Draft Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report

Ended on the 15th January 2010
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5 Neighbourhoods

(1) 5.1 Introduction

5.1.1 This chapter sets out for Harlow’s neighbourhoods – Little Parndon, Mark Hall, Old Harlow, Great Parndon, Tye Green, Church Langley / Potter Street – 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.

5.2 What’s the policy context?

5.2.1 PPS6: Planning for Town Centres35 sets out national policy on planning for town centres and should be taken in to account in the preparation of LDDs. Draft PPS4: Planning for Prosperous Economies36 in its final form will replace a number of existing guidance documents including PPS6. PPS6 states that:

Local planning authorities should adopt a positive and proactive approach to planning for the future of all types of centres within their areas. Having regard to the regional spatial strategy and reflecting their community strategy, local planning authorities should, through the core strategy development plan document, set out a spatial vision and strategy for the network and hierarchy of centres, including local centres, within their area, setting out how the role of different centres will contribute to the overall spatial vision for their area."

5.2.2 Policy E5 of the East of England Plan states that:
Below the level of the centres of regional strategic importance local development documents will identify a network of more local town centres, district centres, neighbourhood centres and village centres". Policy SS6: City and Town Centres states that LDDs, local transport plans, sustainable community strategies and relevant economic, environmental and cultural strategies should protect and enhance existing neighbourhood centres and, where the need is established, promote the provision of new centres of an appropriate scale and function to meet local day to day needs.

5.2.3 The Essex Local Area Agreement (LAA), published in 2006, aims to prioritise and focus on the needs of identified groups of service users and residents in a way that will lead to a step-change in the collective effectiveness of the whole public sector in Essex. Fourteen priorities for action are set out for the ‘Health and Opportunity for the People of Essex’, including: “Improve the quality of life for people in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods and ensure service providers are more responsive to neighbourhood needs and improve their delivery".

5.2.4 The Replacement Harlow Local Plan37 sets out the neighbourhood centres (in the middle of residential groupings within about a half of a mile of each home) and hatches (meeting daily needs within about a quarter of a mile of most homes) for Harlow and places a high emphasis on their “important role to play in providing local facilities for residents which can help reduce car travel and increase sustainability" and the need to retain their vitality and viability.

5.2.5 Harlow’s Community Strategy – the Harlow 2020 Vision38 – must be taken into account in preparing the LDF. The Vision notes the importance of “Adherence to the spirit of the town’s original master plan, which focuses on developments in neighbourhoods, with local facilities within walking distance and access to open spaces or green wedges". To deliver the Vision a number of priorities have been set out to address key issues relevant to the Town. Included as part of Homes and Neighbourhoods is “Improving the local neighbourhood street scene and enhancing the green environment". A Homes and Neighbourhoods Action Group has been established.

5.2.6 The Harlow Regeneration Strategy and Implementation Plan 2007-200939 sets out six themes that includes ‘Homes, Neighbourhoods and Quality of Life’, for which core objectives have been set (using the Vision as a basis):

  • Improving the overall supply of housing and widening choice

  • Increasing the supply of good quality, decent and affordable housing

  • Improving local neighbourhoods and enhancing the green environment

  • Ensuring adequate provision of health and community facilities.

5.2.7 Over a five to 10 year period, the Regeneration Strategy seeks to achieve:

  • Upgrading of the District Centres and Neighbourhood hatches most in need of renewal

  • Significant progress with neighbourhood renewal.

5.2.8 One priority action of the Regeneration Strategy was for neighbourhood developments and the implementation of the approved Growth Area Fund (GAF) II (and subsequently GAF III) Neighbourhood Renewal Projects. In February 2006, Harlow Council secured £10M from the government to spend on a business innovation centre and on improving some of Harlow neighbourhoods. This has resulted in four neighbourhood renewal projects: Clifton Hatch, Old Harlow, Prentice Place and Staple Tye40. Harlow Renaissance is a partnership of four members (Harlow District Council, Essex County Council, East of England Development Agency, Homes and Communities Agency) established to support delivery of the regeneration and growth process in Harlow. It sets out a vision that includes for Harlow to: “be recognised as a model for neighbourhood renewal in terms of integrating the old and the new, setting high standards of design, build and environmental quality". This is seen as part of the Vision alongside the achievement of sub-regional status. Activities and priorities for 2009-2011 include: “To develop an holistic approach to the development of the town centre that delivers a major step change in quality and also to create increased activity in the town centre and neighbourhood centres in the short term"41.

5.2.9 ‘Regenerating the Town’ is a top corporate priority for Harlow Council. The Draft Harlow Regeneration Strategy 2009-202142 has a vision for Harlow as a sub-regional centre and retail destination and lists ‘Renewing neighbourhoods and Neighbourhood Areas’ amongst seven priority issues in order to achieve the aims and vision of the Regeneration Strategy. A change in the physical structure of the town from development and ageing, and a changing way of life, requires Harlow to have a fresh look at its neighbourhoods. The Strategy states that:
Developing Neighbourhood Plans will provide an opportunity for multi-agency working to produce responses to issues of multiple deprivation".

