Stort River Crossings – Harlow Alliance Party response

On Wednesday evening Harlow Councillors were asked to agree a scheme costing tens of millions of pounds, which many residents feel will be wasted. It is ironic that Politicians in this country condemn the actions of other Governments when they take decisions which destroy natural habitats and yet our Councillors were happy to support a scheme which does exactly that.

The river crossings will not add any extra capacity for car use, despite the fact that residents of the 10,000 homes being built to the North of the town are being encouraged to use facilities in Harlow. Instead bus lanes, enhanced paths and a cycle track will be constructed from Harlow Town Railway Station into the new development, and a new single carriageway with a path and cycle track will be built across the Stort Valley from Gilston to Riverway. Congestion on Harlows roads can only get worse as a result of these proposals. Vehicle manufacturers are spending millions of pounds to develop electric and driverless cars, any hope of a shift to public transport (buses) is simply wishful thinking.

The plan to develop land at Gilston is fundamentally flawed. There will not be any roads running to the North from the development, meaning residents and visitors will only be able to enter and exit using roads from the A414. The proposed development is nearly three times the size of Church Langley in terms of the number of homes to be constructed, we are all aware of the traffic congestion which can build up if any sort of road incident occurs on the A414. Without roads leading North, residents wishing to travel northwards will have to use a series of minor roads through nearby settlements such as High Wych and Sawbridgeworth, adding to the gridlock which already occurs on these roads

Members are elected to represent their constituents. Hundreds of residents objected to these Planning Applications and over 6000 signed a petition against them as well. If Harlow Council had taken a pro-active approach to consult with those of us living in the town, indeed if we had the benefit of Area Neighbourhood Plans, hundreds if not thousands more objections would have been received. A document produced by the developers of Harlow North called Community Engagement dated April 2019 set out details of the huge consultation exercise which was undertaken. Sadly very little consultation was carried out with those most affected, namely those of us who live in Harlow.

Evidence is now available which throws doubt on the Government’s target for the number of new homes required in each Council area, as a result many Councils in the South East are either throwing out or reviewing their Local Development Plan following increased opposition from residents concerned about the loss of Green Belt land. Councils have a duty to review these plans, It is a shame that Councillors at Harlow, East Herts and Epping Forest have until now not done so.

In conclusion, our elected representatives have sold us down the river (excuse the pun), Harlow gets no benefit from the construction of these river crossings, they are only being built to try and mitigate the effects of building 10,000 homes in the middle of a field.

Local Authorities Question Local Development Plans

The Harlow Alliance Party are hoping that hundreds of acres of Green Belt land in Essex will not end up being built on, taking heart from the actions of Councillors at Councils across Hertfordshire and Kent who are now throwing out such plans following opposition from thousands of residents they represent.

Just last month, Councillors at Hertsmere DC which planned to allow 9,000 homes to be built on its Green Belt, threw out its Local Development Plan following objections from 18,000 residents and similar action is being taken by Dacorum BC, St Albans DC and Welwyn and Hatfield BC.

It is reported that Councils in Kent are also questioning the need to meet targets set by Government to build hundreds of thousands of homes, when statistical information clearly shows that such numbers will not actually be needed in the future.

Furthermore, developers will often argue that they cannot build more so called affordable housing despite making billions of pounds of profit each year, which means that the housing need identified in the Plan within a district is not being met anyway.

Councillors at Epping Forest DC will soon be asked to agree to the final version of its Local Development Plan, which as things stand will see thousands of homes being built on the District’s Green Belt.  We can only hope that they will seize this opportunity to join with their fellow Councillors across the South East of England in rejecting this rush to develop land in and around towns and villages.

Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) Local Development Plan – December Update

What is set to be the final consultation exercise carried out by Epping Forest DC in respect of its Local Development Plan was concluded on 23 September.

The Council received 900 responses from residents, developers, other Councils and statutory bodies, far more than we believe they expected. As a result of this the Planning Inspector charged with looking at the Plan responded by saying that it would take some weeks to make his final response to the Plan.

Harlow Council made its objections to the building of homes around Harlow’s borders known to EFDC on the last day of the consultation, but it is our view that what they said was too little and some three years too late. Harlow Council have to date been a key player in the creation of the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town, with the new homes to the South and West of Harlow forming an important part of the plan to turn Harlow into a city.

In the meantime, the Harlow Alliance Party has sent two letters to Michael Gove MP, supported by 700 residents who signed our petition, asking that he intervene in the local Plan process on the grounds that the lack of consultation with residents in Harlow, who of course are the most affected by some elements of the EFDC Plan, have not been consulted at any time during the last four years. At the time of writing we awaiting a response from the Minister.

