Local Development Plan Pre-Submission Publication

Ended on the 6th July 2018
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1.1 The Harlow Local Development Plan (known as the 'Local Plan' for brevity) sets out the long-term planning vision for the district and aims to guide future development across Harlow during the Local Plan period[1]. The Local Plan ensures that development in the district is sustainable and meets the needs of residents, businesses and visitors to the area. Once it has been found sound and subsequently adopted, the new Local Plan will supersede the Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan (2006) and will become the basis upon which planning applications are determined[2].

1.2 The Local Plan is underpinned by a number of key Strategic Objectives. These are supported by policies in the Strategic Growth Strategies, which provide an overarching planning framework and set out the district's development needs, together with Development Management policies. A Policies Map accompanies the Local Plan, which illustrates the policy themes, areas where existing land uses will be protected and areas for growth and regeneration. The Local Plan must be read as a whole and alongside national policies. The Evidence Base, which contains studies such as the Retail Study and Employment Land Review, provides evidence to justify the policies in the Local Plan.

1.3 The Local Plan has been prepared in accordance with national legislation and guidance, including the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) Regulations 2012 (as amended), the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Planning Practice Guidance.

1.4 An Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) has also been prepared to identify the infrastructure required to support the future levels of growth across the district.
A separate Area Action Plan is being prepared to provide a detailed planning framework to deliver growth and regeneration in and around Harlow Town Centre.

1.5 The components of the Local Plan are illustrated in Fig. 1.1.

Fig. 1.1: Components of the Harlow Local Development Plan

Harlow Town Centre Area Action Plan (HTCAAP)

Essex CC Minerals & Waste Plan

1.6 Once adopted, the Local Plan will replace the Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan (2006). It will be kept under review in response to changes in local needs and conditions and national policies. Its effectiveness will be monitored over time against a set of indicators.

1.7 The Local Plan will be examined by an independent Inspector to assess whether it has been prepared in accordance with the Duty to Co-operate, legal and procedural requirements, and whether it is sound. According to national policies, a Local Plan is considered sound if it meets four tests:

  • 1. Is it positively prepared? It should be based upon a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development;
  • 2. Is it justified? It should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based upon proportionate evidence
  • 3. Is it effective? It should be deliverable over the Local Plan period and based upon effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities
  • 4. Is it consistent with national policy? It should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with national policies.

1.8 In the production of the Local Plan, consideration has been given to responses received during a number of consultations, which are summarised below.

(4) The Preparation of the Harlow Local Development Plan

Issues and Options Consultation (2010)

1.9 The Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan (July 2006), which was based upon the concepts set out in Sir Frederick Gibberd's original master plan for Harlow New Town, replaced the previous Local Plan adopted in 1995.

1.10 In 2010, the Council began the preparation of a new Local Plan and consulted on an Issues and Options document. This proposed a number of objectives for the district, based around five key themes: Placeshaping, Housing, Prosperity, Infrastructure and Lifestyles.

1.11 As well as seeking views on these key themes, the Council consulted on a series of potential growth options around Harlow, based on housing numbers identified in the now-revoked East of England Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). These options, which were based on the potential need for 11,000 new dwellings in locations around Harlow, are set out in Fig. 1.2.

Fig. 1.2: Growth Options in the Issues and Options consultation (2010)

Option A

RSS: Northern Led

Based on requirements set out in the RSS (undergoing the process of revocation at the time) which placed the bulk of the housing to the north of Harlow, with some more growth to the east but very little development to the west and south

Option B

Disbursed growth, evenly distributed around the edges of Harlow, thereby taking into consideration all alternatives

Option C
Combined criteria-led

Majority of growth located to the east and south, with no development to the north and very little development to the west, reflecting a range of environmental criteria

Option D

Maximising regeneration potential, this option allocated growth to the north, east and south, with very little development to the west

Option E
Sustainable transport-led

Growth would be concentrated along major transport routes or where transport would be enhanced, this mostly being to the east but with major growth also located to the north and west

1.12 The responses to the Issues and Options consultation showed there was little support for the growth levels identified in the RSS but strong support for growth to meet local housing needs. The majority of respondents considered that growth should be located in areas that would maximise the ability to regenerate Harlow and, in particular, that protection should be afforded to the district's Green Wedges. Transport and infrastructure issues were also highlighted as matters that required resolution before large-scale development took place.

1.13 Other issues raised included the validity of the growth figures considered in the RSS given that, at the time of the consultation, the RSS was undergoing the process of revocation; the desire for growth to be determined by local needs; and the fact that Harlow itself would be unable to allocate land for growth outside of its administrative boundaries.

Emerging Strategy and Further Options Consultation (2014)

1.14 The Council subsequently consulted on the Emerging Strategy and Further Options document in 2014. This document reflected the changes made to the plan-making system through the enactment of the Localism Act 2011, the publication of the NPPF and the revocation of the East of England RSS. This meant the future development needs of the district, based on an assessment of local social, economic and environmental conditions, would be determined through the preparation of a new Local Plan.

1.15 As a result of emerging evidence and the need to identify a suitable housing number for Harlow's local needs, the consultation contained a number of potential housing options. These options were based on work undertaken by consultants who concluded that to make Harlow a sustainable place to live, work and visit, it would require a high level of growth to boost regeneration and to attract investment. The consultation document presented five development scenarios and housing target figures as set out in Fig. 1.3.

Fig. 1.3: Growth Scenarios in the Emerging Strategy and Further Options Consultation (2014)

Scenario A – Do Nothing More:

3,929 dwellings and loss of 1,207 jobs

This option assumed that no more housing is built in Harlow other than those locations which already benefit from planning permission

Scenario B – Meeting Development Needs: 7,485 dwellings and 3,057 jobs

This option reflected demographic modelling undertaken at the time

Scenario C – Jobs Led:

11,490 dwellings and 8,060 jobs

This option looked to provide enough jobs in Harlow to meet the district's economic aspirations and a level of housing set to ensure sufficient people of working age

Scenario D – Growing Centre:

15,000 dwellings and 12,099 jobs

This option assessed the approximate level of development set out in the RSS

Scenario E – Transformed Centre:

20,000 dwellings and 18,121 jobs

This option was based upon sufficient growth to support a 'transformed' Harlow Town Centre (particularly in retail and leisure)

1.16 Respondents to the consultation identified the need for Harlow to provide for high levels of growth in order to tackle existing issues around affordability, infrastructure provision, regeneration needs and investment opportunities. Respondents also recognised the need for the Council to work closely with its neighbouring authorities through the Duty to Co-operate to facilitate such growth.

