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

Ended on the 28th January 2011
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2 The issues

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2.1 What you have been telling us so far

2.1.1 The Council commenced the preparation of the LDF with an awareness raising event 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. During these initial stages of informal consultation a number of issues have been identified. These can be summarised under the following themes that have been developed through the initial plan making process.

  • Placeshaping
    Enhancing the quality of the built and natural environment
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  • Housing
    Delivering housing at the right scale, of the right type and in the right location to meet the needs of the whole community

  • Prosperity
    Securing economic growth and regeneration in order to improve employment and educational opportunities in the town and reflect its strategic role

  • Infrastructure
    Ensuring growth and regeneration is supported by appropriate levels of infrastructure provision
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  • Lifestyles
    Meeting the leisure, recreational and cultural requirements of the community in a sustainable manner

2.2 Placeshaping

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2.2.1 Harlow has a distinct character derived from the physical make up of its town centre, employment areas and residential neighbourhoods which are separated by a network of Green Wedges. This has been reflected in comments made by community and stakeholder representatives. Some of the issues identified are summarised under topic sub headings set out below.

2.2.2 Natural Environment and Biodiversity

  • The quality of green spaces, green corridors and trees in Harlow should be maintained and protected
  • The boundaries of the Green Wedges in Harlow should be re-evaluated
  • The Gibberd principles are important but a rigid adherence to those principles should not be allowed to stifle regeneration
  • Areas of biodiversity and wildlife importance should be protected and enhanced

2.2.3 Built Environment

  • High quality sustainable architecture and design should be promoted
  • The use of appropriate materials in development should be encouraged
  • Recycling, waste facilities, energy efficiency and grey water facilities should be promoted
  • Appropriate densities should be encouraged when constructing new estates
  • Development should be sympathetic to the town’s design, building upon the Gibberd principles
  • New development should be integrated with the existing urban form
  • Areas should be regenerated with new housing development
  • Faith buildings should be centrally located within communities
  • Safety should be a major consideration in the design of new developments
  • Inappropriate development in Conservation Areas should be avoided

2.2.4 Accessibility/ Permeability

  • Development should be designed to accommodate vehicles and provided with adequate parking
  • The cycleway and footpath network should be improved, maintained and extended

2.2.5 Land Use

  • Previously developed land should be developed before greenfield sites
  • Development on floodplains needs to take full account of the issues raised by flooding, both in terms of the impact on the site, and on other land that may be affected

2.3 Housing

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2.3.1 Access to good quality housing is one of the most important issues for the local community. A number of other issues have been raised and these are summarised below.

  • A range of house types, across a range of tenures, is required to meet the aspirations of all the community
  • The existing housing stock should be regenerated as necessary
  • Minimum space standards for different dwelling types should be set
  • Lifetime homes to meet the long term needs of the community should be promoted
  • There is an imbalance between the number of flats and houses built in recent years
  • Some housing densities are too high
  • Too much social housing has been provided
  • Some employment sites could be changed to residential use
  • Additional pitches should be provided for Gypsies and Travellers
  • Some homes are in multiple occupation reducing the stock of family housing
  • More flexibility is needed in the use of underused stock
  • Extra care housing is needed
  • New housing should meet Lifetime Homes standards
  • Infrastructure should keep pace with new housing
  • Greenfield development should be located in the north and east of Harlow

2.4 Prosperity

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2.4.1 Prosperity is a measure of the economic well being of communities that can help provide a platform to create attractive places within which to live, work and spend leisure time. Initial consultation with community and stakeholder representatives generated a range of issues. These are summarised below.

  • The town centre should be more attractive and vibrant
  • The retail offer and choice in the town and neighbourhood centres need to be improved
  • Education, training and skills base needs to be improved in the town
  • New and diversified business opportunities should be attracted to the area
  • Diversification of employment base to create a range of employment opportunities
  • Make efficient use of employment land and improve access to employment sites
  • The town’s major employers should be retained
  • Need to encourage more business start ups
  • Need to improve quality of employment space

2.5 Infrastructure

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2.5.1 Infrastructure can be seen as the basic physical and organisational structures needed to ensure communities can work and function. Some of the key issues identified in initial discussions are set out below.

