Core Strategy Issues and Options Consultation Document (Read-only)

Ended on the 28th January 2011
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1 The context

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1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 This document is the first stage in the preparation of Harlow's Core Strategy. When complete the Core Strategy will be the main document making up Harlow's Local Development Framework (LDF). The LDF is a collection of Local Development Documents that will deliver the spatial planning strategy for Harlow over the next 15 years and when completed will replace the Replacement Harlow Local Plan (adopted July 2006).

1.1.2 The Core Strategy will set out the overarching planning framework guiding development across the District, setting out the long term vision and objectives for Harlow. It will also set out the principles that will protect the environment and guide the development of new homes, shopping, employment opportunities and the infrastructure necessary to meet the needs and aspirations of the community. It will provide the strategic framework for other detailed planning guidance being produced as part of the LDF. This includes the Development Management Policies Development Plan Document (DPD) which will provide detailed policies to assist the consideration of planning applications. A Site Allocations DPD will also be prepared which will identify land for development in the District.

1.1.3 These subsidiary documents will provide the detailed expression of the broader policies and proposals contained in the Core Strategy. The documents that are being produced to create Harlow's LDF are illustrated in the following diagram:

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1.2 The purpose of this document

1.2.1 This consultation document is an informal discussion about the key spatial planning issues affecting Harlow and the possible policy options for addressing these. The focus of this consultation is to allow you to comment on the Council's initial understanding of the issues affecting the town, the strategic regeneration challenges and the possible planning framework to deliver the Core Strategy.

1.2.2 The issues are not exhaustive and additional ones may be identified throughout the preparation of the Core Strategy.

1.2.3 The Council is also asking for comments on what principles should direct development in Harlow including what role certain land uses should play in the future. The Council has also presented the Options Appraisal work which sought to produce alternative growth options around Harlow (see part 6). The growth options outlined at this stage are open for comment and will be developed according to the feedback received during this consultation and the outcome of additional technical work.

1.2.4 There will be additional opportunities to comment on the Core Strategy before it is formalised. The next stage will be the preparation of a Preferred Options paper that will set out a suggested strategic policy direction for Harlow, following the consideration of responses made on this document and the outcome of ongoing evidence gathering. The stages of Harlow's Core Strategy preparation are set out in the diagram below:

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1.3 Consultation so far

1.3.1 The Council commenced the preparation of the Core Strategy with an awareness raising event and exhibition at the Town Show. In addition a number of informal consultation events and workshops have been held with representatives from the local community and other stakeholders to help to identify some of the issues the Core Strategy will need to consider and address. This has been supported by the development of an evidence base consisting of a range of technical studies to assess the social, economic and environmental characteristics of the area. Details of the Council's evidence base can be viewed on the Council's website at (follow the link to 'Evidence Base').

1.3.2 The Council is committed to ensuring the community and stakeholders are continually involved in developing the future planning strategy for Harlow.

1.4 Sustainability Appraisal

1.4.1 Every Development Plan Document must be accompanied by a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) incorporating the requirements of a Strategic Environmental Assessment. This highlights any significant environmental, social and economic effects of the plan, assessing it against a number of sustainability objectives. Harlow's Sustainability Appraisal will also include an Equalities Impact Assessment and a Habitat Regulation Assessment (HRA). The appraisal needs to be fully integrated into the plan making process so that it can inform and influence the plan as it develops.

1.4.2 The Council has been working closely with the Consultant Scott Wilson who has undertaken a SA and HRA of the Core Strategy Issues and Options Paper. These will help the Council finalise the most appropriate strategy for Harlow. The SA and HRA have been published alongside this consultation and are available for viewing on the Council's website (follow the link to 'Core Strategy'). Any comments on these documents should be made separately and sent to the Council's Forward Planning Team.

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1.5 Working with adjoining authorities

1.5.1 Harlow is a key sub regional centre in West Essex (see page 7). The town's influence and the range of facilities and services it provides extend beyond its tightly drawn administrative boundary. It is important that future strategic planning decisions affecting the town and the wider Harlow area are not restricted by such constraints. It is particularly important that the town continues to provide the homes, jobs, shops and the services that many in the adjoining districts use and benefit from. Furthermore, delivering certain elements of the Core Strategy will require the help and support of adjoining Districts. This is why the Council will continue to work with the adjoining authorities to develop a consistent approach to address the planning needs of the wider area.

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1.6 The planning context

1.6.1 When preparing the Core Strategy the Council must be mindful of the key policy drivers affecting the district.

1.6.2 The East of England Plan was central to informing the preparation of the Council's Core Strategy. However, the East of England Plan, along with other Regional Strategies, has now been withdrawn and with it the key regional policies supporting the town's regeneration, renewal and growth. Subsequently the requirement of that plan to deliver 16,000 new homes and a significant proportion of jobs has also been removed. This is a significant change to the planning system but gives the Council much greater freedom to develop its own plan based on the identified needs and aspirations of the local community.

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1.6.3 Whilst the regional planning framework has been removed there remains a need to prepare a statutory LDF to guide development in Harlow to meet future needs and aspirations. There continues to be a need to provide new homes and employment opportunities together with key infrastructure and the protection of environmental assets.