Development Management Policies Consultation (2017)

1.17 In 2017, the Council invited comments on the emerging Development Management policies. The policies will guide future development across the district and provide a regeneration strategy up to 2033. These provide a detailed planning framework which will be used to assess planning applications and underpin a number of overarching Strategic policies that will be contained in the Local Plan.
A number of responses were received and, where appropriate, the policies were modified.

(1) Next Steps

1.18 Following the completion of these consultations, and in accordance with Government guidance, as set out in the NPPF and Planning Practice Guidance, the Council has prepared a Local Plan that has taken into consideration the economic, social and environmental conditions of the district. This has been informed by technical evidence that indicates the future housing, retail and employment needs, together with the identification of the necessary supporting infrastructure, balanced against the need to protect key environmental assets. The strategic implications of the evidence has been prepared and considered in collaboration with the adjoining District Councils of East Hertfordshire, Epping Forest and Uttlesford, in accordance with the obligations of the Duty to Co-operate as set out in the Localism Act 2011.

(2) The Policies Map

1.19 The Local Plan has been developed around a number of themes and these are reflected, where appropriate, in the allocations and designations shown on the Policies Map.


1.20 The Policies Map shows the extent of the Green Belt in Harlow together with the network of Green Wedges and Green Fingers, as well as protected biodiversity assets in the district.

1.21 The Policies Map also indicates the boundaries and locations of Harlow's heritage assets and historic environment, including Conservation Areas, listed buildings, Scheduled Monuments and areas of archaeological value.

1.22 The Environment Agency regularly updates flood zone areas and areas susceptible to surface and ground water flooding in the district. The Council's website provides links to more up-to-date information provided by the Environment Agency on flood warnings, river levels and flood risk maps.


1.23 Housing allocations, including the Strategic Housing Site East of Harlow (a new Garden Community), are shown on the Policies Map. The boundaries indicate the extent of the allocation areas, but they do not necessarily reflect the extent of the land that will be developed; this will be subject to a detailed assessment as part of a planning application or master planning exercise. The northern part of the Strategic Housing Site East of Harlow extends into the adjacent district of Epping Forest; the extent of the part in Epping Forest will therefore be allocated in the Epping Forest Local Plan.


1.24 The Policies Map outlines the hierarchy of retail centres across the district including Neighbourhood Centres and the Hatches. It should be noted that a separate Area Action Plan is being prepared for Harlow Town Centre that will be accompanied by a detailed inset map, which will show major regeneration areas in the town centre, as well as primary and secondary frontages.


1.25 Other Open Spaces, cultural and recreation facilities, and other community buildings and facilities are not shown on the Policies Map because they can vary in size and scale. They are, however, protected through the policies in the Local Plan.


1.26 Where appropriate and where specific details are known at the time of publication, the location of the key infrastructure needed to support development will be shown on the Policies Map.

(2) Evidence Base

1.27 The Local Plan has been informed by a number of key pieces of evidence which are available for inspection on the Council's website at www.harlow.gov.uk/evidence

(13) Sustainability Appraisal and other supporting documents

1.28 The Local Plan has been subject to a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) which has assessed the potential economic, environmental and social effects of the Local Plan. This is also subject to consultation and can be found on the Council's website. In addition a Habitats Regulation Assessment and Equalities Impact Assessment have been undertaken.

(5) Duty to Co-operate

1.29 The Localism Act 2011 places a duty on Councils to co-operate on planning issues that cross administrative boundaries, particularly those which relate to strategic priorities. The Government expects joint working on areas of common interest to be diligently undertaken for the mutual benefit of neighbouring authorities.

1.30 The Council has worked closely with neighbouring authorities, statutory bodies and other interested parties in preparing the Local Plan. In order to deliver the wider growth strategy for Harlow, a number of key pieces of evidence have been jointly prepared with other local Councils. This includes a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) which sets out the housing need for the Housing Market Area (HMA) and a Site Selection Report which appraises all of the development sites around Harlow.

1.31 The Council has also worked closely with other authorities to assess the cumulative impact of growth on the strategic highway network, leading to the identification of a number of mitigation measures. A joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Highways England, Essex and Hertfordshire County Councils and East Hertfordshire, Epping Forest and Uttlesford District Councils has been prepared endorsing improvements to the highway network, including the new M11 Junction 7a. Additionally, a MoU has been prepared, focussing on the management of growth from development on the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation to ensure no adverse effects on integrity of the SAC.

1.32 A MoU has also been prepared with East Hertfordshire, Epping Forest and Uttlesford District Councils which sets out the distribution of Objectively Assessing Housing Need across the area. The MoUs are available to view on the Council's website.

1.33 The Council has held a series of meetings and discussions with infrastructure providers to ensure the right level of infrastructure and investment are in place to deliver the growth in and around Harlow. This includes transport infrastructure (both public and private), education, healthcare provision, utilities, social care provision, waste and crematorium space. The information gathered from these discussions has led to the creation of the IDP.

(3) Harlow and Gilston Garden Town

1.34 Harlow, Epping Forest and East Hertfordshire District Councils and strategic partners have come together to facilitate growth through the development of new Garden Communities, which are to be delivered as part of the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town. This will enable the development and identification of clear design principles tailored to the unique characteristics of Harlow and the Gilston area.

1.35 This is based upon a common set of values, objectives and a commitment to secure the delivery of growth across the area, reflecting close cross-boundary working between Harlow, Epping Forest, East Hertfordshire District Councils and strategic partners. Harlow and Gilston Garden Town lies in the core area of the London Stansted Cambridge Corridor.