Harlow Masterplan Framework, Draft Final Report September 2021

This Masterplan (which can be viewed here) runs to over 170 pages and cost Council Tax payers £93,000 to produce. The framework ‘Provides guidance to inform the future planning and design of Harlow’s Town Centre’. It notes that the Local Plan of December 2020 changed the boundary of the area seen as the town centre ‘To reflect and align to the natural boundaries that exist today but also to take account of potential changes in the future’. These changes added the land occupied by Harlow College, The Leisure Zone, Sainsburys and the The Square site. Previous to this, Wych Elm, the bus garage and Fire Station sites had already been included in the new Town Centre boundary. Page 63 shows an ‘Indicative Town Centre Masterplan’, which together with a whole host of other ideas on pages 65 to 105 give a blueprint of how the Masterplan envisages the town centre may look in the future.

Whilst the creation of new green spaces and the planting of hundreds of trees will undoubtedly enhance the appearance of the Town Centre, the Council will need to commit long term funding in order to maintain these green spaces in good order. To date we all remember what happened to the red pots in Market Square and flower beds in Broadwalk when they suffered from a lack of care.

The Plan sees Sainsburys vacating their Town Centre site which together with the bus garage and fire station will be replaced by many large flat blocks. No information is given in the Plan as to whether any of the owners of these sites have ever indicated they would be prepared to move

Three sides of Market Square will as things stand remain in situ, except that there is a plan to add another floor to Market House and turn the building into flats. How the Council think this area will become a ‘Leisure and hospitality quarter’ is not explained.

The creation of a ‘culture quarter’ in front of The Playhouse lays to rest the idea of building a much larger theatre elsewhere in the town centre. The Playhouse is already considered too small by many, its capacity being at least 25% less than any neighbouring theatre. An increase in the local population of some 50% in the next two decades can only add to calls for a larger theatre.

A lack of ongoing repair and maintenance by the landlords of buildings is at the heart of why the town centre looks so bad. The Plan proposes that a new bus station is constructed but unless long term funding to maintain it is forthcoming then it will be no better than the shabby bus station we have now.

The Plan will result in a town centre full of high rise flat blocks, with little prospect of encouraging more shoppers and visitors to the town centre. It is a charter for property developers to construct many tower blocks which are not in keeping with the Garden Town principle. Page 63 of the Plan shown below, gives an impression of what the authors expect the Town Centre to look like in years to come.

Taken from Masterplan Framework, Interim Planning Guidance, Draft Final report

HAP submit petition to Michael Gove

23 September marked the last day that comments could be made about the minor modifications made by the Planning Inspector of the EFDC Plan that as it stands will see thousands of homes built just across the borders of Harlow.

The Planning Inspector indicated that she would not look at any comments other than about the minor changes she had made to the Plan, none of which affected the proposals to build on the Green Belt around Harlow.

In view of this the Harlow Alliance Party have delivered by hand a letter written to Michael Gove MP who is now leading the new Government Ministry, called the ‘Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ asking him to withdraw the EFDC Plan on the grounds that residents in Harlow have not been consulted at any stage during the long process to complete the Plan, despite the close proximity to many homes in the Town and indeed the effect the building of thousands of homes will have on those of us who live in the Town.

EFDC have chosen to ignore reports which show the rapid decline in the number of new households being created in the UK, the slow down in the increase in the country’s population, the consequences of the new immigration policy, the long-term effects from Covid and most recently the Climate Change Report of July 2021.

The simple truth is, the EFDC Plan is really about housing greed, not housing need. Those most in need will see little if any benefit from the building of homes on the Green Belt, not a single council home will be built and affordable homes will not really be affordable, whilst those of us already living here will see a huge increase in traffic on Harlow’s roads.

Nicholas Taylor Leader of the Harlow Alliance Party at the offices of The Ministry of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Coming to a field near you? Well it is now!

After some four years in the making, the Local Plan of Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) is now in its final stages. The Planning Inspector tasked at looking at the Plan has made her comments and the Council has now invited its residents and interested parties to comment on these changes by 23 September.

Why is this of interest I might hear you ask? Well, with the agreement of Harlow District Council (HDC) this Plan proposes to allow the building of over 3000 homes to the East of Old Harlow, 1000 to the south (called Latton Priory) and over 3000 to the west of Sumners and Katherines, on what is effectively Harlow’s Green Belt.

Work on at least two of these sites is likely to start in 2023. During the following 10 years, new schools, shops and leisure facilities will be built to create new communities.