1.6.4 The Council does not have a completely free hand when preparing the plan and will need to ensure that the emerging planning framework is responsive to the direction set by Government in national Planning Policy Statements and the evidence supporting the needs and aspirations of the local community.

1.7 Harlow Council's approach to its planning future

1.7.1 Although the regional policy framework has been removed the regeneration of the town remains the Council's number one priority. This is set out in the Council's Corporate Plan and the Regeneration and Social Inclusion Strategy. The Council believes that growth and investment is an important catalyst for securing regeneration and renewal. It is an important mechanism for addressing a number of issues affecting the town including:

  • Localised social and economic deprivation
  • The need to facilitate the restructuring and diversification of the local economy
  • Diversifying the housing stock
  • Raising educational attainment throughout the town

1.7.2 Although the East of England Plan has been withdrawn there are elements in the evidence base that remain valid and relevant to Harlow. One of these is the role that housing and jobs growth can have in delivering the regeneration of the town. To help achieve this, the East of England Plan sought the provision 16,000 new homes and approximately 8,000 new jobs in the Harlow area. The Council believes that growth around this level will help provide the critical mass necessary to sustain regeneration and support infrastructure provision to help meet the needs and aspirations of the local community. The Council is seeking comments on this approach as part of this consultation.

1.8 Accommodating growth

1.8.1 Accommodating this level of growth will be challenging given that Harlow has a tightly drawn administrative boundary. The Council will need to consider a full range of alternative options for delivering growth in and around the town and make some difficult decisions on the scale, nature and specific locations of new development.

1.8.2 Decisions on growth will be made with the help of a clear policy framework that sets out the broad principles for development in and around the town. The Core Strategy, in its final form, will provide this strategic policy framework guiding future development in Harlow.

1.8.3 Development opportunities do exist within Harlow's urban area including the mixed use redevelopment in the town centre. All potential opportunities within the urban area will be explored to determine what contribution they can make to meeting the community's development needs. However, given the need to ensure development complements the unique character and setting of Harlow a significant proportion of new development may need to be accommodated beyond Harlow's administrative area and into parts of Epping Forest and East Hertfordshire District Councils. To respond to this challenge, Harlow, East Hertfordshire and Epping Forest District Councils had commissioned an Options Appraisal study to assist the Council(s) in making a decision on the most appropriate housing distribution in the Harlow area. Although this was originally commissioned as a response to the East of England Plan the approach used in this assessment remains valid.

1.8.4 A fuller discussion of the Council's approach to the overall level of development and change is found in Part 3 and in Part 5 where the principles to direct growth are discussed.

1.9 Spatial portrait - Harlow, the story so far

1.9.1 Harlow is a former New Town, conceived in the 1940's in response to post war housing need in London and the south east. Sir Frederick Gibberd was commissioned to prepare a Masterplan that would meet housing, employment, leisure and other community needs in a planned and co-ordinated way and which accorded with good practice in town planning of the day. A key component of the Masterplan was the creation of a number of separate neighbourhoods each with a range of community facilities including shopping centres, schools and community centres. Small shopping areas (hatches) to meet the immediate needs of residents were also provided. The neighbourhoods were to be held together by a network of landscape areas (commonly referred to as Green Wedges) that brought the countryside within easy reach of residents. The Masterplan has helped to shape Harlow's distinctive character (see page 12).

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1.9.2 Today, Harlow benefits from its strategic location along the M11 corridor which links London, Stansted Airport and Cambridge. The town also has a presence of renowned international companies whilst maintaining links to its manufacturing and engineering past.

1.9.3 However, Harlow does experience some complex socio-economic and physical issues that have affected the success of the town. Industrial decline, a lack of investment and population stagnation in recent years has taken its toll. The town centre needs to be rejuvenated, a wider housing mix needs to be encouraged, the town's infrastructure needs upgrading, and an increase in the business base needs to be facilitated. All of which are necessary for changing the image and perception of Harlow. Addressing these issues will require coordinated and sustained investment in the town and its physical and social infrastructure.

1.10 What the Core Strategy can do

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1.10.1 The role of Spatial Planning is to address these issues by coordinating and targeting the efforts of the Council, its partners, the private and voluntary sectors through the planning system. The Core Strategy, when finalised, will provide the overarching and long term statutory planning framework to deliver the necessary regeneration and renewal of Harlow. It will also guide future Council strategies seeking to implement specific regeneration projects such as updates to the Regeneration Strategy. It is therefore important that the Core Strategy integrates other relevant plans and strategies that have been produced or are currently being produced by the Council and its partners. This coordination will enable the effective delivery of wide ranging economic, social and environmental improvements to Harlow.

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1.11 Relationship to other plans and strategies

1.11.1 In addition to National Policy Statements there are a range of other plans, strategies and guidance relevant to Harlow that will need to be considered. The Local Development Framework will be used as a delivery vehicle to help achieve a range of social, economic and environmental objectives set out in these plans and strategies.

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1.11.2 County Strategies

1.11.3 The Council will have regard to the strategies prepared by Essex County Council and, where relevant to Harlow, those prepared by Hertfordshire County Council. These include the following:

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1.11.4 Harlow Council Strategies

1.11.5 The Core Strategy will also be informed by existing strategies prepared by the Council. These include the following:

Harlow's spatial portrait

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