(1) Applying the policies in the assessment of planning applications

1.36 Upon receipt of a valid planning application, the proposed development will be assessed on the relevant Strategic policies and Development Management policies in the Local Plan. The Minerals Local Plan and the Replacement Waste Local Plan prepared by Essex County Council and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council are the relevant Local Development Plans in respect of minerals and waste matters in the district. The Harlow Local Plan does not duplicate the Minerals Plan or Waste Plan. The policies in this document do not repeat national guidance or policy. Therefore, where a local policy is absent or silent, it is because adequate national policies exist.

1.37 Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) support and provide more detail to certain policies, such as the Council's Design Guide, which may be a material consideration in the assessment of planning applications.

1.38 Each planning application will be assessed on its own merits, taking account of all relevant planning policies and material considerations. While an application may be supported by any single policy, this does not mean that permission will be granted. An application must satisfy relevant policies, both Strategic and Development Management. Matters of interpretation on whether a policy is relevant and whether an application satisfies relevant policies are for the Council to determine.

1.39 When considering development proposals, the Council will take a positive approach that reflects the presumption in favour of sustainable development as set out in national policies and guidance. The Council will work proactively with applicants to find solutions to secure development that improves the economic, social and environmental conditions in the district. The Council may grant permission with planning conditions attached which ensure that the development accords with the Local Plan policies.

1.40 Planning applications which accord with the policies in the Local Plan will be approved, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Where there are no policies relevant to the application or relevant policies are out of date at the time of making the decision, the Council will grant permission unless national policies or material considerations indicate otherwise, taking into account whether any adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

1.41 There may be some instances where a proposal may not satisfy all policy criteria, but may be deemed acceptable when considered against all material considerations. Alternatively, there may be occasions where an application satisfies all policy criteria, but due to overriding material considerations, may still be considered unacceptable.

1.42 The Council will monitor and review policies in order to assess their performance in relation to meeting the Council's Core Priorities. They will be reviewed in the Council's Authority Monitoring Reports (AMRs).


Where is Harlow?

2.1 Harlow is located in the west of the County of Essex and is bordered by Epping Forest district to the south, west and east; and East Hertfordshire district (in the county of Hertfordshire) to the north (see Fig. 2.1).

2.2 It is 38km north of London and 50km south of Cambridge. It has good access to the M11 and the West Anglia Mainline railway and Stansted Airport is located 24km to the north-east. Harlow is the smallest local authority area in Essex, with a land area of 30.5sqkm.

Fig. 2.1: Map of Harlow and its spatial setting

2018 Context of Harlow Map

The Evolution of Harlow

2.3 Between 1946 and 1970, 21 New Towns were designated in the UK under the New Towns Act, primarily to rehouse communities displaced by bomb damage caused during the Second World War. The New Towns were influenced by Garden Cities, formulated by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the late 1800s to deliver settlements which combined the best of town and country and offered alternatives to the polluted, industrial towns of the Industrial Revolution.

2.4 In September 1946, the then Minister of Town and Country Planning, Lewis Silkin, invited Frederick Gibberd to work on a plan for a New Town in the Harlow area.
The plan would also contribute to designating the site of the New Town. An inquiry into the designation was held in December 1946 and the Ministry enacted a Designation Order for Harlow New Town on 25 March 1947. The current tight administrative boundary of Harlow, and subsequent small size of the district, is a legacy of this designation. However, Harlow nowadays serves as an important sub-regional centre that meets employment, retailing, social and cultural needs of the surrounding area.

2.5 Sir Frederick Gibberd's draft master plan was given ministerial approval in 1949 and the Harlow Development Corporation was established to deliver Harlow New Town. The final version of the master plan was published in 1952 (see Fig. 2.2).

2.6 The master plan was influenced by the area's distinctive landscape and environmental features, such as the River Stort in the north, the valley ridges and wooded areas in the south and other important ecological assets. The New Town was built around a series of neighbourhoods, dissected by large areas of natural and semi-natural spaces, now known as Green Wedges, which are key physical features of Harlow that have shaped its subsequent growth.

2.7 The neighbourhoods, as set out in the master plan, were focussed around a shopping centre with easy access to social and educational facilities, connected by a series of distributor roads together with a network of cycleways and footpaths. These were separated by a network of landscape wedges, now known as Green Wedges, which were designed to reflect the original landscape setting.

2.8 The Green Wedges continue to provide amenity space for residents, habitats for wildlife, transport corridors, locations for schools and sport and community facilities. Two industrial sites, Templefields and Pinnacles, were located in the north and west of the district, relatively close to the railway line. The Town Park was provided to the north-east of the town centre and was designed around existing landscape features and a hamlet.

Fig 2.2: Harlow Master Plan (Harlow Development Corporation, 1952)

IMG_20161126_162916931 copy

(2) Population Profile

2.9 Harlow's population is approximately 85,400 residents[3]. The district first reached its original target population of around 80,000 people in the mid-1970s[4], but this was subsequently followed by a period of population decline. In 1995, Harlow's population fell to 73,600 people4, which gave rise to a number of social and economic problems.

2.10 The district's population grew again in the late 1990s and 2000s through planned extensions to Harlow, in particular the Church Langley and Newhall neighbourhoods.

2.11 Harlow has a very high population density of 26.8 people per hectare, compared to 4.7 for Essex and 4.1 for England.[5] This high density is compensated by easy access to services and facilities and the network of Green Wedges and open spaces across the district.

2.12 The population of Harlow, in comparison to the rest of Essex, is relatively young with 21% of its residents aged between 0-15 years, and the percentage of older persons living in Harlow is lower than Essex and England averages4. The district has a higher than average number of lone parent households[6] and higher overcrowding levels compared to the rest of Essex and England[7]. Smoking and obesity levels in Harlow are higher than average, with physical activity rates lower than average[8].

2.13 Deprivation levels in the district are overall lower than the England average but high compared to most parts of Essex.[9] There are some variances between different parts of Harlow, with the east being less deprived than areas to the west and south.

(1) Housing and Affordability

2.14 There are over 35,800 dwellings in the district and 34,700 households6. Harlow has a high proportion of homes rented from the Council, a legacy of the Development Corporation. There is also a higher than average proportion of terraced properties, which reflects the principles laid down in the original master plan for Harlow, where higher density urban areas were interspersed with areas of open space and linked green areas, including the Green Wedges.

