Harlow fails to secure regeneration funding

It came as no surprise to The Harlow Alliance Party (HAP) that Harlow Council’s bid for money to help regenerate Harlow’s town centre failed at the second hurdle. The purpose of this government funding is to “Help these areas transform their High Street into vibrant hubs for future generations and to protect and create thousands of jobs”.

Seventy two towns did receive such funding, including Tamworth Borough Council whose Councillor Jeremy Oates is quoted as saying “The project couldn’t just  be a case of smartening up an outdoor space or adding hanging baskets, the government was looking for changes on a large transformative scale in a way that recognises the changing role of the town centre and enables it to survive and thrive”.

Harlow Council’s bid clearly did not meet these objectives and together with the dismal improvements to Market Square, which cost £272,000 and trees costing £10,000 give other clues to why Harlow’s bid failed. In his recent interview, Cllr Charles seems to indicate that he supported the proposals for the area in front of The Playhouse but then goes on to bemoan the fact that the bid failed. We are not aware that any concerns about the content of the bid were made by the Conservative group on the council before the bid was submitted. The submission included moving the taxi rank from outside The Playhouse and putting it into College Square and building a block of flats on the green space opposite The Playhouse. HAP believe this would never by itself have enhanced the shopping or leisure experience of those visiting the town centre.

Some of our political opponents suggest that HAP lack any ambition or vision for the future of the town. We would point out that HAP said at the outset that the bid should include:

Every entrance to the town centre should be enhanced to create a more inviting gateway to the shopping and leisure facilities within.The area in front of The Playhouse, including the taxi rank and the area from the external staircase of the Harvey Centre leading to The Playhouse entrance should be roofed and well lit. The grassed area should be better utilised to include seating and shrubs/flower beds. Relocating the library and demolishing the front part of the building would open up The Water Gardens into Broadwalk. Demolishing part of the former Post Office building and the building in Market square would create a better and more inviting access into Market Square from it’s northern entrances, the square being turned into a feature similar to the southern approach to The Water Gardens.

An exhibition centre should be included on the ground floor of one of the new apartment blocks being built where events such as toy fairs, vintage car shows, model railway exhibitions, modern modified car shows, a Christmas fair, an exhibition for voluntary and other local organisation to advertise what they provide and many more, would bring more visitors to the town centre.

Room for an indoor market, subject to discussions with possible traders should be investigated. A trip to Chelmsford’s indoor market would give clues as to how this could work.

HAP’s residents survey at the beginning of 2020 revealed considerable support for the proposal to roof over Broad Walk. The proposed new transport corridors includes the the creation of a new road for public transport, running along the front of Market Square, a drop off and collection point here in front of a roofed Broadwalk would bring visitors into the northern part of the town centre.

And what of the future? Well unless those running Harlow Council become more imaginative about the future of Harlow’s town centre, it is most unlikely that sufficient monies will be found to carry out the badly needed regeneration.