  • Ensure road and other infrastructure is provided to accommodate growth
  • Improve cycleway and footpath connections in the town
  • Traffic congestion in the town needs to be addressed
  • Appropriate provision for car parking in development should be made
  • Capacity on railways should be increased and access to the station improved
  • Public transport including buses needs to be provided to urban extensions and existing neighbourhoods

2.6 Lifestyles

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2.6.1 This relates to a range of facilities and experiences that assist people within the community to live their lives. In response to initial consultation the following key issues have been identified.

2.6.2 Recreation, sport, leisure and open space

  • Recreational facilities should be protected and enhanced
  • More facilities and areas for young people should be provided
  • Encourage youth to participate in leisure and recreation
  • Increase school facilities to enable greater out of school activity provision
  • More allotment sites should be provided to meet growing demand

2.6.3 Safety (crime and violence)

  • Crime, safety and anti-social behaviour around the town should be addressed

2.6.4 Quality of life

  • Policies should raise the levels of aspiration within the town
  • There is a need to increase the town’s diversity and harness new talent and skills
  • Provision of sixth form education in schools should be broadened
  • Low educational attainment levels within the town needs to be addressed
  • Child poverty in the town needs to be addressed
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2.6.5 Health and healthy lifestyles

  • Appropriate levels of primary care facilities should be provided in the town as it grows
  • Healthy lifestyles should be promoted
  • Quality green spaces for public health and leisure use should be protected and maintained
  • Cycle track network in the town should be maintained and expanded to encourage use for transport and to promote healthy lifestyles
  • Making better use of waterways should be examined
  • Use of public footpaths should be promoted

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2.6.6 Culture, art and entertainment

  • Maintain the strong public art /cultural heritage of the town as it develops
  • Enhance and promote more art, culture and entertainment facilities in the town
  • Improve theatre provision for Harlow and the wider area
  • Improve the evening use of the town centre by introducing more cultural and leisure activities

2.6.7 These reflect a range of issues that have currently been identified by the Council that will be considered during the preparation of the Core Strategy. Not all of these can be addressed through the land use planning process. It is important, however, to ensure that the relevant social, economic and environmental issues have been identified.

2.7 What the evidence base has been telling us

2.7.1 Key to developing an effective Local Development Framework is a clear understanding of the social, economic and environmental characteristics of Harlow. The Council has begun to assemble a comprehensive evidence base that consists of technical reports and studies. These have highlighted a number of issues that need to be addressed through the Core Strategy. In some instances these studies have been undertaken jointly with neighbouring councils as some issues cut across administrative boundaries. This reflects the sub regional role of Harlow which extends beyond its administrative boundaries and that some of the development options may require land in the adjoining authorities.

2.7.2 These studies may need to be refined and updated throughout the preparation of the Core Strategy to ensure emerging policies and proposals can be adapted to reflect changing circumstances. The following is a summary of the findings of the evidence base to date.

2.8 Placeshaping

2.8.1 The Core Strategy will consider and set out policies that will be used to maintain, enhance and create the physical character of the town’s environment. Key issues identified from evidence base studies include the following.

2.8.2 Natural Environment and Biodiversity

  • The Green Wedges should be strengthened in order to improve aesthetic appeal, sense of place and links to the countryside
  • Adequate green spaces and associated facilities should be provided in new development, and where possible, existing landscaping should be retained. Greenfield development should seek to protect and integrate existing landscape assets
  • Existing allotment sites should be protected, enhanced and extended where possible. In areas of significant growth and development new allotment sites should be provided
  • New development should respect the key characteristics of the Stort Valley
  • Green spaces and parks should be accessible to all and safe
  • There is a need to retain, protect and enhance biodiversity. River corridors should be emphasised for habitat creation and enhancement
  • There is a need to establish a strong network of multi-functional green infrastructure which supports habitats and species
  • Stringent protection should be awarded to designated sites, including SSSIs, LNRs, Local Wildlife Sites and Living Landscape Areas

2.8.3 Built Environment

  • The Gibberd principles should be reinforced taking into account current best practice
  • Development should be distinctive to Harlow, embracing the character of the local landscape setting and the original concept of the New Town
  • A strong built form and high quality townscape needs to be promoted in new development, supplemented by public art at appropriate locations
  • Design should encourage surveillance
  • Urban regeneration initiatives should be facilitated
  • Listed buildings, conservation areas, scheduled ancient monuments and registered parks and gardens should be conserved, enhanced and protected
  • Areas of architectural significance (not covered by other designations) should be preserved and enhanced
  • New development should be well integrated into its surroundings and be energy efficient where possible

