Harlow Town Centre Area Action Plan - Issues and Options Consultation

Ended on the 10th August 2018
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Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan (2006)

The Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan (2006) sets out policies and proposals for development up to 2011 and is in the process of being replaced by the new Harlow Local Development Plan.

The document contains a number of relevant objectives for the regeneration of the Town Centre in Chapter 12:

  • Sustain and enhance vitality and viability of Town Centre to ensure its continuation as a sub-regional centre.
  • Support and promote regeneration of Town Centre through collaboration.
  • Promote diversity and quality of uses in Town Centre.
  • Assess location of new retail developments in sequential manner, favouring Town Centre sites first.
  • Retain and encourage residential development in the Town Centre.
  • Manage road traffic and improve access to centre, including public transport, cycling and pedestrians and those with special needs.
  • Identify new opportunities for retail and related uses in Town Centre.

A number of policies are set out under these objectives as follows:

  • RTCS1 - Proposals for retail developments will be determined on a sequential approach.
  • RTCS3 - Proposals should strengthen role of the Town Centre - increasing the range and quality of facilities, managing road traffic, improving access, enhancing character and appearance, providing mixed use development, improving facilities for disabled people.
  • RTCS4 - Proposals should improve the environmental quality of Town Centre.
  • RTCS10 – Protecting the vitality of the retail offer through the designation of Primary and secondary frontages.

Harlow Local Development Plan: Emerging Strategy and Further Options (2014)

The Council published a consultation document which explored strategic growth options for Harlow in 2014. The document articulates a spatial portrait of the town and articulates the key issues and challenges arising from the evidence base review. Ten priorities have been identified to 2031:

  • Delivering a growing, sustainable and regenerated Harlow.
  • Met housing needs.
  • Delivered Neighbourhood Renewal.
  • Secured Economic Revitalisation.
  • Renewed Town Centre and other Centres
  • Established Quality Streets and Spaces.
  • Revitalised Green Spaces.
  • Adapted to and Mitigated the Impacts of Climate Change.
  • Improved Accessibility and Connectivity.
  • Supported Development and Change.

Five development scenarios were developed including "Do Nothing More", "Meeting Development Needs", "Jobs Led, "Growing Centre" and "Transformed Centre" which varied according to the attitude towards the intensity and location of growth, and the balance of uses.

The report identifies a preferred target of between 12,000 and 15,000 new dwellings and 8,000 to 12,000 jobs.

Draft Harlow Local Development Plan (2017)

The new Draft Local Development Plan guides future development in the District to 2033 and replaces the 2006 Harlow Local Plan. The plan sets out a long term planning vision which ensures that development is sustainable and meets the needs of residents, businesses and visitors in the area. It is the basis upon which planning applications will be determined.

The document includes a number of relevant strategic objectives for the regeneration of the Town Centre in Chapter 3. Specific reference to the Town Centre is made in Objective 10, which is to "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."

The main chapters regarding the redevelopment of the Town Centre are Chapter 9 - 'Retail Ambitions and Town Centre Redevelopment', and Chapter 15 - 'Prosperity'. A number of strategic growth policies are set out within Chapter 9 and are listed below:

  • RS1 - Retail Hierarchy: redevelopment must be directed to Harlow Town Centre first (followed by the centres set out in the retail hierarchy).
  • RS2 - Future Retail Floorspace: RS2 refers to the emerging Harlow Town Centre Area Action Plan which will look to deliver a significant proportion of the retail floorspace requirements through site redevelopment and regeneration opportunities, and which will identify the future retail floorspace capacity of the Town Centre. The HTCAAP will also identify environmental and public realm improvements, alongside access and infrastructure schemes and opportunities for providing a broader range of uses in the town centre. These include community, leisure, commercial and residential uses.
  • RS3 - Protecting and Enhancing Existing Retail Centres: RS3 highlights the importance of retail floorspace which contributes towards the viability, vitality and function of Harlow Town Centre. The policy indicates that this will be protected, subject to the outcomes of the HTCAAP.

Other relevant strategic policies are:

  • SD1 - Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development: development that accords with the Local Plan will normally be supported unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
  • ED4 - Developing a Visitor Economy: a visitor economy will be developed, building upon the district's arts and cultural attractions, the 'Sculpture Town' status, the New Town heritage and natural features such as the River Stort. Proposals will be supported where they provide local economic benefits, are underpinned by appropriate infrastructure and are scale, type and appearance appropriate to the locality.
  • WE4 - Heritage: heritage assets and their settings will be preserved and enhanced.
  • SIR1 - Infastructure requirements: a commitment to work alongside groups to deliver the timely provision of infrastructure and to review and update the Infrastructure Delivery Plan.
  • SIR2 - Enhancing Key Gateway Locations - includes reference to integrating and improving the vehicular and pedestrian access points to the north of the Town Centre.

The draft Local Development Plan also includes a number of Development Management Policies that were recently consulted on.

