National Planning Policy Framework

The Government has today (December 19th) published the much-delayed Policy Framework which will give Councils power to reduce the number of homes they must allow to be built if development will significantly alter the character of their area or damage the Green Belt, as well as exempt them from building houses on prime agricultural land. In addition, it removes the requirement for Local Housing Needs Assessments and allowing Councils to build as few homes as they wish. In anticipation of these changes sixty Councils have already paused or withdrawn their Local Plans as they will no longer be held to targets set by the standard method.

So, what does this mean for the future of the Harlow and Gilston Town, which as things stand will see hundreds of acres of Green Belt land destroyed, the removal of many commercial greenhouses to the west of the town and the destruction of many green spaces within the Harlow boundary? Will Councillors at Harlow DC, East Herts DC and Epping Forest DC say enough is enough and follow the lead of councillors at sixty other Council’s and withdraw their plans.

In the meantime developers are crying crocodile tears about this framework, whilst sitting on many brown field sites which have lain derelict for many years.

Harlow Alliance response to the interview between the Director of HGGT and the CEO of Harlow Council

On 25th September YourHarlow published an interview between the Director of Harlow & Gilston Garden Town and the CEO of Harlow Council (you can read it here) to discuss their unique partnership and the exciting project that is the Harlow & Gilston Garden Town. A consultation exercise will commence early next month, lasting for six weeks, which purports to asks residents their view on a range of issues about the proposed development.

The Harlow Alliance Party was the only Party to object to the Local Development Plans of Harlow and Epping Forest District Council when they were scrutinised by the Government appointed Planning Inspectors back in 2019. The Party has always made its case backed by facts and in view of the recent interview we wish to make our case clear to counter some of the points made.

Firstly, the boundary of Harlow should have been changed to include the whole HGGT area so that the public services provided by a District Council are provided by just one Council and decisions made about the future of the town are made in Harlow and not Epping and Hertford as is be the case now.
Because no boundary changes have taken place, Harlow Council will not receive any Council Tax or Business Rates from the occupiers of the new homes and businesses built around the town.

Hundreds of acres of Green Belt land around Harlow (not Epping or Hertford of course) will be lost to development, including land used for commercial greenhouses, just at a time when the country should be reducing its food imports.

The need for affordable housing was clearly demonstrated in the Local Plans of the three District Councils. Despite this, developers have already been allowed to seek Planning Permission with a reduced number of such homes and indeed in some cases without any. Not a single Council owned home will be built in the new developments bordering Harlow despite the huge waiting lists held by the three District Councils.

In the interview reference was made to the ageing housing stock in Harlow. Building thousands of unaffordable homes around the town helps none of the existing residents of Harlow.. Harlow Council has failed to maintain the external fabric of its houses, less than 200 homes per year are being externally repaired and painted, leaving many untouched for literally decades. Perhaps this is all part of a long-term plan by the Council as it has with Sherards House, leave them for years to fall in to disrepair and then say they have to be demolished.

The roads leading in, within and out of Harlow will undoubtably see a huge increase in traffic, more noise, more pollution and more damage to road surfaces. Major road works will be needed in front of St James’ School, at other pinch points across the town and in order to create the new transport corridors. Any suggestion that public transport will take up much of the extra travel seen in the town will fall on the deaf ears of residents who have seen bus routes cut and poor services provided.

Harlow Alliance remains adament that these developments around Harlow will do nothing to improve the lot of us already living here, in fact quite the opposite and Harlow Council has let its residents down. Again.

Sherards House Demolition

Readers may be bemused by the fact that so many residents have objected to the demolition of Sherards House at a time where there is clearly a need for more council homes to be built. Residents have seen this for what it is, over development of a site which with a little more imagination could have been put to better use.

Sherards House is about 100 years old and has been in Council ownership for several decades during which time it has in the most part been used to provide temporary accommodation. In more recent times the land around the house was used to provide seven prefabricated bungalows, but these were removed a few years ago. Since the building became un-occupied, the Council has failed to carry out any maintenance to it, it has been vandalised and at least two fires have been reported.

