Harlow Town Centre Area Action Plan - Issues and Options Consultation

Ended on the 10th August 2018
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APPENDIX

A. Heritage assessment

MARKET HOUSE

Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. 1950s design associated with a Festival of Britain aesthetic. Ground floor retail and route through to the carpark. Upper floors office.

Approximate date of construction

1952 to 1960

Significant alterations

Little alteration to the external facade of the building, with the exception of the shopfronts onto the Market Square and service areas facing onto Post Office Road

Heritage significance POSITIVE

Some heritage significance and significant townscape impact with a key facade onto the Market Square, visible from most of the Broad Walk

Listed Building

Not Listed Market House, the Post Office and Adams House shortlyafter construction | Harlow: The Story of a New Town


View of Market House from Adams House shortly after construction

Harlow:The Story of a New Town


Facade on the Market Square


View looking south as approach from the underpass


Facade on the Market Square with little alteration to the windows and cladding on the upper floors


Route from the carpark into the Market Square


A. Heritage assessment

HARLOW POST OFFICE

Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. Royal Mail delivery and sorting office.

Approximate date of construction

1952 to 1960

Significant alterations

Little alteration to the external facade of the building.

Heritage significance POSITIVE/NEUTRAL

Some heritage significance and neutral townscape impact

Listed Building

Not Listed


Facade and entrance onto the Market Square


Facade on the Market Square with little alteration to the windows and cladding on the upper floors


Sorting office to the rear of the main building, facing onto Post office Road


Original roof structure


A. Heritage assessment

ADAMS HOUSE

Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. Large clock on facade facing the Market Square with white and blue striped tiles. Ground floor retail upper floors office.

Approximate date of construction

1952 to 1960

Significant alterations

Shop fronts at ground floor pulled in front of colonnade which is visible in older photos

Heritage significance POSITIVE

Some heritage significance and positive townscape impact

Listed Building

Not Listed


Harlow:The Story of a New Town



J R James Archive




Facade on the Market Square




Facade on East Gate

Original clock face and tiled stripes

Residential building completed in the last 20 years to the rear of Adams House


A. Heritage assessment

12 EAST GATE

Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. Facade onto East Gate holds four crests. Ground floor bank upper floors residential.

Approximate date of construction

1952 to 1960

Significant alterations

Little alteration to the external facade of the building

Heritage significance POSITIVE

Some heritage significance and positive townscape impact

Listed Building

Not Listed


Facade on the Market Square





A. Heritage assessment

THE ROWS

Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. Ground and first floor retail with connection to the roof of the market office. Upper floors residential.

Approximate date of construction

1952 to 1960

Significant alterations

No significant alterations, although generally in a poor state of repair

Heritage significance NEGATIVE

Low heritage significance and a negative townscape impact

Listed Building

Not Listed


J R James Archive


Facade on the Market Square


View towards the Market Square with ground floor shop fronts


STONE CROSS HALL

Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. Ground and first floor retail with connection to the roof of the market office. The old Coyote Bar has undergone major renovation and is now operating as a restaurant.

Approximate date of construction

1952 to 1960

Significant alterations

No significant alterations, although generally in a poor state of repair

Heritage significance NEGATIVE

Low heritage significance and a negative townscape impact

Listed Building

Not Listed





A. Heritage assessment

MARKET OFFICE

Description

Originally the site of a cafe and roof terrace, later replaced by the market office

Approximate date of construction

1960 to 1970

Significant alterations

Significant alterations to facade, steps onto roof removed, although generally in a poor state of repair

Heritage significance NEUTRAL/NEGATIVE

Low heritage significance and a negative townscape impact

Listed Building

Not Listed



Harlow:The Story of a New Town


2 EAST GATE

Description

Originally housed Harlow Advice Centre, constructed in brown brick with a concrete colonnade

Approximate date of construction

1978

Significant alterations

Generally in a poor state of repair

Heritage significance NEGATIVE

Low heritage significance and a negative townscape impact

Listed Building

Not Listed




A. Heritage assessment

BROAD WALK NE BLOCK

Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. Complete block serviced from the central area, shops at ground with office and storage above.

Approximate date of construction

1957 to 1966

Significant alterations

The buildings are generally in a poor state of repair

Heritage significance NEUTRAL

The buildings have some qualities that should be retained if they are redeveloped such as the artistic merit of rhythm, patterns

Listed Building

Not Listed



J R James Archive






A. Heritage assessment

BROAD WALK NW BLOCK

Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. Block serviced from the central area, shops at ground with office and storage above.

