 15,000 dwellings would be difficult to achieve within the plan period (2011 to 2031) due to the time and costs of delivering the necessary supporting infrastructure.

4.26 Development between 12,000 and 15,000 new dwellings (600 and 750 dwellings per year) and 8,000 to 12,000 jobs (400 and 600 new jobs per year) between 2011 and 2031 is considered to be an appropriate range of development to be proposed at this stage. This level of development meets Harlow’s objectively assessed needs and provides a positive platform to deliver regeneration objectives.

4.27 At this stage in the preparation of the Plan the Council considers it appropriate to have some flexibility in the level of development required for Harlow. This will ensure that further evidence on economic viability, infrastructure provision and deliverability can be considered when refining the level of growth within this band.


4 Viability Assessment for London Commuter Belt (East)/M11 Sub Region, 2010. 5 This figure depends on the size and nature of the site and also the on the costs of other infrastructure required to support development. 6 Provided this is applied flexibly taking into account market conditions and values.
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