Harlow Council made it’s first Planning Application in early 2022. Over 50 objections were received in response to the Plan. This Plan was so badly designed that a revised application had to be made in early 2023 and even then, many changes have had to be made to it. The main objections to the Plan agreed on 16 August can be summarised as follows:

  • The original Plan included land which the Council had failed to identify as a Public Right of Way. When it did become aware of this the site to be built on was moved Northwards, onto land which was not in the Local Plan and is not designated for housing use.
  • Over development of the site. One of the consequences of this is that The Highways Authority do not want to see the occupants of fourteen houses entering and exiting the estate from Three Horseshoes Road. Because of this, a garage access road will be used to access eleven of the new houses. Following comments about the lack of a footpath, the proposal was revised to include two, but this means the road will be just three metres wide, so vehicles will not be able to pass in and out of the estate at the same time.
  • Several mature trees within the site are to be removed to make way for the development. New trees will be dotted around the site, but many of these are close to the houses and will surely cause problems such as root damage and lack of daylight within houses.

Both Conservative and Labour Councillors supported this Planning Application, only Harlow Alliance supported residents with their objections. Far better to have converted the house into four flats and build seven bungalows for older residents, which in both the short and long term would have helped more people obtain a home from the Council’s Housing Register

Approval for Epping housing on Harlows borders edges ever closer

The Planning Inspector tasked with looking at the Local Development Plan (LDP) proposals of Epping Forest DC (EFDC) has now completed his work and effectively signed off the document. This should come as no surprise because many other Plans from across the Country have been completed despite flying in the face of opposition from residents.

The Planning Inspector has completely ignored the fact that following the creation of the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town in 2017 residents across the whole area should have been consulted in the same manner and at the same time. The three District Councils have worked closely together on many aspects of their Plan but in one important respect, that of consultation, they deliberately failed to do so, despite the effect the Plan will have on where residents live and work.

The Inspectors report notes at page 14 that much of the need for more homes is to take account of the increase in migration from London. The purpose of designating land as Green Belt was to stop urban sprawl. The EFDC LDP now strips this status from a huge swathe of land along three of Harlow’s borders in order to achieve the number of new homes required of it by Government, a number which has now effectively been dropped.

This matter is now in the hands of the 55 Councillors at EFDC who are due to vote on the matter early next month. The Harlow Alliance Party will continue to oppose this Plan. Back in October 2021 the Party wrote to the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities and will do so once again, supported by over 850 residents who have signed it’s petition in opposition to the Plan.

If you have not already done so you can join our opposition by signing the petition which can be found here.

Coming to a field near you… it is now!

Even though Epping Forest District Council have not yet finished their most recent consultation exercise with its residents about the final version of it’s Local Development Plan, the developers are pressing on with their plan to develop the Green Belt to the south of Harlow.

They have just begun a consultation exercise inviting residents to comment on the proposals to build at least 1050 homes, a school, shops, and other community facilities on the fields to the south of Berecroft, running eastwards to the edge of Corner Meadow and beyond.

The current Travellers site will be removed but replaced with three smaller sites and the only road leading into the whole site other than one proposed to come out on London Road to the south will be on to Rye Hill Road. The whole document can be found HERE.

Much has already been written about this proposal, the fact that it is in the Epping Forest District so Harlow Council will receive no financial benefit from taxes paid, there will be a huge increase in traffic on Harlow’s roads, the proposed transport corridor will cut a swathe through open spaces in Harlow and of course despite the close proximity to homes in Harlow and the fact that since 2017 we all now live in the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town, we the existing residents have been given little if any notice of these proposals let alone invited to comment.   Added to this, new sites identified in Harlow where new homes will be built already number about 3000 more than the number required by the Government.

The Harlow Alliance Party was the only political Party in Harlow to object to these proposals when it really mattered, that is in 2019 when the Planning Inspector held her examination sessions in the Civic Offices in Epping. 

Our petition against these proposals has continued to see the number of residents who support our objections increase, the petition can be found HERE. If you have not already signed it, it is not too late!

What ever happened to Public Health Englands move to Harlow?

Back in 2017 the Government spent £25 million to buy the former GSK site at The Pinnacles in order to re-locate Public Health England to Harlow. This move was described as an important plank in the Councils Local Development Plan and strategic development of the town for the next 20 to 30 years. Cllr Ingall described it as probably the most important development in Harlow since Harlow existed.

Nothing has been heard of this planned move since the boss of the National Institute for Health Protection, which took over Public Heath England, said some fourteen months ago that she was going to review the decision to move to Harlow. Work on the site seems to have stopped many months ago and indeed its website describing this development has not been updated since July 2020.Has the massive hole in the Governments finances due to Covid and the Cost of Living Crisis finally seen the end of any plan to move to Harlow?

If this move does not take place it will fundamentally change the number of new homes needed in the Local Development Plans of all three Councils forming Harlow and Gilston Garden Town and this change will need to be at the heart of the review of Harlow Council’s Local Development Plan which intends to undertake in the coming months.