2.15 Harlow's property prices are lower than other parts of Essex. However the house price growth in Harlow has outstripped wage increases making properties in Harlow unaffordable for many of the district's residents.

2.16 The highest level of affordable housing need in the Housing Market Area (HMA) is in East Hertfordshire (3,685 households) compared to 2,851 in Epping Forest, 3,098 in Harlow and 2,167 in Uttlesford[10]. However, the percentage requirement in these districts compared with overall need is in stark contrast to Harlow, with 61% in Harlow compared with 35% in Epping Forest, 32% in East Hertfordshire and 26% in Uttlesford11. The need in Harlow equates to around 3,400 new affordable dwellings over the Local Plan period.

2.17 The Council has been working with selected partners to bring forward Priority Estate Regeneration projects. These projects are in the process of redeveloping some of the more outdated estates where it has become uneconomic to refurbish the original buildings, particularly where homes have been found to be structurally unsound. They also provide an opportunity to produce a net increase in the number of homes within the project area.

2.18 A limited number of new Council houses have been provided in the last five years.
A number of sites in Council ownership have been allocated where innovative housing schemes will be developed to further increase the supply of affordable homes.


2.19 Harlow has a slightly higher percentage of working age people (i.e. people aged 16-64 but not necessarily in work) than the East of England. The majority of Harlow's jobs are engaged in health care and social work, mainly due to the presence of Princess Alexandra Hospital, wholesale and retail and administration and support service activities. The majority of Harlow residents are employed in elementary and sales and customer service occupations.

2.20 Residents of Harlow earn less than the county average and less than the average income of employees who work in Harlow12. Given the high level of self-containment in Harlow, this would suggest that higher paid jobs are being filled by those living outside of Harlow, meaning the local economy misses out on their disposable income. The district's residents also have a higher claimant count and lower qualification attainment compared to the rest of Essex and the rest of the country[11].

2.21 The district's two main employment areas are located at Templefields in the north and the Pinnacles in the west. Templefields contains around 80,000sqm of commercial floorspace, mostly industrial and logistic, with relatively low levels of vacancy. The Council has designated 28ha of the Templefields employment area as part of Harlow's Enterprise Zone in order to secure regeneration of the area.

2.22 The Pinnacles employment area consists of more high quality modern industrial units and mostly contains production, distribution and office uses. Vacancy rates are relatively low and the largest vacant building, the former GSK site, is to be occupied by Public Health England which is relocating to Harlow. It is considered that the new M11 Junction 7a will improve the flow of traffic east to west across the district and provide a catalyst for further growth.

2.23 The Council has also identified London Road, in the east of the district, as a further employment area of the Enterprise Zone. The purpose of this land is to promote medical technology and other high tech companies. It has also been identified as an opportunity site by the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium (LSCC).

2.24 As well as the two large employment areas and the Enterprise Zone sites, the district also has a number of smaller employment areas including Burnt Mill which mostly consists of warehousing and workshops; Staple Tye and Bush Fair Neighbourhood Centres which provide factory/office/workshop premises; and the Latton Bush Centre which provides a range of office floorspace.

Retail Centres

2.25 Harlow Town Centre is a major employment and shopping destination with a mix of office , retail and leisure provision. It also provides an important supply of housing. In 2004, major regeneration took place through the development of the Water Gardens in the south which included the new Civic Centre, retail space including the Asda foodstore, and a 1,200 space car park. The Harvey Centre, an indoor shopping centre, also provides a number of retail units and has seen redevelopment through the provision of a new cinema and restaurants.

2.26 Broad Walk, a linear street running north-south along the eastern edge of the town centre, contains a number of retail units, although they are more constrained by size and configuration. The market is held at the northern end of Broad Walk.
The northern end of the town centre around Market Square has a higher proportion of vacant units.

2.27 The district contains five Neighbourhood Centres and several smaller Hatches.
They provide important local retail and other facilities for residents and can help reduce car travel and increase sustainability. The five Neighbourhood Centres include Bush Fair and The Stow, both original 1950s centres which have seen little redevelopment or change; Old Harlow, which comprises the historic streets of the old market town; Church Langley, a modern hub serving the newer urban extension; and Staple Tye which saw major redevelopment in the 1980s to provide larger, more modern retail units.

(7) Transport and Accessibility

2.28 Harlow benefits from being within close proximity of major transport corridors which afford good connectivity within the UK and beyond. This includes the M11 in the east which stretches from London to Cambridge and beyond towards Peterborough, and provides access to Stansted Airport which lies just north of Harlow; the A10 which lies further to the west which runs north-south from central London to Cambridge; the M25 ring-road Motorway around London; and the A414 which provides east-west routes from Chelmsford through to St Albans.

2.29 The district has two railway stations; Harlow Town and Harlow Mill located in the north and north-east of Harlow. They are located on the West Anglia Mainline which links London Liverpool Street to Cambridge. This line also provides an express train from Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport, stopping at Tottenham Hale, Cheshunt, Harlow Town, Bishop's Stortford and Stansted Mountfitchet.

2.30 The internal road structure of Harlow reflects the original master plan of the district and is based on a network of primary distributor roads, mostly running through Green Wedges that link the main parts of Harlow with one another, and secondary distributor roads which link centres with each other and with the industrial estates. The primary distributor roads were originally intended to be dual carriageways and the secondary distributor roads were only intended to be single carriageway. Both have become congested over time.

2.31 Cycleways and bridleways are aligned with the footpath system running through Green Wedges and are extensive across the district. A number of locations in the highway network have dedicated bus lanes.

2.32 Harlow has only two major connections to the national road network: Junction 7 on the M11, which is the only link to the national motorway network; and the A414 at Burnt Mill which can become severely congested at peak periods. Junction 7 of the M11, the closest junction to Harlow, is at capacity; future planned growth including that already being proposed at the London Road Enterprise Zone is dependent upon changes to the strategic road network. The internal road structure has been subject to major modification to help relieve congestion including the provision of roundabouts to replace signalised junctions, on-off slip roads from those roundabouts and the conversion of single carriageways to dual carriageways. Planning consent has been granted for a new Junction 7a on the M11 to the north-east of the district to facilitate current and future development coming forward.