5.2.10 The Harlow Area Investment and Renewal Framework (AIRF)43 addresses Harlow’s most pressing needs, and recommends the need for renewal in neighbourhood areas.

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

5.3.1 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 neighbourhoods. Particularly relevant objectives include:

  • Promote sustainable growth within environmental limits

  • Reduce poverty and inequality and promote social inclusion

  • Promote employment, learning, skills and innovation

  • 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.

5.3.2 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 Committee44. Relevant priorities include:

  • Regenerating the Town

  • Promoting a clean, green, healthy and safe environment

  • Tackling housing need

  • Developing good citizenship

  • Improving Harlow for business

  • Providing value for money.

5.4 What’s the situation now?

5.4.1 The Gibberd Masterplan for Harlow set out self-providing neighbourhoods with strong local centres. The original residential neighbourhoods were designed to include their own shopping centre, health facilities, community facilities, schools and places of worship and were separated by green wedges. The urban environment of Harlow has developed since the town’s establishment and has seen the introduction of a new neighbourhood with the development of Church Langley and other residential areas, however; the green wedges still remain and Harlow can still be divided into neighbourhood areas each with a neighbourhood centre, as outlined in Table 3.

Table 3: The Neighbourhoods and Neighbourhood Centres of Harlow

Neighbourhood Neighbourhood Centre
Little Parndon Town Centre
Great Parndon Staple Tye
Mark Hall The Stow
Tye Green Bush Fair
Old Harlow Old Harlow
Church Langley / Potter Street Church Langley

5.4.2 Harlow was designed with a hierarchy of retail centres; which may now be described as: a town centre; five Neighbourhood Centres: Old Harlow, The Stow, Church Langley, Bush Fair and Staple Tye; and eighteen hatches (see Figure 3)45.

Figure 3: Neighbourhood Centres and Hatches Location Plan46

Figure 3

5.4.3 Neighbourhood centres and hatches have an important role in providing local facilities for residents and minimising car travel. They are of particular importance to Harlow’s ageing population and less mobile residents, and local roads were designed to naturally lead traffic towards the neighbourhood centre and provide easy connection between residential areas, the shopping and neighbourhood centres, and the main roads. In reality, however, residents have tended to access amenities elsewhere by using primary routes running past neighbourhood centres47. There is therefore a need to improve the range and quality of facilities offered and to maintain and increase residential accommodation above shops and on previously developed land. According to the Harlow Regeneration Strategy evidence base: “Neighbourhood centres should also be the foci for redevelopment, regeneration and reinvestment through extension, mixed use and intensification"48.

5.4.4 However, the Regeneration Strategy evidence base states that:
The hierarchy has been undermined over the past decade by local retail parks and other sub-regional shopping centres, but also by changing shopping practices". The different areas of the town are not functioning equally well, and some are in need of regeneration, such as Staple Tye, the Town Centre, and parts of Mark Hall (south)49.

5.4.5 A couple of issues arise in relation to Harlow’s green wedges and distinct neighbourhoods. Firstly, that the wedges lower connectivity between neighbourhoods50. Secondly, the original concept of self-sustaining neighbourhoods – although appropriate for the time and a favoured concept today – is an assumption that does not necessarily fit in with modern behaviour and lifestyle choice. Related to this point is that workers do not live close to industrial areas and increased car use has altered employment patterns and led to centres being bypassed.

5.4.6 During the late 1980s and 1990s, in addition to a number of retail developments, the Church Langley neighbourhood centre was developed and the Staple Tye neighbourhood centre was redeveloped. However, Harlow has experienced a long-term retail decline that has caused problems in the town and neighbourhood centres. A limited retail provision has led to residents being more likely to travel to competing town centres, shopping outlets and retail parks located outside of the town centre and neighbourhoods. Moreover, restrictions on change of use and a general dated and run down appearance of Harlow’s neighbourhood centres offers little retail reinvestment incentives for the private sector and reinforces a poor internal image for residents51. However, the Local Plan considered that the existing provision of food and drink uses in neighbourhood centres and hatches is adequate and that no further provision is required52.

5.4.7 Options for Harlow regeneration include proceeding with the development of Harlow Town North; the development of public spaces, street furniture, signage and public art packages; and the development of a neighbourhood centre for New Hall. The Harlow Regeneration Strategy evidence base study proposed a number of questions that address the strategic choices and challenges posed for the improvement of the town centre, retail and local services of Harlow. They are53:

  • What scale and quality of town centre retail is required to competitively fulfil the sub-regional shopping centre role?

  • A vibrant town centre is significant to other regeneration objectives, including inward investment, new office based activity, use of leisure facilities and the overall quality of life for local residents.

  • Identification of “soft" neighbourhood centres where mixed use redevelopment could provide increased housing and employment densities, and therefore reinvestment opportunities? What criteria should apply?

