Harlow Town Centre Area Action Plan - Issues and Options Consultation

Ended on the 10th August 2018
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Although it has experienced significant change over the past 65 years, many of the distinctive attributes of Sir Frederick Gibberd's original masterplan remain evident in the structure and character of Harlow Town Centre, as the heart of Harlow New Town.

Similar to many town and city centres across the UK, shifting economic trends have had, and continue to have a profound impact on the performance and prosperity of Harlow Town Centre. The Town Centre has experienced a decline in the retail ranking from 168 in 2012 to 185 in 2017 (Harlow Town Centre Market Analysis Final Report, May 2017).

Although policies already exist which establish the primacy of the Town Centre and seek to protect and enhance it's performance, the planning process has the potential to play a more proactive role in strengthening the vitality and viability of the Town Centre and enabling regeneration. The preparation of a more specific set of planning policies presents an opportunity to create the conditions for a resilient, successful centre. The Area Action Plan (AAP), in combination with the Harlow Local Development Plan (and other guidance) will enable Harlow Council alongside wider stakeholder, landowner and developer partners to plan positively for managed change and a sustainable, coordinated approach to growth.

Broader growth context

The role and performance of the Town Centre requires broader consideration in the context of the proposed growth which is anticipated across the wider area and neighbouring districts.

Harlow Council, alongside Epping Forest District and East Hertfordshire District Councils have identified potential for 16,100 new homes at Harlow and Gilston Garden Town through their Local Plan processes (up to 2033), with an additional c.7,000 new homes identified in the Gilston area beyond this plan period.

This residential growth is part of ambitious plans for Harlow and Gilston's future economy, which is uniquely placed to connect into the London Stansted Cambridge Corridor - one of the UK's fastest growing economies, with jobs growth 2.5 times the national average between 2009 and 2014.

The Strategic Site Assessment (September 2016) identified sufficient suitable sites in and around Harlow to accommodate around 16,100 new homes. These strategic sites fall across all three authorities and form the basis of Harlow and Gilston Garden Town.

It should be noted,that in addition to the strategic sites, approximately 6,600 new homes will be developed within Harlow District either through completed and granted planning permissions, as well as intensification and urban brownfield sites.

In addition to housing growth, there is also significant economic momentum, with Public Health England relocating to the GSK offices near the Town Centre. Office floorspace and other employment opportunities are also being realised through Harlow Enterprise Zone which includes significant focus on life science, advanced manufacturing and ICT / digital.

What is an Area Action Plan?

The AAP is a Development Plan Document and will sit alongside the Local Plan which is being produced for the District as a whole.

The AAP will provide a spatial planning framework to guide development and secure the regeneration of Harlow Town Centre for the period up to 2033. This will take into account the key role the Town Centre performs across the wider Harlow area, reinforced by the need to accommodate additional retail provision, arising from increased housing growth being brought forward.

Ultimately, the guidance in the AAP, in tandem with the Local Plan will replace all policies relevant to the Town Centre as set out in the Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan July 2006 which have been saved.

The guidance in the AAP will be informed by national policies and guidance which set out the Government's planning policies for England and how it expects them to be applied.

National policies state that the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, which has three roles:

  • An economic role by contributing to a strong, responsive and competitive economy.
  • A social role by supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities.
  • An environmental role by contributing to the protection and enhancement of the environment.

Purpose of the Issues and Options document

The Issues and Options stage of AAP production represents the first stage of formal consultation on the Area Action Plan for the Town Centre.

As set out in the NPPF para 182, the purpose of the document is to set out and consider reasonable alternatives. Building on baseline analysis, emerging evidence base studies and early engagement, this document identifies the key issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the Town Centre and sets out different options for the AAP to consider and explore.

Feedback on these options will help the Council develop policy guidance in response to these issues as the basis of the draft AAP which will be developed following the issues and options process.

Structure of the document

Following the introduction, chapter 2 provides a concise portrait of Harlow Town Centre.

An assessment of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) is set out in chapter 3 as a summary of the analysis undertaken in chapter 6. The existing policy context is summarised in chapter 4.

Chapter 5 sets out an emerging vision statement and accompanying spatial principles and economic drivers for the Town Centre.

The main focus for the document is the Issues and Options section in chapter 6 which is set out in two parts - part A, policy themes, and part B, Opportunity Areas and Sites.

The final chapter identifies next steps. A technical appendix detailing additional evidence base research is included in relation to heritage.

Process and programme

The following diagram summarises stages of preparation for the AAP:

  • Evidence base and background research including consultation;
  • Synthesis of evidence and initial consultation;
  • Preparation of Issues and Options report and Sustainability Appraisal;
  • Regulation 18 consultation on Issues and Options Report;
  • Preparation of draft Area Action Plan;
  • Regulation 19 Pre-submission consultation;
  • Submission of Final Draft to Inspector and Examination in Public; and
  • Inspectors report and adoption of the Plan.

How to respond

The new Area Action Plan for Harlow Town Centre will contain Strategic Policies which provide overarching guidance and framework for the Town Centre, supported by Policies which provide more detailed planning guidance. The AAP is being 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 National Planning Practice Guidance.

We are now consulting on the Issues and Options stage of the AAP which sets out an emerging direction of travel for the AAP. You can submit comments on this document at www.harlow.gov.uk/planning-policy

All comments must be submitted by 4pm on Friday 10th August 2018. Any comments received after this date will not be considered.

Comments can be submitted in one of the following ways:

  • Using the online consultation portal- external website (recommended option)
  • Complete the representation form (pdf) and post it to: Forward Planning, Place Services, Harlow Council, Civic Centre, The Water Gardens, Harlow, Essex, CM20 1WG or email it to myharlow@harlow. gov.uk. Copies of the representation form can be found on the website above, and hard copies are available in the Civic Centre reception; or
  • Send an email or letter to the Council with the data consent form.

Important Notes

Please note that it is not possible for representations to be considered anonymously. You must include your name and address on any comment in order for it to be accepted.

For more information on how Harlow Council collect, use and protect personal information generally, please visit www.harlow.gov.uk/ privacy-notice

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