The key points The Harlow Alliance Party have made in response to this Plan are:

  • These homes are not in Harlow, despite in some cases being literally just over a hedge from homes in the town. As a result residents in Harlow have not been consulted about these plans.
  • These homes are being built on what is effectively Harlow’s Green Belt. Despite this, decisions about the future of this land is being made by EFDC when they should be made by Councillors in Harlow.
  • All the New Homes Bonus, business rates and Council Tax will be paid to EFDC. They will reap the financial benefit from these new homes whilst Harlow Council will get nothing.
  • There will not be a single Council home built to address the real housing need in the area, those who will never be able to afford to buy a home.
  • Whatever steps are taken, there will be a huge increase in traffic on Harlow’s roads, such as Rye Hill Road, Paringdon Road and Southern Way. No account has been taken of the extra noise and pollution which will be experienced by residents living in Harlow although much was made of the effect the increase in pollution will have on Epping Forest.
  • New Planning Applications (called windfall sites) will mean that 3000 more homes will be built in Harlow than required by Government. Recent reduced estimates of the growth in household numbers and immigration into the UK in the coming decade show that the number of new homes needed is far lower that was thought even just a few years ago. EFDC have ignored this evidence. Quite simply, there is no need to build new homes on Harlow’s East, South and Western borders.
  • No account of these windfall sites has been taken into account by those providing public services such as school places and health services. This can only mean they will be stretched even further than they are now.

None of our political representatives, whether Conservative or Labour objected to these plans whilst the Planning Inspector looked at the proposals. Only the Harlow Alliance Party did so and participated in the examination hearings that took place in 2019.

At HDC’s Full Council meeting on 15 July, Cllr Andrew Johnson launched a new initiative when he formally invited residents and others to give him their ideas for improving Harlow in the future

You may care to ask him when and how HDC intends to explain to residents of the town the consequences of the EFDC Local Plan on Harlow and share with him any concerns you may have by emailing him at

Harlow and Gilston Garden Town

Many readers will know that Green Belt land to the North of Harlow has long been proposed as a site for a huge new housing development, owned by several organisations who hoped that in due course permission would be given to develop the site.

Some four years ago agreement was reached by three District Councils, Harlow, Epping Forest and East Herts and two County Councils, Essex and Hertfordshire to form a consortium which effectively created The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town. In the next couple of decades thousands of homes will be built  on Green Belt land to the North, South and West of Harlow.

The Harlow Alliance Party was the only Party to object to these plans as they stand. We believed at the outset that decisions about the future of an extended town should be made in the Council chamber in Harlow and not in Epping and Hertford. In order to achieve this, District and County boundaries should have been changed so that residents living in the expanded town would receive services from just one District Council and one County Council. In due course, Harlow Council should seek to create what is known as a unitary authority, from which all public services would be provided. As it is, services will be provided by five Councils, each with their own priorities and funding streams.

Without such a change, residents in each District have been consulted about parts of the plan which affect them in different ways and at different times. Epping Forest DC had no legal obligation to consult residents in Harlow about their plan to allow thousands of homes to be built just over the garden fence of homes in Harlow and East Herts had no legal obligation to consult with residents about their plans and how it would affect those living in Harlow. It has recently been acknowledged that Harlow Council can at best only influence what is happening to the land to the North of the town.

The plan to create a new river crossing from the A414 to Riverway and creating a metro system from the Gilston development to the town centre and on to Latton Priory to the south of Harlow is just part of a scheme primarily designed to benefit the residents of these new homes, where the aim is to get 60% of journeys being taken by bus, cycle and walking. At best they will help to ensure that traffic congestion in Harlow does not get as bad as it could be, it is a simple fact that with the population of the area expected to increase by about 50% in the next 20 years the roads in Harlow will become congested like never before.

The outcry from residents about the plan to construct the new road over the river is likely to be the first of many which will be heard from those of us who already live here. The Harlow Alliance Party urges residents to sign the petition objecting to the building of a new road across the River Stort, this can be found at:

The future of Harlow Town Centre

Harlow’s town centre has been in decline for many years. Hundreds of office jobs have been lost, the offices have been converted into very small flats unsuitable for families, the number of vacant shops has increased, buildings have suffered from a lack of maintenance and attempts to increase footfall in the evening have largely failed.

In the last couple of years Planning Permission has been given to open food shops near Edinburgh Way and for the building of 1,400 flats in the town centre. Another 550 are planned for the hospital site. Harlow’s Labour controlled Council seem to think that replacing shops which have one storey above them with shops with ten storeys above them bringing hundreds of families living in the town centre will in itself help regenerate the town’s centre back into the vibrant shopping centre that it once was.

The Council’s recent failed bid to the Government for millions of pounds clearly lacked vision and ambition, as did wasting over £250,000 on “refurbishing” Market Square just a few years ago. What would the Conservative Party have done any differently? Well, who knows. Apart from criticising the Labour proposals, they have not yet come up with any alternatives themselves.

By accessing millions of pounds, Harlow Council now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a vibrant town centre again. We believe that only the Harlow Alliance Party have the vision to do so. Unlike Basildon and Stevenage, Harlow does not have a leisure park, where numerous leisure facilities and restaurents are in close proximity to each other. HAP believe that adding more cultural and leisure facilities to those already in the town centre, should be at the heart of it’s modernisation programme.