Approximate date of construction

1957 to 1966

Significant alterations

The buildings are generally in a poor state of repair

Heritage significance NEUTRAL

The buildings have some qualities that should be retained if they are redeveloped such as the artistic merit of rhythm, patterns

Listed Building

Not Listed






A. Heritage assessment

GATEHOUSE

Description

Originally housed the head quarters for the Development Corporation.

Approximate date of construction

1963

Significant alterations

The buildings are generally in a poor state of repair

Heritage significance NEUTRAL

The buildings have some qualities that should be retained if they are redeveloped.

Listed Building

Not Listed






A. Heritage assessment

ODEON CINEMA

Description

First cinema in Harlow Approximate date of construction 1957 to 1966

Significant alterations

Large amount of internal alterations

Heritage significance POSITIVE/NEUTRAL

Some heritage significance although in very poor state of repair

Listed Building

Not Listed







A. Heritage assessment

HARLOW LIBRARY


Description

Library on the ground floor, office and snooker club on first.

Approximate date of construction

1957 to 1966

Significant alterations

Extended in 1980 with a snooker club above. Since the building has lost many of the qualities of its original interior, and has also lost its setting which was previously open to the landscape south of the Town Centre.

Heritage significance POSITIVE/NEUTRAL

Some heritage significance, although negatively impacted by the extent of internal alterations, and the scale and close proximity of adjacent development

Listed Building

Not Listed



J R James Archive






A. Heritage assessment

REDSTONE HOUSE

Description

One of the first buildings completed upon the closure of the development corporation. Retail at ground with offices above and large covered glazed area. Originally conceived to announce the end of the Broad Walk, the space between the building and the Library has now become a bottleneck.

Approximate date of construction

1985

Heritage significance NEGATIVE

Negative impact on the southern end of the Broad Walk

Listed Building

Not Listed






A. Heritage assessment

ST PAULS HARLOW


Description

One of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan. A church designed by Derrick Humphreys.

"It is notable for its brightly coloured furnishings and a huge mosaic behind the altar by John Piper. An unusual feature of the church is its detached bell tower, which has an open-air pulpit facing a small paved area"

Approximate date of construction

1959

Significant alterations

Addition of block at the back of the church (east side)

Heritage significance POSITIVE

One of the most significant buildings in Harlow from a heritage perspective.

Listed Building

Grade II listed, and the only listed building in the Town Centre




Harlow:The Story of a New Town and J R James Archive





J R James Archive


A. Heritage assessment

HARLOW FOYER OCCASIO HOUSE

Description

Accommodation and services hub for young single homeless people with support needs.

Approximate date of construction

2001

Significant alterations

None

Heritage significance NEGATIVE

Negative impact on the setting of St Pauls Church

Listed Building

Not listed







A. Heritage assessment

FORMER TOWN HALL- NOW DEMOLISHED

Description

The Town Hall was one of the first buildings to be completed from the Gibberd masterplan and was intended to reflect the civic intentions and confidence of the New Town. The building was constructed in 1959 and demolished in 2002.

It is included in the heritage assessment as a cautionary tale for future assessment of new development options and the buildings they may replace.

Whilst Britain's 1950s -1970s architecture has not been regarded with affection in the past, this has been

in part due to the quality of materials used in some developments and in part due to the era being too close to view objectively.

Frederick Gibberd's Clock Tower at Chrisp Street Market was Grade II Listed in 2017 and Historic England published a book on the architect, town planner and landscape architect in November 2017.

Approximate date of construction

1959, demolished 2002

Listed Building

Not listed



Harlow:The Story of a New Town




B. Stakeholder workshop summary

Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners were commissioned by Harlow Council in July 2017 to prepare an Area Action Plan for Harlow Town Centre. As part of the work, a stakeholder workshop was facilitated in order to discuss opportunities for the Town Centre and to better understand the issues and options relating to its future growth and development. The workshop was held on Tuesday 10th October 2017 from 11-1pm in the Council Chamber at Harlow Civic Centre. 31 people attended, representing 15 organisations and groups.


Photos from the round table discussions


The workshop began with a presentation by the consultant team which provided a background to the work previously undertaken and contextual information about the Town Centre. Round table discussions followed, structured around three questions:

  • What are the main issues?
  • What approach should the AAP take to the following topics?
  • Retail, leisure and evening economy
  • Transport and movement
  • Heritage and design
  • Offices and commercial space
  • Public realm
  • Homes and community uses
  • What are your priorities for key streets, spaces and sites?

Large worksheets were provided with space to write and draw comments. A representative from each table shared the main points discussed with the rest of the group at the end of the workshop. This report provides a summary of the comments made and will inform future work undertaken by the team to develop a set of options of Harlow Town Centre. There will be further opportunities for local people to comment on the Area Action Plan as part of the formal consultation in February and March next year.


