We send all our members and supporters very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

We hope you found the emails and newsletters we have sent out during 2022 both interesting and informative and that walkers enjoyed the walks led by John Curry.

We have setup a working group to look at what activities we should focus on to best influence developments and how we can expand our membership to increase our impact. Please send us your ideas about what you think would make a difference to contact@harlowcivicsociety.org.uk.

In the meantime, here are some news items that we hope will be of interest.

We wish you a happy, peaceful and healthy Christmas and New Year.

Latton Priory Consultation

One of the areas proposed for development as part of the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town is the Latton Priory site.

The site is next to Harlow’s southern boundary but is in Epping Forest District.

A draft Strategic Masterplan Framework (SMF) has been produced which sets out the relevant planning policy, with an analysis of the site and its surrounding context, and explains the design concept for the site. This is being consulted on until 23rd January 2023.

You can find the draft SMF and how to comment on the proposals here:


The illustrative masterplan includes:

  • Up to 1,500 homes of mixed size and tenure of which 40% will be affordable 
  • A mixed-use local centre with mobility hub, community space, employment, a site for a new primary and secondary school and local shops.
  • Extensive green space and outdoor sports facilities
  • Transport infrastructure including a link road to London Road and the safeguarding of a route for a Sustainable Transport Corridor connection
  • The draft Strategic Masterplan Framework also sets out principles for the built form, distinct character areas across the site and the approach to energy, phasing and stewardship (the long term care of places and communities) of Latton Priory.

We will submitting comments and would welcome your views on these proposals. Please send them to us at contact@harlowcivicsociety.org.uk by 15th January.

Town Centre Developments

Harlow Council has recently announced that it has bought the Harvey Centre for £21 million, making the council one of the biggest town centre landowners. This has cross party support.

The council says that the purchase is funded by borrowing with the council receiving regular surplus income from rents which will fund other regeneration activities as well as pay off the borrowing.

The Harvey Centre will continue to be run on a day- to-day basis by property and asset management companies. The council says that it will be looking to make improvements over the coming years.

On the same day the council also completed the purchased of the Occasio House site opposite The Playhouse.

Occasio House has been empty and derelict since 2016. Its buildings are covered in aluminium composite material which is like the cladding used on Grenfell Tower.The whole site will be demolished and redeveloped as part of the council’s plans to transform College and Playhouse Square into an Arts and Cultural quarter, which is the subject of a funding bid to the government.

In late October Harlow Council approved plans for the £46m major redevelopment submitted by the Strawberry Star Group. 

The plans will see the redevelopment of derelict land and existing buildings near the Harvey Centre, opposite Market Square and on Broad Walk, East Gate and West Gate.

The redevelopment will deliver:

  • Around 3,000 square metres of commercial, retail and community space
  • 578 new homes, though none of them are classified as ‘affordable’
  • A new east-west pedestrian boulevard.

The original plans in 2021 were for 837 homes up to 27 storeys . The approved plans are for 578 homes with the height of the two towers reduced to 16 storeys. 

Broadly, with some reservations, we support these developments given that the Town Centre is badly in need of regeneration. Now that the council owns a significant part of the area, the prospect is for more co-ordinated developments and a stronger influence from the council and the local community. We will continue to review proposals as they come forward.

You can read more about these items on the council news pages:

Purchase of Harvey Centre
Occasio House
Strawberry Star Development

Further News from Harlow Council

New Council Chief Executive

Andrew Brammidge has been appointed as Harlow Council Chief Executive.

Andrew was the council’s Director of Strategic Growth and Regeneration having previously been Head of Environment and Planning. 

We welcome this appointment. In our experience, Andrew has a strong track record and has shown his commitment to and understanding of Harlow. We have met regularly with him and the planning team. We wish him well in his new role.

Supplementary Planning Documents and Development Brief

Harlow Council has adopted a Staple Tye SPD, a Commuted Sums and Alternative Sites for the Provision of Affordable Housing SPD and a Wych Elm Development Brief. SPDs contain guidance which expand upon policies in the Harlow Local Development Plan and Development Briefs set out guidelines and requirements for the development of a particular site or collection of sites.

