If anyone had any doubts about how badly the Labour administration in Harlow is running the council and how ineffective the Conservative group have become in recent years readers should take a look at the film of Harlow Council’s Development Management Committee Meeting of 16 December on it’s YouTube channel.
As a back drop, one should remember that our MP has been the “champion” of an enlarged Harlow, supported by Conservative councillors in Harlow and those at East Herts DC and Hertfordshire CC. Harlow’s Labour Council signed up to work with the these Councils and that of Epping Forest to create “The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town“, which will see the population in the town increase from it’s present 90,000 to over 140,000 in the next 20 years or so.
Since it’s inception, The Harlow Alliance Party have argued the case that the creation of such a Garden Town should at the outset have included a change in the town’s and the county boundaries so that the whole physical area in question came within just one council area, namely Harlow. Residents would then have been consulted and kept informed of progress across the whole area in the same way and at the same time and decisions about the future of the town would be made by politicians representing residents in this town and not by ones living up to 15 miles away and in Council offices in Epping and Hertford. Any attempt to create an integrated community where services will be provided by five councils, each with their own political priorities will never work, especially as the nearest houses in Harlow will be over half a mile away from those on the new Gilston estate. The reason why these other authorities would resist such changes to the boundary is of course money. The government gives money to a council when it gives permission for homes to be built. This money together with the council tax paid by residents of these new homes will all go to these other councils and not benefit either Harlow Council or Essex County Council.
Harlow Council now finds itself at best merely being able to influence what is going on at Gilston despite the effect these changes will have on residents who already live in Harlow. Having worked with these other councils and Places for People (a Housing Association) for some years now, it comes as a shock to find that it is only at this late stage as Outline Planning is being sought that Labour and Conservative councillors have publicly raised concerns.
These concerns include: who and how new transport and other infrastructure proposals will be paid for, when such work will be constructed, the lack of a commitment to those on Harlow Council’s housing waiting list that they will be nominated for some of the new affordable homes being built and at the real heart of the matter, what benefit Harlow and it’s residents will see as a result of such an expansion of the town.
The residents of Harlow have been let down by the Labour administration at Harlow Council and the Conservatives have had to be muted in their response to this plan. Whilst thousands of people will be living on nice new estates ringing Harlow, those of us already living here now face years of disruption as new transport corridors are built, more heavily congested roads and more pressure on doctors surgeries and at the hospital, without seeing any benefits at the end of the next twenty year period.