2.33 The Council has also supported the extension of Crossrail 2 to Harlow, to reinforce the key locational advantages of the district and to serve the growth identified across the wider Harlow area. The West Anglia Mainline is single tracked in both directions, but four-tracking has been under consideration for some time and would improve journey reliability and capacity. There is also a need to increase the frequency of the bus services to the industrial estates; to provide more opportunities to travel in and out of Harlow and not just within; to increase the provision of Sunday services; and to improve journey times for buses by decreasing congestion on Harlow's roads.

2.34 Improvements will be made to the local highway network and to the public transport network, including the enhancement of established transport corridors and the provision of new sustainable transport corridors through Harlow. This will help manage overall travel demand, improve connections within Harlow and to areas outside the district, and integrate new communities to Harlow, the Enterprise Zones and other employment areas through a choice of transport modes. There are also aspirations for a modal shift in travel, meaning 60% of travel would be by sustainable modes of transport. Sustainable transport matters (including walking, cycling and public transport) are, therefore, important for the successful future growth of Harlow.

(1) Green Infrastructure and the Natural Environment

2.35 Green Infrastructure is multi-functional urban and rural green space, including parks, playing fields, woodlands, allotments and wildlife corridors. Almost half of the land in Harlow is a form of open space, much of which is multi-functional, with 28% being designated as Green Wedges or Green Fingers, and 10% as Green Belt. These Green Wedges and Green Fingers are fundamental parts of the Green Infrastructure, as they contain multi-functional open spaces which are linked to other open spaces and the countryside.

2.36 The Green Belt, previously known as the Metropolitan Green Belt, was designated over sixty years ago to prevent the unrestricted sprawl of London and was expanded between the 1950s and 1980s. The land designated as Green Belt in Harlow forms part of this wider Green Belt.

2.37 Harlow contains a number of locally designated and nationally designated natural environment assets, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Wildlife Sites. In the north there is a series of floodplains and other wetland sites along the River Stort and Stort valley; centrally, from the Pinnacles area through to Newhall is a series of ancient woodlands and grasslands representing old countryside habitats; and in the south are the woodlands and commons of Parndon and Latton Bush areas.

(1) Historic Environment

2.38 As well as having important Green Infrastructure links and areas of important biodiversity and landscaping, Harlow also has a rich historical heritage even though most of the district was built post-war. Harlow has 10 Conservation Areas which protect some of the older areas of the district. These areas include Old Harlow, which was established before the New Town was built; and the Mark Hall neighbourhood, which reflects the early architectural style and planning of the New Town. The district also currently contains 168 listed buildings, 26 locally listed buildings and several Scheduled Monuments.

(3) Issues and Challenges

2.39 Since its inception, Harlow has been subject to distinct phases of growth and change. The district still faces significant challenges, including a shortage of affordable housing and a range of good quality housing stock; a highway network which is severely congested at peak times; an ageing physical environment; localised deprivation; and a skills shortage. Harlow performs poorly against comparator towns on a range of measures including employment growth, Gross Value Added (GVA) per worker, knowledge based businesses, skills base and retail ranking. This, along with the district's tight administrative boundaries, means that Harlow's ability to meet its long-term needs are inhibited which can hinder the district's regeneration and long-term economic prospects.

2.40 The Local Plan Evidence Base demonstrates that Harlow needs housing growth in order to improve and resolve the following issues to:

  • Provide affordable and flexible housing for future population needs
  • Provide the critical mass needed to regenerate retail centres and other facilities
  • Provide attractive new homes for the workforce needed to retain and expand Harlow businesses
  • Deliver major infrastructure, including the new M11 Junction 7a

2.41 To provide affordable and flexible housing for future population needs
The Evidence Base shows that people are living longer and more live alone resulting in smaller households, increasing the need for homes irrespective of population growth. There will still be a requirement for Harlow to provide housing for future population needs and to resolve affordability and homelessness issues currently experienced in the district. Housing growth will also help to deliver a range of new quality homes in order to retain residents who may seek housing needs elsewhere and to attract new residents who will invest and work in the area.

2.42 To provide the critical mass needed to regenerate and reinforce retail centres
Additional housing means an increase in population resulting in increased spending in the district's retail centres, particularly the town centre which provides sub-regional services and facilities. This spend will attract investors to locate in Harlow and, therefore, develop and regenerate the centres and reduce vacancy rates. Growth around the Neighbourhood Centres through estate regeneration will be delivered through the Local Plan. Growth in the town centre through the provision of new housing will be delivered through the separate Harlow Town Centre Area Action Plan. The aim is for Harlow to continue to be a sub-regional centre, competing with towns such as Bishop's Stortford, the Brookfield Centre, Hertford, Stevenage and the City of Chelmsford, by having an improved retail offer, new commercial leisure provision, an enhanced physical environment and more business space.

2.43 To provide the workforce for employers in order to retain and attract new businesses
Harlow needs to facilitate a successful, growing and attractive employment base serving both local and regional economies. To achieve this, Harlow will need to be an attractor for a wide range of businesses ranging from smaller local firms to larger multi-national companies. High quality housing must be attractive to prospective employers and employees. Additional housebuilding and related development will boost employment opportunities across a range of sectors that will support the local employment base.

2.44 To deliver major infrastructure

Major infrastructure enhancements are required to attract investors, businesses and therefore to improve economic aspirations in Harlow. Residential growth, managed and phased appropriately, will help to provide the investment needed to deliver infrastructure requirements including improvements to public transport, the local and strategic road network and social infrastructure such as education and health, including the future requirements of the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

2.45 Significant change is required in the population of Harlow in order to deliver the enhancements needed to ensure Harlow is a sustainable town for residents, businesses and visitors.


3.1 The Vision for Harlow to 2033 (see Fig. 3.1) and the Local Plan Strategic Objectives (see Fig. 3.3) illustrate how the Local Plan will shape the district for future generations.