Staple Tye SPD
The Staple Tye SPD provides a development framework to be used to help regenerate the Staple Tye Neighbourhood Centre and surrounding area. The  SPD has been developed around  four key areas of redevelopment opportunities, connectivity improvements, public realm improvements and retention of key land uses.
Commuted Sums and Alternative Sites for the Provision of Affordable Housing SPD
The Commuted Sums and Alternative Sites for the Provision of Affordable Housing SPD is an addendum to the adopted Affordable and Specialist Housing SPD 2021. The SPD provides guidance  as to the Council’s requirements to establish commuted sums and/or alternative sites in lieu of providing affordable housing on a housing development site. It will be used as the basis for negotiation with developers and others submitting planning applications for housing that should incorporate affordable homes.
Wych Elm Development Brief
The Wych Elm Development Brief has been prepared to guide the regeneration and redevelopment of the Wych Elm area. The Development Brief sets out a vision and a set of objectives for Wych Elm.

The adopted SPDs, Development Brief and supporting documents can be viewed online at www.harlow.gov.uk/spd

Protecting Mark Hall  North

Harlow Council is making an Article 4 Direction under planning legislation as part of work to enhance the protection of the new town’s first neighbourhood area.

The Article 4 direction means that planning permission would be needed to make certain changes to a house. This allows the council to ensure that changes are sympathetic to original housing designs and character of the area. 

Most of the direction applies to changes visible from a highway or at the front of a house.

The documents related to the consultation for this can be read online.

Our AGM – 6th October 2022

Geoffrey Payne gave an excellent talk on “Meeting the global housing crisis: lessons and opportunities”.  This is the subject of his recent book ‘Somewhere to Live – Rising to the global land and housing challenge’, which was available to buy at the meeting.

He began by reminding us that for all of us having somewhere to live is the very first and most important of the things that people need.  The first lesson was therefore that having a good place to live is one that gives its inhabitants a sense of security as well as easy access to basic services close by, and that a sense of community is the bedrock of a successful society.  He highlighted what he had learned about urban living and urban planning from his years of international experience and research, for example, in India where he studied what made people come to live in cities despite the likelihood of a lifetime of squalor. 

Crucial to any adaptations to land use and new urban planning are questions of who pays and who benefits?  The New Town movement, especially as part of a post-war surge of idealistic and socially responsive urban planning, was a good example of how to expand and develop urban communities. Current modern developments in the last four decades of neoliberal, market-based economics show how the professions of architecture and urban development had moved away from socially motivated visions of what a town should be to  plans that are motivated more by profit.  

Exacerbating the problems of housing and urban planning today is the climate crisis:  an existential crisis for humanity that brings with it a confluence of calamities worldwide.  

So what is to be done?

Governments have the capacity to influence development for the good if they chose to use their powers, e.g. how land is acquired and developed.  We have witnessed how the recent coronavirus saw most governments rise to the occasion, so we know that they can do the right thing when necessary, provided they can be persuaded of the urgency. Governments can and should regulate housing development markets, for example, in the public interest. The need therefore arises for public awareness of the issues involved to bring pressure on the political establishment.

Geoff questioned our national obsession with home-ownership, not shared by many European countries, and suggested that diversifying the range of housing options could meet a diversity of demand.  Not everyone needs or wants to own a house, and others are using house ownership for speculative investment rather than living in their properties.  

Urban planning has to confront the implications of our climate crisis.  Seven million people die every year from the effects of air pollution, largely the result of traffic.  How we plan, live in and live together in cities needs to make a fundamental change in its brief in order to directly consider the role of land in achieving affordable and adequate housing.  

Geoff’s talk was widely appreciated by the audience and questions were raised about the influence  of international bodies such as the UN or World Bank, and also local concerns such as how far planners and developers took account of impact reports that identified, for example, a growing demand for water and sewerage as the town and its surrounding satellites increased the population. 

In the formal business of the meeting the following were elected:

Chair               Tony Evans
Treasurer        Phil Hardcastle
Secretary        Isobel Urquhart
Committee      Moira Jones, Barbara Burge, John Curry,
                      Frank Jackson, Peter Mountsteven,
                      Robin McCartney, Jake Shepherd

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