B. Stakeholder workshop summary

What are the main issues?

Participants were asked what they felt were the main issues in Harlow Town Centre. These have been grouped and are summarised below.


Youth / evening – participants felt strongly that there are not enough bars and restaurants in the Town Centre to encourage people to go there. The consultant team should look to places like Hertford and Colchester which were given as examples of places with a successful night time economy. Young people aspire to leave Harlow as there is "nothing for them to do except go to the cinema and have McDonalds". The lack of services and activities for young people may explain why some groups commented on the prevalent anti-social behaviour which impacts on services and should be managed. The aspiration to leave Harlow may be a result of a skills mismatch where the skills of the working population in Harlow do not match the jobs available in the Town Centre. Creating a mix of jobs is considered essential for growth.

Vacancy – vacant buildings are an issue in and around Harlow and give an impression of an under-used and unloved place. Vacancy around Northbrooks Sports Ground is also an issue as it suffers from an edge / out of town position. Growth in the Town Centre could help with this.



Office and residential – one group felt that new residential developments in the Town Centre are currently not achieving the vibrancy Harlow needs. This is coupled with concerns that permitted development rights have led to the conversion of offices to residential which has often been unregulated and hard to manage. This has led to issues around design quality, the provision of social infrastructure alongside residential development, parking and amenity space. Residential growth is considered necessary but new homes should be delivered in a controlled way.

Public realm and connections – entering the Town Centre from the north and east is currently unpleasant with few connections characterised by a poor environment. The roads around the Town Centre act as a barrier between the Town Centre and nearby neighbourhoods, for example Velizy Avenue to the east feels isolated. One group agreed that the public realm – including structures and streets, as well as historic buildings, need improving throughout. For example, the pathways around the Library should be opened up to improve connections and attendees feel the bus station is currently unattractive and acts as a wind tunnel. There is also a lack of green space in the Town Centre.


Identity – one group discussed the struggle to understand Harlow's identity and the threat of losing its diversity. There is currently a negative perception of Harlow Town Centre. One group discussed how Gibberd's mid-century architecture and story needs to be celebrated, but that there should be a review of the areas that are not working to improve the identity and perception of the Town Centre. This review should consider the evolving uses within the Town Centre and future retail trends.


Inclusivity of growth – discussions focused around the north / south divide in the Town Centre and how attention must be turned towards the north of the town which often gets neglected. Another tension is between the private and public sector and how to ensure inclusive growth. One respondent commented that the vision may be too focused on the private sector. There is a concern that artists and voluntary groups may be forced out of the Town Centre as it develops.

Barriers to development – stakeholders are generally enthusiastic about enabling development in the Town Centre. One group mentioned the barriers to development which are often hidden, for example issues around management and conversion of offices to residential use. The different interests of multiple landowners and the Council may also be unnecessarily preventing changes in the Town Centre which could be an issue. There are supposedly 97 land owners in the Town Centre and St. Albans is a good example of how the problems associated with multiplicity of ownerships can be overcome to achieve a successful and thriving town.


B. Stakeholder workshop summary

What approach should the AAP take to the following topics?


Retail, leisure and evening economy – Currently there are large stores in Water Gardens. The Town Centre AAP should promote a more diversified retail offer that reflects changing trends, for example a variety of store sizes including smaller stores. Support for small independent businesses should also be promoted in the AAP. Flexibility needs to be built into design so that the Town Centre can adapt to future retail trends. Retail that spans across three floors has high rates and offers too much retail space so is considered not viable. Although the retail offer is important for the success of the Town Centre, more is needed to draw gravity northwards to the area around Market Square. The AAP should consider how to rebalance the north with the south of the Town Centre, and it could be that qualities lost in the south at Water Gardens could be reprovided in the north. A farmers market in Market Square could attract people here. The shopping experience could be improved if the Town Centre is better managed and the public realm was clean and tidy. The Town Centre has suffered from the loss of big retailers i.e. M&S and BHS and people are concerned the loss of Asda or Tesco will have a big impact on the Town Centre. Attendees are keen for Sainsbury's to stay.

The leisure offer in Harlow Town Centre could be enhanced. One question that was put forward was whether there is capacity for desirable leisure activities in Harlow, like The Square? Some groups felt that the art and cultural offer in Harlow Town Centre is unclear, and there is a tension with its proximity to the cultural offer in London which could be seen both as a strength of the Town and a hindrance. The culture of Harlow could be better promoted with clear communication of ideas within the Town Centre. St. Alban's is considered a good example of how people are visiting St Albans for its buildings, unsung assets, listed sculptures and buildings.