Fig. 3.1: Spatial vision for Harlow to 2033, based on the Harlow Corporate Plan 2017

By 2033, Harlow will have:

  • regained its reputation as a place of aspiration, innovation and prosperity;
  • secured its role as a key urban centre that has benefited from growth,
    regeneration and sustained investment in infrastructure, services and facilities;
  • provided sufficient new homes to meet local needs, providing opportunities to those unable to purchase open market housing, through a significant increase in the provision of affordable homes;
  • a reputation as a location for high tech industries, research and development, advanced manufacturing and information technology, and the disparity between the skills and qualifications of Harlow residents compared to visitors will be significantly reduced;
  • excellent education facilities, which the varied, vibrant and aspiring communities will be taking advantage of; and
  • become famous for its quality and quantity of public art, building on its status as a sculpture town.

Harlow's residents will be more active, taking advantage of Harlow's excellent sporting, leisure and cultural facilities.

The perception of Harlow as a declining economic centre will have been reversed through the success of the Enterprise Zone sites and securing the status of the district as a prime business location and retail destination.

The district's economy will be diversified and there will be a wide range of employment opportunities across Harlow, fit for a modern and dynamic economy.

New development will have revitalised key areas. A programme of urban renewal will have replaced poorer housing stock with modern and sustainable buildings; this will have been complemented by a programme of selective development in locations across the district as part of a holistic programme of regeneration and redevelopment.

Major progress will have been made to address Harlow's health and wealth inequalities as well as addressing localised deprivation across the district's deprived neighbourhoods.

The amount of vacant and underused land in the district will have been minimised. Urban expansion of Harlow will be complete and residents will see the benefits of the growth through better infrastructure and other facilities and services across the district. The Town Centre, Neighbourhood Centres and Hatches will be thriving mixed-use areas benefiting from an improved public realm and increased activity.

Harlow will have retained a network of Green Wedges, supplemented by a number of Green Fingers. The district's Green Infrastructure, including green and open spaces, will be of consistently high quality and better connected to residential areas, providing multifunctional opportunities for residents and wildlife. Residents will also benefit from improved access to the countryside surrounding Harlow.

The land use and transport policies will be co-ordinated to ensure the maximum possible increase in passenger transport, walking and cycling. Major investment will be underway to address a number of specific transport capacity issues which are currently restricting growth and investment. This investment will include a new junction on the M11 (Junction 7a); substantial improvements to the internal road network, including support for a northern bypass beyond the Local Plan period; and the provision of an improved railway network through Crossrail 2 and/or four-tracking of the West Anglia mainline.

New development will minimise the use of global resources, support the development of good waste management and mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Development will be innovative in design and construction and new buildings will be energy efficient and use as much energy from renewable sources as possible.

3.2 The Council's Corporate Priorities (see Fig. 3.2) are reflected in the Local Plan Strategic Objectives (see Fig. 3.3). The Objectives consider the identified challenges, reflecting the social, economic and environmental characteristics of the district. The Objectives also provide the framework to monitor the success of the Local Plan. These have been divided into five key themes – Placeshaping, Housing, Prosperity, Lifestyles and Infrastructure.

Fig. 3.2: Harlow Council Corporate Priorities


1. More and better housing

2. Regeneration and a thriving economy

3. Wellbeing and social inclusion

4. A clean and green environment

5. Successful children and young people

Fig. 3.
3: Local Plan Strategic Objectives





(Enhancing the quality of the built and natural environment)

1. Create and enhance high quality built environments which are well connected to revitalised green spaces

2. Deliver high quality design through new development whilst protecting and enhancing the district's historic environment

3. Adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change

A clean and green environment


(Delivering housing at the right scale, of the right type and in the right location to meet the whole community's needs)

4. Identify sites to meet local housing needs both now and in the future

5. Provide a range of suitable housing for the community including a range of tenure and type

6. Improve the quality of homes in the district through new developments, regenerated neighbourhoods and priority estates

More and better housing


(Securing economic growth & regeneration to improve employment & educational opportunities in the district & reflect its strategic role)

7. Meet the employment needs of the district by diversifying and investing in the district's employment base

8. Secure economic revitalisation and reinforce Harlow's reputation as a key centre for Research and Development

9. Improve educational opportunities and the skills base of local residents

10. Provide a range of shopping needs for local residents and the wider sub-region by regenerating the Town Centre and protecting and enhancing Neighbourhood Centres and Hatches

Regeneration and a thriving economy; and

Successful children and young people


(Sustainably meeting the leisure, recreational and cultural requirements of the community)

11. To provide and enhance sporting, leisure, recreational facilities and cultural opportunities in the district

Wellbeing and social inclusion


(Ensuring growth and regeneration is supported by appropriate infrastructure provision)

12. Ensure that development is fully supported by providing the necessary infrastructure including education, healthcare and other community facilities

13. Reduce the need to travel by vehicle by ensuring new development is sustainably located or accessible by sustainable modes of transport

14. Improve transport links, particularly for sustainable modes of transport, to community facilities

15. Enhance and promote the role of Harlow as a transport interchange along the M11

Regeneration and a thriving economy

(3) London Stansted Cambridge Consortium

3.3 The London Stansted Cambridge Consortium (LSCC) is a strategic partnership of public and private organisations covering the area north of the Royal Docks and Tech City (London) up through the Lee Valley, the M11, A10 and West Anglia Mainline corridors to Stevenage, Harlow and Stansted and through to Cambridge and Peterborough. The extent of the area is shown in Fig. 3.4. The partnership was formed to organise and promote a distinct economic area with strong inter-connections, commuting to work and learn patterns, clusters of industries and supply chains.

3.4 At the heart of the LSC Corridor is the 'Core Area' of Harlow, Epping Forest, East Hertfordshire, Uttlesford and Broxbourne. This Core Area is a key location in the LSC Corridor and is set to bring forward substantial growth over the Local Plan period and beyond. It was agreed by the respective local authorities and the LSCC that a co-ordinated approach needs to be taken forward to deliver growth in the area.

3.5 The LSCC vision (see Fig. 3.5) sets out the growth and economic ambitions for the Core Area and this will in turn form part of a wider strategic sustainable growth framework. The framework will pull together existing and forthcoming work on transport and social and community infrastructure and put this in the form of a prospectus to make the strategic case for investment in the Core Area.