Several policies are of specific relevance to the Town Centre including the following:

  • PR5 - The Sequential Test and Principles for Main Town Centre Uses: PR5 reiterates the sequential approach to main Town Centre uses – specifically, that these must be directed to the Town Centre first. The policy also includes general principles for main Town Centre uses which encourage active frontages, preservation and enhancement of retail vitality and viability and improvements to public transport facilities.
  • PR6 - Primary and Secondary Frontages in Town Centre – PR6 states that Primary Frontages supported where the development is for A1 class use, or development is for use class A2 or A3 and 60% or more of the overall primary frontage length is retained for A1 uses and the site has been vacant and actively marketed for at least 12 months. Main Town Centre uses (except office use), evening and night-time uses will be supported in Town Centre secondary frontages.
  • PR7 - Sub-division and Internal Alteration of Town Centre Units: PR7 supports sub- division of Town Centre units if: for units larger than 2,500 sqm, evidence has been provided to demonstrate unit has been marketed to the satisfaction of Council for at least 2 years and sub-division or internal alteration would retain active frontage
  • PR11 - Evening and Night Time Economy: PR11 states that evening and night time uses must be directed to Town Centre first locations. Evening and night time uses will be supported if development has positive effect on the vitality and viability of the retail centre, its night-time economy and local area, and mitigation through legal agreements or conditions to minimise negative impacts on the local area.
  • H8 - Affordable Housing: H8 supports major residential development where affordable housing is provided at a rate of at least 30%. Any reduction of this rate will require an independent viability assessment.
  • IN1 - Development and sustainable modes of travel: IN1 encourages sustainable accessibility patterns in the Town Centre. Improvements will be required to provide safe and direct cycleways and footpaths (including contributions), safe and convenient cycle storage, other facilities for cyclists where appropriate and electric charging points for vehicles.
  • L3 - Development Involving the Provision or Relocation or Loss of Public Art: L3 indicates that public art should be provided within major developments, and that any proposals involving the provision, relocation or loss of public art should be agreed with the Council.
  • PR3 - Employment development outside employment areas and neighbourhood service areas: PR3 supports proposals for B1 office uses above ground floor level in the Town Centre and sets criteria for the assessment of their loss.
  • L2 - Sporting, Cultural and Community Facilities: Development for the provision of recreational, sporting, cultural and community uses and facilities will be supported if there is evidence of need and if it is easily accessible by all sectors ofcommunity by public and private transport. Proposals which result in a loss of facilities will only supported if it meets one or more criteria
  • PL11 - Heritage Assets and their Settings: Development will be assessed on harm it causes to significance of heritage. Key factors to be considered include impact of development on character and appearance of the asset, design quality of the development, and the extent to which the development is sympathetically integrated within the area.

Local Development Scheme

Harlow Council is required to prepare a Local Development Scheme under section 15 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended by the Localism Act 2011). The Development Plan Documents that comprise the Local Development Scheme for Harlow include the Harlow Local Development Plan and Harlow Town Centre Area Action Plan, alongside a number of other Supplementary Planning Documents, strategies, Article 4's and Local Development Orders (LDO's).

Harlow Economic Development Strategy (2017)

The Strategy sets out priorities and ideas for delivery for the next five years that, among other goals, will lead to "a vibrant, creative Town Centre that is an asset to our communities and businesses". 'Priority 4: Transformation of Harlow Town Centre' (within the 'Place' theme) promotes a "high quality, high amenity centre that provides for residents of all backgrounds and aspirations, and provides attractions for the workforce of key employers."

  • Proposed actions for delivery include:
  • Public realm improvements;
  • Increase community, leisure and commercial activity;
  • Deliver quality residential opportunities;
  • Secure longer term investment and regeneration;
  • Embed modern working environments into future Town Centre developments;
  • Ensure opportunities to deliver space and resources to enable business activity (for example shared/co working space, meeting spaces, access to wifi, live/work accommodation etc.); and
  • Support continued space for creative industries and cultural activities.

Harlow Council Corporate Plan 2017 - 2020

The Harlow Council Corporate Plan 2017/18 - 2019/20 sets out the Council's vision in the form of priorities to drive improvement to 2020. The Plan recognises the important role the Town Centre plays as a sub-regional destination and gives goals for the next three years relating to the Council's priority to support improvements to the Town Centre. These include:

  • Continue to implement the Town Centre Improvement Plan which includes attracting investment, creating opportunities for residents and businesses, restoring pride and promoting the Town Centre.
  • Consider new policy and alternative options for the future of the Town Centre.
  • Work with landowners, developers and potential investors to bring forward initiatives to revitalise the Town Centre.
  • Review Town Centre Planning and Licensing policies.

The Corporate Plan recognises the role of the AAP in achieving these goals.

Harlow Retail and Leisure Needs Study (2016)

The study forms part of the evidence base which underpins the new Local Plan and informs the retail policies and potential allocation of retail floorspace in Harlow Town Centre. The study considers:

  • The national trends in the retail sector;
  • The wider study context including key competing centres;
  • The composition, role and function of current shopping and commercial leisure provision in Harlow town centre through a health-check assessment;
  • Retail capacity;
  • The quantitative 'need' for additional convenience and comparison retail floorspace in the District up to 2033;
  • A review of commercial leisure provision within and outside of the District; and
  • Conclusions, strategic guidance and recommendations on future change and growth within the District's network of centres, including Harlow Town Centre.

Harlow Retail Frontages Study (2017)

The Retail Frontages Study gives an annual review of the primary and secondary retail frontages in Harlow and has helped to inform the preparation of planning policies set out in the new Local Development Plan. The amount of vacant primary frontage in the Town Centre in July 2017 was 10.5%, a 2% increase since 2013. However, the impact of the closure of BHS unit is clear and excluding the BHS unit from the data reduces the amount of vacant frontage to 5%. The amount of vacant secondary frontage in the Town Centre in July

2017 was 20.5%, a decrease by 2.7% since 2013. The study also gives a table of frontages that require further review and a series of maps with proposals for possible new frontages, as well as the possible removal of frontages within the Town Centre.

Statement of Community Involvement (2014)

The Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) sets out how the Council involves the community in preparing local planning policy and deciding planning applications within the District. The statement outlines the Council's commitment to consult with as many people and organisations as possible, meeting at the very least the required minimum legislative requirements. The SCI gives the various methods for planning policy consultation, with explicit reference made to 'hard-to-reach groups'.

Sample of relevant policy documents

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