Currently, the Town Centre is not widely used in the evening and there is a perception of fear that is discouraging people from spending time there.

It was felt that evening uses should definitely be encouraged in the AAP to ensure a thriving and safe Town Centre. A greater cultural offer as well as better connections to the Town Centre including access for cars was considered a positive step to achieve this.

Some commented that The Square which closed down needs a new home. A recent spin-off to The Square is Club Foot Harlow, which launched in May this year at Burnt Mill Academy. It is a community live performance venue which offers events for all ages. A new Turkish restaurant is opening at Birdcage Walk which also shows a positive sign of investment in the Town Centre's evening economy.



Transport and movement – There was general consensus that better connections to the Town Centre are essential for its success. Priority is currently given to cars, which has resulted in an inward looking Town Centre with a concrete collar which separates it from nearby neighbourhoods. Sustainable transport corridors will be vital to open up the Town Centre and create more integration with surrounding areas, including existing residential neighbourhoods, new development on the Town Centre edge, and links to the rail station. Participants felt that new development should front roads and streets, particularly around the ring road, to create activity.

There was a desire for the AAP to encourage more frequent, reliable and accessible public transport. The quality and frequency of north-south connections are considered particularly poor at the moment and the Post Office buildings are important for considering better connections from the north. An intuitive and frequent (suggested every 10 minutes) rapid bus transit service would encourage more people to use buses. It was also suggested a shuttle bus from the rail station to the Town Centre would be positive. The bus station fulfils an important local and inter-urban role but needs improving. One suggestion is for the bus station to be replaced with a drop off / pick up only set-up.

For improvements to transport and movement in the Town Centre, there needs to be an assumption of pedestrian priority in the AAP. Improved crossings at grade are supported, especially across Velizy Avenue to link the college with the Town Centre, along Fourth Avenue and Haydens Road. Some underpasses do work, but there is support for adequate at grade crossings which are obvious and clear.

Some groups support the idea for timed or limited access for cars through the Town Centre as this is considered positive for the evening economy, making it safer for people to spend time there. However, others were uncertain about opening East Gate and West Gate to cars because of concerns that it will act as a further barrier that divides the north of the Town Centre from the south.

As the town grows, parking will become a greater issue and so the AAP needs to consider this. Provision of car parking as well as car parking charges should be reviewed. The AAP should consider car clubs and cycling as a way of reducing car usage. One group raised the issue of inadequate cycle routes to the Town Centre and it is supported that Harlow needs to be more cycle friendly.


Heritage and design – Harlow Town Centre has a unique design heritage that is currently not well promoted. A major asset of Harlow is its identity as a Sculpture Town – this needs to be protected through the management and maintenance of historic buildings. To encourage investment in Harlow, the Town Centre needs 'sprucing up' and there is a great opportunity for the refurbishment/retrofit of existing buildings. A sculpture strategy will help bring different art, design and heritage elements of the Town Centre together into a holistic framework for conservation and enhancement. One group spoke of how art must be embedded in design of the Town Centre.

Its mid-century heritage also constitutes the town's identity – it was noted that there is a tension between the pioneers of the town vs. others from Hertfordshire, for example Bishops Stortford. Other identity threads were suggested, for example media and science.

The AAP should provide information about which buildings might have guidance so land owners know and can be sensitive to the design and heritage of their buildings.

Offices and commercial space – One group spoke about the collaboration potential between private sector and third sector organisations. There was a concern that voluntary organisations need office space in the Town Centre and so it was suggested that businesses could let out space for voluntary groups.

Similarly, community buildings (for example Harlow Library) could host and support small start-ups. There should be flexible spaces and solutions for start ups, and the AAP should consider shared spaces, co- working, business hubs and hot desking in the Town Centre.


Collaborative working could also work to improve viability. Viability was perceived to be a significant issue. Questions around achieving viability, how office space will be delivered, and how much intervention from the Council there should be were also raised.

The Town Centre needs to be made really attractive to businesses and the AAP should take a positive strategy towards providing office space. Cooperating with the Enterprise Zone is beneficial, as well ensuring management of the quality of the Town Centre so that the perception of the area changes. The AAP should look to positive examples elsewhere, for example Watford and St. Albans, where diversifying uses has led to a thriving Town Centre. There were also questions around a Business Improvement District (BID) for Harlow Town Centre and whether there had been any early discussions about this.