Fig. 3.4: London – Stansted – Cambridge Corridor

LSCC diagram

Fig. 3.5: Vision for the LSCC Core Area

The Core Area will build on its key strengths including its skilled workforce in sectors such as health, life sciences and pharmaceuticals, advanced engineering and aerospace, its high quality environment and educational opportunities. Together with Stansted Airport, the local authorities will deliver sustainable growth which supports the economic ambitions of the LSCC and the UK through:

  • complementing and supporting the economic performance of the Corridor whilst maintaining and enhancing the special character of the area, including the locally distinctive historic character of its market towns and rural settlements;
  • the delivery of housing, supported by good access to social, leisure, community and health facilities, education and jobs, which meets the needs of local people and support sustainable economic growth, whilst ensuring it remains an attractive place for people to live and locate to;
  • capitalising on existing economic sectors and promoting growth of expanding industries including in the food production, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and technology sectors; tourism including hotels, Stansted's expansion, recreation/green assets including the Lee Valley, Stort Valley, Epping Forest and Hatfield Forest National Nature Reserve;
  • working with partners to protect and enhance the high quality environment, its unique landscapes and places of special wildlife value. This would be achieved by place-shaping initiatives which would include measures to conserve areas of high biodiversity; the provision of new, alternative green spaces for people and wildlife; and the increase of green infrastructure connections between these areas, to provide greater opportunities for more sustainable access to nature for everyone living in the corridor;
  • working with partners to secure investment in major infrastructure including increasing rail capacity on the West Anglia Mainline and maximising the opportunities that Crossrail 2 can deliver, together with road improvements including a new junction on the M11 at 7a and improvements to junctions 7 and 8, and to the A414 A120, A10 and M25; and delivery of superfast broadband;
  • supporting the delivery of new jobs in the Harlow Enterprise Zone, and the north side of Stansted Airport, Broxbourne Park Plaza, Brookfield and Bishop's Stortford - all identified as Strategic Opportunity Sites within the corridor; and
  • the regeneration of existing urban areas including at Harlow, Waltham Abbey, Loughton and Waltham Cross.

The Core Area supports the development and sustainable growth of Greater Harlow and key growth locations at Broxbourne, Brookfield and Bishop's Stortford together with Stansted Airport growing to its full permitted capacity and as a business growth hub. These centres, with proportionate growth throughout the wider area, and the right investment, would create an economic powerhouse.

Putting in place these critical building blocks will provide the foundations for looking further ahead to 2050. Certainty through further investment and delivery of key infrastructure, including in the West Anglia mainline, Crossrail 2, the M11 junctions, M25 junctions, A414, A120 and A10 is a vital component of this.


4.1 The Spatial Development Strategy sets out in broad terms how the Vision for Harlow and the Themes and Strategic Objectives of the Local Plan will be achieved and delivered. The Strategy has three key aims:

  • to protect and enhance the important parts of Harlow which offer residents a good quality of life; and
  • to proactively change areas within Harlow through new development to improve living standards for existing and future residents; and
  • to bring forward substantial growth to sustain Harlow as a sub-regional centre.

4.2 The Strategy identifies:

  • the strategic development sites and wider growth aspirations for the Harlow area;
  • the number of new homes to be built;
  • where new jobs will be created;
  • what new retail provision will be made;
  • how the district will grow and develop to become a more desirable, sustainable and prosperous place to live, visit, work and invest in; and
  • how the Local Plan incorporates the presumption in favour of sustainable development, in accordance with national policies.

4.3 The Strategy will be delivered through:

  • the Strategic policies in the Strategic Growth Strategy;
  • the Development Management policies; and
  • the Policies Map.

(3) Placeshaping

4.4 Placeshaping refers to the enhancement of the built and natural environment and, in order to support this theme, the Local Plan protects and strengthens Harlow's Green Wedges and other Green Infrastructure and ensures that new development will have clear connections to these assets.

4.5 New development will incorporate sufficient open space and Green Infrastructure, protect and integrate existing landscape assets, and enhance, retain and protect biodiverse habitats. The district's natural assets, including the River Stort and protected areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Wildlife Sites, will be protected and enhanced.

4.6 New development in Harlow must take into consideration the original concept of the New Town and the principles of Gibberd's master plan which include:

  • the provision of neighbourhoods positioned around Neighbourhood Centres;
  • an appreciation of local character and landscape setting;
  • the retail hierarchy of the Town Centre, Neighbourhood Centres and Hatches;
  • the separation of employment uses from residential areas;
  • a network of Green Wedges which dissect the built form; and
  • schools and community facilities within walking distance.

4.7 New development must also have regard to the Council's Design Guide and the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town Spatial Vision and Design Charter. A strong built form and a high quality townscape will be promoted, which is well integrated into the surroundings and supplemented by public art. The historic environment, including listed buildings, conservation areas, Scheduled Monuments, registered parks/gardens and areas of architectural significance, will be conserved, protected and managed.

4.8 Within the district, greater accessibility will be promoted to further improve connections between existing and future urban areas and green spaces. These links will be functional, safe and attractive.

(5) Housing

4.9 The district will provide 9,200 dwellings over the Local Plan period, with the intention that at least 30% of these will be for affordable housing. This reflects the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAHN) and the Viability Study, as required by national policies. These new homes will be provided within the administrative boundary of Harlow and will accord with the placeshaping principles.
New development will provide a variety of house types and tenures, which will reflect the needs of the future population including provision for specialist accommodation.

4.10 The Local Plan seeks to maximise the use of previously developed land for new homes and minimise the impact on the environment. This capitalises on opportunities for regeneration and redevelopment, taking advantage of nearby services and facilities, making the best use of walking, cycling and public transport links.

4.11 Given the overall housing need, it has been necessary to allocate a strategic housing site on open land in the east of the district, which forms part of a new Garden Community in the wider Harlow and Gilston Garden Town. This site is capable of accommodating 2,600 dwellings in the Local Plan period, including much-needed affordable housing, a new primary school, open space provision and other community facilities. It will also provide and enhance connections to existing Green Infrastructure in the area.

4.12 To support the district's wider growth strategy and sustain the district as a sub-regional centre for retail, employment and other wider community facilities, new Garden Communities are to be provided in the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town. The Communities are located around the periphery of Harlow, mostly outside the district boundary, as follows:

  • South of Harlow (Latton Priory), within Epping Forest District;
  • West of Harlow (Water Lane Area), within Epping Forest District;
  • Strategic Housing Site East of Harlow, partly within Harlow District and partly within Epping Forest District; and
  • Gilston Area, within East Hertfordshire District.