  • Harlow neighbourhoods should be better linked and accessed to allow larger catchment areas to sustain retail provision and the viability of local services?

  • Car access is vital for a competitive sub-regional role?

5.5 What will be the situation without the plan?

5.5.1 Without the plan, Harlow’s neighbourhood centres may continue to appear out-dated and insufficient to meet the requirements of ‘self-sufficient’ neighbourhoods; and fail to provide essential facilities and services within walking distance for local residents. Issues of connectivity with other Harlow neighbourhoods may be perpetuated and there may be a continuing lack of private investment in retail provision. Regeneration plans for neighbourhood areas may go ahead without the plan, but may not deliver joined-up thinking based upon the original Gibberd concept and town needs. Moreover, neighbourhoods are reliant on numerous inter-relating issues that need to be balanced and considered from a wider strategic viewpoint.

5.6 What issues should be a particular focus for the appraisal?

5.6.1 In light of the information above, key issues to take into account in the appraisal in relation to neighbourhoods include:

  • Harlow has a characteristic urban structure whereby main neighbourhood areas serve local needs and are divided by green wedges

  • It is desirable to locate schools, community and health centre facilities within each neighbourhood and within walking distance for residents. It can reduce reliance upon car travel and provide for the less mobile of Harlow’s residents. However; it is also important to consider the need to access wider facilities and services from the neighbourhoods, such as the town centre and including the provision of alternatives to private cars

  • Issues exist relating to connectivity with other neighbourhoods; the out-migration of residents for services and facilities, and; a poor perception and appearance of centres. This has undermined the hierarchy of retail centres within Harlow

  • Maintenance and viability of local facilities and services

  • Maintenance and enhancement of the local distinctiveness and character of the neighbourhoods.


35 Communities and Local Government (1996) Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for Town Centres [online] available at:
www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planning/planningpolicyguidance/planningpolicystatements/planningpolicystatements/pps6/ (accessed 9 September 2009).

36 Communities and Local Government (2009) Planning Policy Statement – Consultation Paper on a new Planning Policy Statement 4: Planning for Prosperous Economies [online] available at:
www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/consultationeconomicpps (accessed 8 September 2009).

37 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).

38 Harlow 2020 Local Strategic Partnership Board (2006) Harlow 2020 Vision 2006-09 [online] available at:
www.harlow2020.org.uk (accessed 18 August 2009).

39 Harlow Council (2007) Regeneration Strategy and Implementation Plan 2007-2009 [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/business_services/regeneration_unit/harlow_regeneration_strategy.asp (accessed 9 September 2009).

40 See: www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/growth_and_regeneration/regeneration_unit/growth__regeneration_projects/growth_area_fund_round_2.aspx?styletype=LargeFont&styleclass=FontSize (accessed 10 September 2009).

41 Harlow Renaissance (2009) Business Plan [online] available at:
www.harlowrenaissance.co.uk/about-us/business-plan.aspx (accessed 10 September 2009).

42 Harlow Council (undated) Harlow (Draft) Regeneration Strategy 2009-2021 [not available online].

43 Harlow Council (2006) Harlow Area Investment and Renewal Framework [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=9116 (accessed 10 September 2009).

44 Harlow 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).

45 GVA Grimley on behalf of Harlow Council (2007) Retail Study and Town Centre Health Check [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/retail_study.aspx (accessed 10 September 2009).

46 See Plan 2: GVA Grimley on behalf of Harlow Council (2007) Retail Study and Town Centre Health Check [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/retail_study.aspx (accessed 10 September 2009).

47 Harlow Council (2006) Harlow Area Investment and Renewal Framework [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=9116 (accessed 10 September 2009).

48 PACEC and Halcrow Group Limited (2005) Harlow District Council Harlow Regeneration Strategy – Evidence Base and Analysis of Needs – Final Report [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/pdf/Final-Evidence-Base-Analysis-of-Needs-Final-Report-July-2005-full.pdf (accessed 9 September 2009).

49 PACEC and Halcrow Group Limited (2005) Harlow District Council Harlow Regeneration Strategy – Evidence Base and Analysis of Needs – Final Report [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/pdf/Final-Evidence-Base-Analysis-of-Needs-Final-Report-July-2005-full.pdf (accessed 9 September 2009).

50 Harlow Council (2006) Harlow Area Investment and Renewal Framework [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=9116 (accessed 10 September 2009).

51 PACEC and Halcrow Group Limited (2005) Harlow Regeneration Strategy – Final Report [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/business_services/regeneration_unit/harlow_regeneration_strategy.asp (accessed 10 September 2009).

52 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).

53 PACEC and Halcrow Group Limited (2005) Harlow District Council Harlow Regeneration Strategy – Evidence Base and Analysis of Needs – Final Report [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/pdf/Final-Evidence-Base-Analysis-of-Needs-Final-Report-July-2005-full.pdf (accessed 9 September 2009).

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