The Stow Design Guide SPD Consultation Draft
1.1 Background and purpose
This design framework has been produced to help guide future developments and improvements to The Stow Neighbourhood Centre. The Design Framework is being led by Harlow District Council with assistance from Place Services at Essex County Council.
The purpose of this study is to evolve the 2013 "Live, work, shop and play" masterplan into a clear, robust and deliverable Design Framework which can be adopted as planning policy, in the form of a Supplementary Planning Document. It will promote and guide development opportunities, whilst identifying how funding, reinvestment and planning gain might be used to improve existing buildings and the public realm, as part of a combined regeneration package for the area.
1.2 Study approach
The 2013 "Live, work, shop and play" masterplan provides an in depth study of the Stow Neighbourhood Centre and a range of proposals for improvement, appearing particularly strong on architectural and historic elements. It highlights the historic value of the neighbourhood, but also its subsequent decline. The key proposals of the 2013 "Live, work, shop and play" masterplan are themed around:
Refocussing - A new public space as the focus for new development and acting as a central node linking the otherwise relatively dispersed anchor points - the pedestrianized precinct, Aldi and the Health Centre.
Reconnecting - Possible reinstating vehicular traffic through the precinct to increase passing trade and rationalise access more generally, with shops being serviced from the front.
Revealing (streetscape and visibility) - Improving the visibility of The Stow by filtering the landscape buffer to the north, new outward looking development frontage, improved signage, new connections, decluttering of key street scenes and public realm improvements including opening up the space in front of Moot House.
Restoring - Identified improvements include consistent shop front design, integrally 'designed' security grilles, refurbishment of canopies and colonnades including lighting, replacement and extension of feature tiling, replacement curtain walling above Dorringtons and to bridge, brickwork cleaning and decluttering/screening of rear elevations.
Redefining (identity) - Reviewing the future retail offer in The Stow and how it can complement Aldi by serving a niche/local need, increasing concentrations of offices and restaurants providing a balanced mix of uses and rebranding through signage, colours etc.
Each of the above key proposals will be used to influence the Design Framework short, medium and long term proposals. Where possible, each theme will be linked to a funding package provided through planning gain, Harlow Council and Essex County Council.
The Stow is located to the eastern edge of Harlow, fronting both First Avenue and Howard Way. The Stow (like all neighbourhood centres in Harlow) is very well connected to the town centre for both public transport and pedestrian/cycleways. The green open space (fronting Mardyke Road and Minchen Road), to the immediate south of the The Stow provides the neighbourhood with green amenity space and recreation space.
The Stow primarily supports the surrounding residential areas, providing both a convenience retail shopping as well as a range of services. Mainly due the range of services provided, The Stow also attracts customers drawn from the wider Harlow area and beyond. Since its conception, The Stow has gradually declined as a result of changing habits to both shopping and social interaction.
1.4 Study area
The study area combines the allocated local plan neighbourhood centre area with the wider area deemed The Stow. The eastern site boundary has been drawn to include links into Orchard Croft, Mardyke Road and the north-western corner of the recreation ground.
The significance (and visual importance) of Our Lady Fatima Church on the First Avenue/Howard Way roundabout, as a gateway building to The Stow, means that this site has also been included within the study area.