4.13 The locations of the new Garden Communities have been chosen based on the evidence prepared to date. They are well connected to Harlow, meaning residents of the new communities will be able to have direct access to jobs and sub-regional services. The Green Belt ensures the wider countryside remains protected from unrestricted sprawl and encroachment. As the new communities are part of the wider Harlow and Gilston Garden Town, the Garden Town design principles will form part of the master planning of the communities in accordance with the Spatial Vision and Design Charter for the Garden Town.

4.14 The new Garden Communities and other sites identified in Harlow together provide 16,100 dwellings in the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town over the Local Plan period.

(1) Prosperity

4.15 It has been identified that approximately 18 to 20ha of additional employment floorspace is required over the Local Plan period. The district's main employment areas are at Templefields, The Pinnacles (including the Business Park) and London Road, with smaller employment areas at Neighbourhood Centres. The employment areas will be protected, their environments enhanced and a range of employment uses encouraged in order to attract new investment and businesses.

4.16 The district's Enterprise Zone will provide over 100 new businesses with the potential to create up to 5,000 jobs over 25 years. The Enterprise Zone comprises London Road North (Harlow Science Park), London Road South (Kao Park) and Templefields North East. London Road North will be developed as a new science and IT park in an attractive campus-style environment, building on the site's direct linkages to London and Cambridge and specialising in MedTech and Advanced Manufacturing. London Road South will provide office accommodation and data centres. The sites will become home to large multinational companies in purpose-built offices, start-ups and entrepreneurs housed within an Innovation Centre, with Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) occupying 'grow-on' space.
Templefields North East will see the redevelopment of ageing industrial stock and a predominant focus on manufacturing for SMEs and start-up companies. A new road/pedestrian link to Cambridge Road will be provided to improve connections to the site from the highway network and railway station.

4.17 To achieve economic prosperity and regeneration, the Local Plan will support training and other educational opportunities within the district.

4.18 It has been identified that additional retail floorspace is required over the Local Plan period to meet the future needs of residents and businesses in and around Harlow. This will ensure the town centre maintains and enhances its sub-regional status.
An Area Action Plan will be prepared to guide the redevelopment of the town centre with growth concentrated around the northern and eastern parts of the centre.

4.19 A proportion of retail floorspace will also be delivered in the district's Neighbourhood Centres and Hatches through redevelopment opportunities. New Neighbourhood Centres and Hatches may be required in new strategic housing developments.


4.20 To improve the living standards and lifestyles for the district's existing and future residents, new development will provide relevant community facilities.
This includes leisure and sporting facilities, playing pitches, playgrounds, allotments and community halls which will help reduce deprivation levels and promote healthy and active lifestyles.

4.21 The Local Plan aims to ensure that footpaths, cycleways, bridleways and other Green Infrastructure routes are safe, accessible and well connected to services and facilities. This will encourage their use and help improve the health and wellbeing of residents and other users.

4.22 The new Garden Communities will be well connected to existing community facilities and the network of cycle and pedestrian paths which will contribute to providing for the leisure and sporting needs.

4.23 The Local Plan supports existing leisure and recreational attractions. These include the River Stort, Parndon Wood Nature Reserve and Harlow Town Park, Harlow Playhouse, Harlow Museum, the Gibberd Gallery and Gibberd House and Gardens. The development of a night-time economy in the town centre and the provision of hotel accommodation, building on links to Stansted Airport and London, will boost tourism in the district.

(1) Infrastructure

4.24 The Spatial Development Strategy will be underpinned by the necessary supporting infrastructure, with development phased over the Local Plan period to ensure that the correct levels of infrastructure are provided.

4.25 In order to help promote Harlow as a growth location along the M11 corridor, improvements will be made to the strategic transport network. This includes working with the highway authority and Highways England to improve Junction 7 of the M11 and to ensure the delivery of the new Junction 7a further north. Improvements will be made to the local highway network and to the public transport network to improve connections within Harlow and to areas outside the district. This will include the provision of sustainable transport corridors through Harlow.

4.26 The Council will work with Network Rail and the local railway operator to improve journey reliability, frequency, capacity and overall comfortability for train users using the West Anglia Mainline. The Council supports the provision of Crossrail 2 to Harlow, with the terminus at Harlow Town railway station. The Council also supports the four-tracking of the West Anglia mainline.

4.27 The Local Plan will also deliver primary schools as well as an expansion of existing primary schools where necessary, the provision of secondary schools and other childcare facilities. These will be provided as part of the delivery of the new Garden Communities in the wider Harlow and Gilston Garden Town.

4.28 The Council will work with the relevant utility providers to ensure that new homes have connections to clean water, wastewater, gas, electricity and broadband.
All residents will have access to healthcare through the provision of local GP surgeries and by supporting the possible relocation of Princess Alexandra Hospital in order for it to expand and improve.

(2) Key Diagram

4.29 The Key Diagram (Fig. 4.1) graphically represents the Spatial Development Strategy.

\\filestore\users\D\davidwatts\tkyuklyul.jpgFig. 4.1: Key Diagram


[1] The Local Plan Period is 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2033.

[2] Proposals relating to Minerals and Waste are determined by Essex County Council against the policies and proposals in their Minerals and Waste Local Plan, unless there are material considerations which indicate otherwise.

[3] Source: Office for National Statistics, 2015 Mid-Year Estimates.

[4] Source: Gibberd, F., et al., 1980. HARLOW: The Story of a New Town. Stevenage: Publications for Companies.

[5] Source: Office for National Statistics, 2011 Census.

[6] Source: Office for National Statistics, 2015 Households and Families.

[7] Source: Office for National Statistics, 2011 Census Analysis.

[8] Source: Public Health England, 2015 Health Profile for Harlow.

[9] Source: Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, 2015 English Indices of Deprivation.

[10] Source: ORS, 2017. West Essex and East Hertfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment Affordable Housing Update July 2017.

[11] Source: Office for National Statistics, 2015. NOMIS –Official Labour Market Statistics.

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