Draft Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report

Ended on the 15th January 2010
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4 Eastern growth area

4.1 Introduction

4.1.1 This chapter sets out for Harlow’s eastern growth area the policy context; the key sustainability objectives that need to be considered, the situation now (including any problems); the situation without the plan (i.e. the business-as-usual scenario); and issues which we think should provide a particular focus for the appraisal of the Core Strategy and other DPDs.

4.2 What’s the policy context?

4.2.1 The Government’s housing guidance states that local planning authorities and stakeholders should explore various options for accommodating new housing growth including “expansion of existing settlements through urban extensions and creation of new freestanding settlements"27 (our emphasis) .

4.2.2 PPS3 recognises that, although increasing performance targets for development on previously developed land should be a priority over development on greenfield sites; Local Planning Authorities “will need to assess and manage the risk to housing delivery, to ensure that their approach does not jeopardise delivery against the housing trajectory".

4.2.3 Harlow is expected to provide a significant number of the region’s homes. The East of England Plan28 states that 16,000 dwellings need to be delivered between 2001 and 2021 by Harlow, Epping Forest and East Herts District Councils. Policy HA1: Harlow Key Centre for Development and Change sets out a strategy for Harlow, stating that housing should be provided: “through urban extensions to the north, east, and on a smaller scale the south and west". The strategy will also “promote the renaissance of the new town through developing its role as a major regional housing growth point, major town centre and strategic employment location to 2021 and beyond. Regeneration and redevelopment of the existing town and urban extensions will be combined with transport measures and enhancement and conservation of green infrastructure to fulfil this strategy."

4.2.4 The housing spatial distribution between the three Districts will be informed by the options appraisal technical study. According to Policy HA1, the DPDs for these Districts will “determine the appropriate distribution between the existing town and the urban extensions, including the more detailed location and scale of required development. The objective is to put in place a development strategy which promotes Harlow’s regeneration, is as sustainable as possible, and can be implemented at the required pace." Factors to be taken into account include "making use of urban capacity", and "the differing implementation issues in regard to the urban extensions", including transport implications.

4.2.5 The Harlow Area Landscape and Environment Study29 was commissioned to inform the options appraisal technical study and in a detailed analysis of the immediate fringes of Harlow, identifies that “the least sensitive area with the highest potential capacity for development is the majority of the Eastern Fringe".

4.2.6 The Harlow Replacement Local Plan30 designates Newhall as a Strategic Housing Site and an essential part of the strategy to meet Harlow housing requirements. Under the Plan, land identified for further development of this new neighbourhood will not be released until after 2011, or “until it is shown as an allocation in the Local Development Document whichever be earlier".

4.3 What are the key sustainability objectives that we need to consider?

4.3.1 Many of the objectives set out in the Integrated Regional Sustainability Framework for the East of England – see Table 2 – are relevant in considering future impacts on Harlow’s eastern growth area. Particularly relevant objectives include:

  • Promote sustainable growth within environmental limits

  • Reduce poverty and inequality and promote social inclusion

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions

  • Increase resource efficiency and reduce resource use and waste

  • Conserve, restore and enhance the region’s natural and built environment

  • Move goods and people sustainably

  • Meet the needs of the changing regional demographic

  • Provide decent, affordable and safe homes for all.

4.3.2 Harlow also has a number of key priorities for 2009/10 to 2012/13 as outlined in the Council’s Sustainability Strategy and approved in January 2009 by the Environment and Community Committee31:

  • Regenerating the Town

  • Promoting a clean, green, healthy and safe environment

  • Tackling housing need

  • Improving Harlow for business

  • Providing value for money.

4.4 What’s the situation now?

4.4.1 The eastern growth area – in addition to Harlow Major Urban Area – is the least sensitive landscape in the Harlow Area, rated as low sensitivity from small-scale urban developments up to very large-scale urban development. Moreover, it has the highest potential capacity for very large-scale and substantial scale urban development. The Land Character Area (LCA) for this land is Area 20b - Jack’s Hatch to Church Langley Ridge. It is characterised as follows32:

  • Landform - Very gentle undulating valley head

  • Landscape pattern - Generally moderate to large-scale and irregular

  • Character of skyline - Contained to east by topography; urban to west

  • Inter-visibility - Limited by topography and urban areas

  • Rare landscape features - Few historic and nature conservation assets

  • Settlement pattern/communication routes - Limited settlement

  • Sense of enclosure - Contained by urban/transport and topography

  • Sense of tranquillity/remoteness - Very limited

  • Historic landscape time-depth and stability - Generally limited.

4.4.2 A key characteristic landscape feature of this LCA and the eastern fringe is the slight ridge towards the east and running from the south of Harlow up towards the Stort Valley. This ridge edge is recognisable from many areas within Harlow and therefore plays an important role in the wider landscape; acting as a ‘visual screen’ between Harlow and the surrounding LCAs.