2.8.4 Accessibility and Permeability

  • Greater accessibility should be promoted in order to link urban areas with green areas within and surrounding the town
  • The visual and physical links between the key areas within the town needs to be significantly improved
  • Streets and spaces should be safe, attractive, active and well-connected
  • Environmental enhancements along the key gateways to the town and particularly to the town centre should be endorsed
  • Access should be improved where appropriate into the Stort Valley 2.8.5 Land Use
  • Development should be avoided in areas identified at risk from flooding
  • Flood retention and mitigation initiatives should be supported and encouraged
  • Green Belt policies should be proactive for uses such as recreation, nature conservation, public access and farming
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2.8.5 Land Use

  • Development should be avoided in areas identified at risk from flooding
  • Flood retention and mitigation initiatives should be supported and encouraged
  • Green Belt policies should be proactive for uses such as recreation, nature conservation, public access and farming

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2.9 Housing

2.9.1 The provision of housing to meet the needs of the community as well as the regeneration aspirations of the town is a key element that will be considered through the preparation of the Core Strategy. The Core Strategy will consider where housing should be provided to address local needs and aspirations. This has been informed by a range of technical studies. Some of the key findings of these are summarised below.

  • Provision of new homes in the Harlow area to help meet local need and help secure the regeneration and renewal of the town
  • About 35% of new dwellings should be affordable housing
  • Harlow is losing families to out migration to adjoining districts
  • Harlow has the highest proportion of people on its social housing waiting list although it has the largest social housing stock in its market area
  • There is likely to be a long term shift away from home ownership to private renting
  • The market housing requirement is for 3 bedrooms and above and the social housing requirement is for 1 to 2 bedrooms
  • Overcrowding occurs in the private rented sector in Harlow
  • There are around 5,000 dwellings identified in the town (with planning permission, allocated, or where the principle of development has been accepted)
  • Pitches to meet the specified needs of the Gypsy and Traveller Community

2.10 Infrastructure

2.10.1 One of the key elements in the preparation of the Core Strategy for Harlow is the identification of infrastructure requirements that will be needed to both support growth and as well as helping address existing shortfalls of provision in the area.

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2.10.2 Evidence collected so far suggests that a range of additional infrastructure may be required to support the growth in the Harlow area. Specific requirements would be identified, considered and consulted upon through the preparation of a subsequent Preferred Options document. Some of the key findings of the evidence base relating to infrastructure requirements are set out below:

  • Provision of multi-purpose community centres will be required to make Harlow more attractive as a place to live and work
  • Children’s centres and youth facilities will be required to support the new communities being created
  • Facilities should be provided as early as possible in order to support the growth of the new communities
  • Co-location of facilities should be encouraged and some need could be addressed through the expansion of existing facilities
  • New primary school provision would be required in the urban extensions
  • There will be a need for additional secondary schools to meet the needs of development within urban extensions
  • Police, Ambulance and Fire and Rescue service provision to meet the needs of the growth requirements will need to be enhanced but this will be dependent on the nature of localised requirements within the area
  • Existing health facilities coupled with programmed enhancements to provision should meet most of the additional needs from the proposed growth, however, additional health centre provision will be needed to the north of Harlow
  • Additional library provision will be needed to meet the proposed growth
  • Programmed improvements to indoor leisure facilities may be sufficient to meet the proposed growth, however, this will need to be monitored and reviewed to ensure that future increases in need can be properly accommodated
  • A range of strategic and local road improvements will be required to address shortfalls in capacity in order to accommodate new development
  • Improvements to public transport will be required including to rail and bus services in order to provide more sustainable alternatives that will address the challenges of climate change
  • Measures to enhance walking and cycling opportunities that link the town centre with the station, employment areas, existing residential neighbourhoods and new areas of development should be promoted
  • Water, wastewater and power supplies will need to be upgraded and, in some instances, expanded, to meet the levels of growth proposed

2.11 Prosperity

2.11.1 The studies indicate that Harlow will need to continue to improve and diversify its retail offer to ensure it maintains and strengthens its position within the regional hierarchy of town centres. There are also a number of fundamental weaknesses in the retail, commercial and leisure offer have which have been identified and need to be addressed:

  • Harlow has below average provision of convenience and service units and of high quality retailers compared with the national average and competing centres in the region
  • An increase in the quantum and quality of the town centre’s retail and leisure offer, along with other town centre uses is required to reduce the proportion of shoppers and spend ‘leaking’ out of the district to other competing centres
  • Diversification is needed in the town centre through mix use development comprising entertainment, leisure, food, drink and residential uses to help strengthen the town’s evening economy
  • Town-centre regeneration especially to the northern part of town-centre should be supported
  • Restructuring of the town-centre is needed to address service access, poor edge quality and the nature of the public realm to include possible re-introduction of through vehicle movement
  • Improvements to the public realm in the neighbourhood centres and hatches to make them more attractive to local residents and operators
  • Redevelopment of the neighbourhood centres particularly Bush Fair and The Stow and the hatches to help underpin their overall vitality and viability

2.11.2 Before the recession Harlow had a strongly performing economy with high value industries and a productive workforce. Although the studies also show there is a high presence of knowledge intensive employees which is a key indicator of economic prosperity, there is also strong evidence that residents did not benefit from previous prosperous conditions. Findings also show that:

  • Harlow has a poorer skills profile and lower average earnings, and resident earnings are significantly below average workplace earnings in Harlow. This indicates problems in local residents getting high quality jobs and a lack of willingness of high earners to locate in the area
  • Harlow has slow employment growth in comparison to the East of England region and Essex as a county
  • Growing business sectors and firms in the East of England are not normally locating in Harlow
  • There is a need to exploit the benefits of existing economic clusters including Research and Development
  • Although there are vacant industrial and commercial buildings there is still a demand for quality and accessible industrial and commercial space
  • Harlow is not seen as a desirable office location because of the poor quality of office stock in the town and a lack of town centre amenities
  • Some employment locations have poor access to infrastructure and local amenities that can reduce their attractiveness
  • To meet future employment requirements land for high value and high skilled jobs will need to be allocated within and beyond Harlow District boundary.
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2.12 Lifestyles

2.12.1 Ensuring that Harlow residents have a high quality of life now and in the future is one of the key aims of the Core Strategy. This includes improving leisure and recreation opportunities, making people feel safe and promoting a healthy way of life for residents living in the town. The Core Strategy will also need to ensure that the cultural heritage of the town including its high quality public art collection is maintained and enhanced as this is one of Harlow’s important features and strengths. The key findings of the evidence base in relation to lifestyle issues are set out below:

2.12.2 Recreation, sport, leisure and open space

  • Review the location and quality of existing facilities in the Town Park including cyclepaths
  • Protect, enhance and extend the District’s green infrastructure network
  • Ensure open spaces and sport and leisure facilities are equitable, accessible to all, safe, proportional (for current and future needs) and of high quality
  • Encourage access to the urban fringe and Green Belt for recreation and leisure
  • Ensure that when sites for playing pitches are lost through development or closure, new facilities of an equal or improved standard are provided
  • Ensure all new sports pitches include changing rooms and quality ancillary facilities
  • Accommodate the provision of a modernised rugby facility in the town
  • Promote the River Stort and its floodplain as areas for recreational use
  • Provide more innovative play opportunities for children and young people that are within easy access (including in the Town Park and other local green spaces), and more activities and places to go for teenagers
  • The town lies in a “cold spot” for theatre provision and could support a regional scale theatre

2.12.3 Safety (crime and violence)

  • Address perceived safety issues in the Town Park
  • Carefully design the links from open spaces to surrounding housing to reduce crime and the fear of crime

2.12.4 Quality of life

  • Ensure development or activities that contribute to lower air quality are not located within inappropriate locations
  • Tackle the high pockets of deprivation in Harlow
  • Meet the needs of the disabled population in Harlow
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2.12.5 Health and healthy lifestyles

  • Address health issues including a higher prevalence than the national average for all chronic diseases, significant levels of child mental health morbidity, obesity, diabetes and poor levels of healthy eating which are all worse than the national average
  • Tackle low levels of physical activity in children and high levels of teenage pregnancy which are worse than the average in England

2.12.6 Through both the informal consultation and the ongoing development of the evidence base (listed in Appendix 2), the issues that have emerged will be taken forward and developed throughout the preparation of Core Strategy. Some of these are related directly to land use planning issues whereas others will need to be addressed through partnership with a range of other agencies and organisations.

2.12.7 It is important that the Council understands all the relevant issues affecting Harlow as these will be important in the development of alternative policy options.

Question 1:

Do you think the Council has identified all the relevant issues that need to be addressed by the Core Strategy?

Question 2:

If you disagree, what additional issues need to be considered by the Core Strategy?

To respond please use the separate Issues and Options consultation questionnaire

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