Public realm – Many of the discussions focused around public realm improvements to Market Square and ensuring active uses around it. There were suggestions that it could be a green space with cafés and restaurants around the edge which supports the principle to unify the north with the south of Harlow Town Centre and increase green open spaces within it. Another idea was for a bandstand in Market Square.

Other attendees questioned whether Market Square was the right name for the space or whether it was unhelpful and misleading.

It was felt that the public realm along Broad Walk could be updated, and one group discussed how small changes to the public realm could really improve its quality. For example, visual cues such as lighting would help to create a focal point.



Improvements could be carried out to make better use of the roundabouts. Attendees gave examples of Lea Bridge roundabout and Clapton Pond which has bus stops and trees. Other routes and spaces could also be strengthened - the underpasses are currently uninviting and so opportunities should be sought to improve these. Some areas require small changes, and so the AAP should identify these as quick wins.


It was felt that the Council will need to take the lead on more complex issues, for example compulsory purchase orders (CPOs).

Greening Harlow was also a popular topic of discussion. People felt a special quality of Harlow is its distinct green fringes and wedges and there is a question as to how to draw these green spaces into the Town Centre. One group discussed how residential developments should front open spaces and green roofs should be encouraged. Green roofs provide insulation, are sustainable and give better views from taller buildings.

Improvements to the public realm need to be linked with opportunities to celebrate sculpture; however the costs of maintaining the public realm to a high standard should also be considered. The Council need to support new uses and changes for new businesses to make the Town Centre more attractive e.g. seating on streets. This requires collaboration with owners to change the appearance of the public realm, as well

as establishing principles for support. However, it is important that the public realm is not so linked with particular businesses that public spaces are unable to adapt. For example, improvements should not focus on improving the sense of arrival to individual retailers e.g. Waitrose, as retailers come and go as they suit.

Homes and community uses – It was clear from the round table discussions that homes should be of mixed tenure and affordable to encourage a demographic mix. This will contribute to the vibrancy and vitality of the Town Centre that emanates from a diverse population. It was suggested that people use the Town Centre solely for functional use and only when people need to. Accommodation in the centre will support the Enterprise Zone and Public Health England (PHE), as well as enliven the evening economy and support shops. There are already many people in their 20s/30s moving from London to Harlow and this should be encouraged. The Town is well placed to have a commuter draw, and improved links to the train station would help encourage this. Housing should not be uniform but be of the highest quality design that reflects Harlow's best design heritage.

There were concerns about permitted development rights that have led to the conversion of offices to residential in the Town Centre. People are particularly concerned that this is currently unregulated and its management lacks a coherent approach.

Some attendees spoke about the Library and suggested its relocation to Market Square – a focus for the community that could re-balance the Town Centre. This evolved into a discussion about a 'Civic Hub' at the north of the Town Centre which could draw the focal point northwards. However, it was felt that for this to be successful, the Civic Hub would need to be a place that people wanted to go to, rather than needed to go to. It was also suggested that the ambulance and fire services could possibly relocate out of the Town Centre.



B. Stakeholder workshop summary

What are your priorities for key streets, spaces and sites?


Much of the discussion to this question overlapped with the previous two worksheet questions. A key reflection was that sites should not be safeguarded for long periods of time and interventions should be phased so that sites are developed as soon as possible. There was a concern that safeguarding land for future uses could prevent the development of land now, for example Hunsdon Airfield which has been disused for 40 years.

Other points are summarised below:

  • Consider opening up East Gate / West Gate to public transport to support the evening economy;
  • Review the opportunity to regenerate the bus station and improve the rail station interchange to encourage sustainable modes of transport;
  • Aspire to connect Harlow University Centre, Crown Gate and the Town Centre and consider the impact this will have on the road network;
  • Invest in sites, for example improve Market Square and make it the destination; and
  • Build on Harlow's unique identity and USP – proposals should respond positively to the past, encourage pride in the place as it currently exists and encourage optimism towards future opportunities.

Conclusion– The workshop presented an opportunity for stakeholders to have their say about the issues and options for Harlow Town Centre. The main issues identified related to the lack of evening, leisure and cultural activities; the conversion of offices to residential; poor and infrequent connections to the Town Centre; and a concern that safeguarding land for future uses could prevent the development of land now. It was felt that growth must be inclusive and all-encompassing, taking into account the interests of everyone, including third sector / voluntary organisations. Proposals should build on Harlow's mid-century design heritage, as well as its identity as a Sculpture Town. There are opportunities to foster a sense of pride in the Town Centre as it exists today and to encourage optimism for its future redevelopment.

The discussions and comments made are of great value and will help to inform the preparation of the draft AAP. There will be further opportunity to comment on the revised document early next year.


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