4.4.3 The tumuli group south of the built up area of Old Harlow is a key feature of historic interest in the eastern fringe area and it is noted that “this area has a high potential to contain further archaeological deposits"33. There are also listed buildings within the location and conservation areas close to the area at Church Street. Other environmental features include county wildlife sites, open space and green belt designations, and also green wedge. A small area of Flood Risk Zone 3 runs through the location at Churchgate Street. It should be noted that, although there is an area of historic open farmland at the eastern growth area, due to intensive farming significant amounts of hedgerows, trees and biodiversity have been lost.

4.4.4 Key traffic routes in and connecting to the eastern fringe include the M11, A1025, A414, B183, Foster Street and Green Lane. However, there are no junctions directly connecting the M11 with these routes.

4.4.5 The growth area is situated predominantly within the ward of Old Harlow. Key statistics relating to this ward include34:

  • A predominantly white (94%) population of 5,845 (2,805 male; 3,049 female)

  • 63% of accommodation is owner occupied and the ward has the highest proportion of properties owned outright (38% of all owned properties). Of the 2,498 inhabited households:

    • 30% pensioner households

    • 30% single person households

    • 48% one family households

    • 37% married couple households

  • 62% of the 16+ population are classified as ‘living in a couple’ with 52% either married or re-married. The ward has the highest percentage of ‘widowed’ individuals (10% of the unmarried 38%) in Harlow

  • The ward has a relatively high level of education and qualification based attainment, with an estimated over one-fifth of employed inhabitants with high-level qualifications

  • 71.8% of the working age (16-74) population are economically active with 93% in work; 78% of which are in full-time employment. The largest occupation type is managers and senior officials (17% of jobs) followed by administrative and secretarial positions (15% of jobs). The unemployment rate has consistently been the second lowest in Harlow.

4.4.6 Old Harlow and Churchgate Street are major settlements in the area, both of which have important settings and historic value. Newhall is a distinct and new neighbourhood development within the growth area that will require its own setting. Newhall has a planned residential population of 6,000 with mixed uses, to include: employment, shops, services, schools, community and leisure facilities. The masterplan for Newhall sets aside 40% of land for habitat creation and leisure uses and requires development areas to be built at higher than average densities. Other features include a residents’ trust for neighbourhood management, high energy standards, and a number of homes designed for live-work or home-working in addition to small-scale neighbourhood employment developments.

4.5 What will be the situation without the plan?

4.5.1 In the absence of intervention through the Core Strategy, further development in the eastern growth area beyond 2011 to support necessary strategic and community infrastructure is unlikely to occur.

4.5.2 Without the plan, dependent upon the outcome of the ongoing Harlow area growth options appraisal technical study, development is likely to go ahead in the eastern growth area. However, the development may not proceed in the most sustainable manner and will not provide the joined-up thinking that a Core Strategy provides – taking into account other factors and the wider needs of the District.

(2) 4.6 What issues should be a particular focus for the appraisal?

4.6.1 In light of the information above, key issues to take into account in the appraisal in relation to the eastern growth area include:

  • The low landscape value of the area

  • The need to give early consideration to landscape and biodiversity enhancement, recreation provision and access routes

  • The need to ensure that the eastern growth area provides access to a range of adequate employment opportunities

  • The need to consider environmental and historic constraints in the area, including: green belt, green wedge, open land, county wildlife sites, historic value – a tumulus and listed buildings, and a small area of flood risk

  • The need to ensure that the existing historic settlements and distinct settings of Churchgate Street and Old Harlow, and the new settlement of Newhall, retain their distinctive identity

  • Scope to extend green wedges between the urban edge of Harlow and new neighbourhoods in the wider countryside, ensuring a continuity of green corridors.

27 Communities and Local Government (2006). Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing [online] available at:
www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/pps3housing (accessed 22 July 2009).

28 GOEE (2008) East of England Plan [online] available at:
www.gos.gov.uk/goee/docs/Planning/Regional_Planning/Regional_Spatial_Strategy/EE_Plan1.pdf (accessed 8 September 2009).

29 Chris Blandford Associates (2004) Harlow Area Landscape and Environment Study [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/harlow_area_landscape_study.aspx (accessed 10 September 2009).

30 Harlow Council (2006) Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/harlow_replacement_local_plan.aspx (accessed 10 September 2009).

31 Harlow District Council (2009) Harlow Sustainability Strategy [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/corporate_services/policy_and_performance/sustainability_strategy.aspx (accessed 13 August 2009).

32 Chris Blandford Associates (2004) Harlow Area Landscape and Environment Study [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/harlow_area_landscape_study.aspx (accessed 10 September 2009).

33 Chris Blandford Associates (2004) Harlow Area Landscape and Environment Study [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/harlow_area_landscape_study.aspx (accessed 10 September 2009).

34 Harlow Council (2006) Harlow Ward Profiles – Old Harlow [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/business_services/growth_and_regeneration/regeneration_unit/key_statistics_and_data/harlow_ward_profiles.aspx (accessed 10 September 2009).

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