The Stow Design Guide SPD Consultation Draft

Ended on the 29th June 2015
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2. Background Policy and Initiatives

2.1 National Planning Policy Framework (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2012)

Section 7: Requiring Good Design states "good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning, and should contribute positively to making places better for people." (para.56). Also that "it is important to plan positively for .... high quality and inclusive design ...., including individual buildings, public and private spaces". (para.57)

It goes on to suggest that planning policies and decisions should aim to ensure that developments function well, add to the quality of the area, establish a strong sense of place, optimise site potential, sustain an appropriate mix of uses, respond to local character, create safe and accessible environments, and are visually attractive. (para.58) However, it guards against detail and prescription and instead says policy should focus on "guiding the overall scale, density, massing, height, landscape, layout, materials and access of new development in response to neighbouring buildings and the local area" (para.59)

2.2 Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan (Harlow District Council, 2006)

Policy SD4 suggests mixed use proposals within neighbourhood centres will be permitted if uses are compatible, there would be no loss of viability and vitality to the centre or amenity due to a change of use, and that car parking might be reduced for residential use.

Policy RTCS1 says proposals for retail and other developments which attract large numbers of people, will be determined on a sequential basis, considering need and capacity, sustainable access and Harlow's hierarchy of centres. Development must be appropriate to the function, size and character of the centre.

Policy RTCS14 indicates that proposals will be permitted which enhance/protect the role of the neighbourhood centres by improving the range and quality of facilities whilst meeting local need, promoting residential use above shops and on previously developed land, suitably caters for all access modes, and encourages high quality design.

Policy RTCS15 suggests the following uses classes will normally be permitted: A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services), D1 (non-residential institutions), D2 (assembly and leisure) and launderettes; provided that centres with 5 or more original units retain a minimum of 40% of frontage length in A1 (shop) use.

Policy RTCS16 states that: "Proposals for the improvement and, if shown to be necessary, partial redevelopment of The Stow .... will be favourably considered. All proposals must respect the existing character of the Centres, and their position in the architectural heritage of Harlow. Exceptionally, proposals for the full redevelopment of the Centres will be favourably considered. Proposals should not result in the loss of key facilities that contribute to the range of offer or that act as anchors or catalysts which assist in retaining existing or attracting new operators in the neighbourhood centre."

Policy NE1 protects green wedges such as related to First Avenue and Howard Way.

Policy BE10 guards against new development adversely affecting conservation areas such as the Mark Hall North Conservation Area which adjoins the study area to the north.

The designated neighbourhood centre boundary covers the core retail and service area but excludes emerging peripheral areas including Aldi.

Figure 2.2

2.3 Harlow Design Guide SPD (2011, Harlow District Council)

This document provides general guidance for informing site specific policy and planning applications, with section 4.4 focussing on neighbourhood centres:

DDG13: Improvement of Existing Neighbourhood Centres includes suggestions that they should promote local identity, enhance legibility by providing taller buildings in suitable locations, provide a vibrant and self-policing mix of uses, ensuring adequate active frontage over the public realm and parking areas, make sure public space is appropriately spatially enclosed, reconnect centres with surrounding neighbourhoods, ensure parking and servicing doesn't dominate the street scene, and promote high quality public realm in appropriate locations.

DG14: Shop Frontages suggests centre should respond to the grain and proportions of buildings, relate to upper storey design, reflect/complement existing materials, reflect diversity, not display inappropriate advertising and external security should not have an adverse visual impact.

2.4 The Stow Neighbourhood Centre Masterplan: Live, Work, Shop and Play (Architecture and Design Services, 2014)

This generates various ideas for the centre�s regeneration. It was commissioned by Harlow Council though is not adopted policy. Proposals are themed:

  • Refocussing - a public space and framing development between Aldi and the shopping centre, as the hub binding the different parts of the neighbourhood centre;
  • Reconnecting - potentially reinstating vehicular traffic through the precinct to increase passing trade and rationalise access, with shops serviced from the front;
  • Revealing (streetscape and visibility) - improving visibility by filtering landscape buffers, outward looking development, improved signage, new connections, and a less cluttered public realm;
  • Restoring - consistent shop front design, integrally "designed" security grilles, refurbished canopies and colonnades, tiling restoration and extension, replacement curtain walling, brickwork cleaning, and decluttering/screening of rear elevations; and
  • Redefining (identity) - consolidated niche/local retail complementing Aldi, more offices and restaurants, and rebranding through signage, colours etc.

2.5 Harlow Retail Study and Town Centre Heath Check (Harlow District Council, (2007)

This report does not take into account recent changes, notably the new Aldi store. It estimates there are 35 retail, leisure and service business space units in Neighbourhood Centre, equating to 7448m2 gross floorspace (875m2 gross of convenience goods retailing, 1783m2 gross comparison goods retailing, 2,649m2 community use, 123 m2 leisure use,1822m2 services and 108m2 vacant). It suggests there is a relatively good mix of retail outlets, complemented by a range of other uses, and with community facilities also acting as important anchors.

It says The Stow mainly serves the day-to-day convenience and service needs of local residents, with survey results indicating that most people mainly visit for top-up food shopping (rather than bulk buy) and/ or the Post Office. The Health Centre, dentist and other services were other main reasons for visiting the centre. Although vacancy rates were low, a number of A3 operators do not open until lunchtime and/or early evening. Survey results indicate modes of access are primarily by foot (50%) and car (41%), and priority issues are the poor environment, safety, anti-social issues, parking and lack of atmosphere. (p.51-53)

The authors suggest the centre suffers from poor public realms, dated street furniture, large areas of underused open space and unattractive service yards. (p.59)

The report highlights the potential for redevelopment, to provide more modern retail floorspace with residential uses above ground floor level. However, any redevelopment would require negotiations with existing leaseholders, relocation and/or compensation. (p.102-3)

2.6 Design and Good Practice, Parking Standards (Essex County Council/EPOA, September 2009)

Vehicle parking for new developments shall be provided in accordance with the adopted Vehicle Parking Standards. These Standards are expressed as a maximum, and justification will be required for the amount of car parking proposed on the basis of operational needs and, if applicable, a Green Commuter Plan.

As well as providing an appropriate level of car parking, it is important that new or extended developments incorporate good design for the layout, landscaping and lighting of parking. This should be user friendly, and not interfere with the public highway or access adjacent to the parking area.

Where the amount of on-site car parking can be reduced, a contribution may be sought by negotiation from developers for use on schemes within the Harlow Area Transport Strategy.

2.7 Planning Applications


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