HAP believe this could be achieved by:

  • The purchase of Market House, the area to the north of it and the post office premises nearby replacing them with a new (1000-seater) theatre, live music and exhibition centre on the site.
  • Turning the Post Office car park into an electric car charging hub with hundreds of charging points.
  • Demolishing part of the library to “open out” Broadwalk into the Water Gardens and locating a new library in premises facing Market Square.
  • Landscaping Market Square on similar lines to the Water Gardens.
  • Creating an enclosed roof over Broadwalk. Designers of adjacent buildings would need to incorporate the roof into their plans.
  • Improve all of the pedestrian access points in and out of the town centre.
  • Investigate the creation of an indoor market, using the markets at Chelmsford and Stevenage as a blue print.
  • Build a new bus station, creating a better pedestrian access to the ground floor of Terminus House and the new building which is to be built next to it.

Budget blow for Harlow Council

Tucked away in the Chancellors Budget this week was the announcement that £1 billion from the Governments “Towns Fund” was to be distributed to 45 towns around the country in order to help them kick start regeneration.

After a lengthy process using a whole host of criteria whilst looking at  541 towns in 2020, the list of towns was whittled down to 101, including Harlow.

Regular readers of yourharlow will be aware that Harlow Council has put a lot in store in their bid for a sum of up to £25 million from this “Towns Fund”. It is most unfortunate to have to report that Harlow Council’s bid was not successful. Accusations have been made that preferential treatment has been given to areas with a Conservative MP but this clearly did not help Harlow’s case. Following on from the recent footsteps of the Council’s failed bid for £10 million from another Government fund, it is quite clear that the present administration aided by the Conservatives are clearly not doing enough to convince others of their vision for the future of the town centre.

Only last week Harlow Council was presented with a report to support the proposal to put £5 million of borrowed money into a £50 million regeneration pot of money.  However it was lacking in specific proposals for the future of the Town Centre, other than to say more homes were needed as well as leisure and shopping opportunities. The Harlow Alliance Party believe that this lack of specific proposals is at the heart of why the two recent bids failed.

You might have expected that the local Tories would be bemoaning this lost opportunity, but of course they have “signed up” to the same lack of specific proposals set out in this latest bid. Only the Harlow Alliance Party have set out a clear vision for the regeneration of the town centre. This includes the Council purchasing Market House and the land to the north of it, replacing it with a new 1000 seat theatre, exhibition centre and live music venue, turning the Post Office carpark into a large charging hub for electric vehicles, enclosing Broadwalk, creating space for a new library facing Market Square and improving the pedestrian access points into the town centre.

Epping Forest congestion charge

The recent headline in the Guardian “Charging drivers a planning necessity” and the accompanying article are I am afraid both factually wrong and continue to perpetuate the stance being taken by Epping Forest District Council (EFDC).

EFDC’s Local Plan is required to deliver 11,400 homes within the next decade or so. However they have chosen to ignore the most recent predictions from the Office of National Statistics that the number of new households created in the future has decreased significantly, the percentage increase in the UK’S population is set to drop when compared with the last decade and Harlow will have 3,000 more homes built than the target Harlow District Council (HDC) has been set by the Government. Threats by the Government that target numbers will be increased to nearly 21,000 homes if EFDC do not create a Local Plan clearly demonstrate that these Plans are nothing to do with the number of new homes which are actually needed, but are all about increasing the profits of house builders and land speculators.

So why would EFDC choose to ignore the fact that the number of new homes required is not as high as it had been thought in the past? The answer is money. The Government pay councils what is known as a “New Homes Bonus” when they allow homes to be built in their district. When plans were first published by the developers for the area known as Latton Priory (on the border of Harlow) it was stated that the 1,050 homes would generate a bonus payment to EFDC of £25 million. Whilst we know these payments are not as generous as they once were, allowing 11,400 homes to be built in the district will raise a huge sum to shore up the Council’s finances. On top of this the Council now expect those travelling through the forest to have to pay for the privilege.

The Harlow Alliance Party is the only Party to object to the Local Plans of EFDC and HDC. Major infrastructure is needed as a prelude to any large scale increase in homes in the area, to include a northern and southern by-pass for Harlow and access to the north from the M11 at Loughton, giving amongst other things easier access to the M25 and the new hospital being built at junction 7a at Harlow. An extension to the Oyster card scheme to include the two rail stations in Harlow so that fares to London become comparable with those from Epping and Debden on the tube would reduce the number of commuters travelling through the forest from the north to these two stations.

Until councils in the region start working together, EFDC cannot on it’s own hope to mitigate the damage being caused to Epping Forest.