Plans for a wide-scale regeneration of Harlow which could see it become “a small city” are set to be voted on by civic chiefs next week.
If implemented, the proposals would update Harlow’s infrastructure, as the current draft of the Town Plan predicts it could grow by 19,000 homes to a population of 130,000 over coming decades.
The consultation draft contains proposals for boundary changes to encompass Harlow and Gilston Garden Town, new transport links, such as investigating the feasibility of a tube station in Harlow, and regenerating the town centre.
Read more: Transport for London responds to speculation Harlow will get its own tube station
The draft also claims Harlow will become “the health-science capital of Europe,” as the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) prepares to move its headquarters to the town and a new hospital and innovation park continue to be developed.
Harlow Council’s Cabinet will vote next Thursday (September 9) on whether to endorse the aspirations set out in the draft and then whether to authorise an eight-week public consultation period.
A section of the draft reads: “This ‘greater Harlow’ will have an additional 19,000 homes and the population will be close to 130,000; a small city.
“This is the opportunity to deliver the vital critical mass required to attract the infrastructure and facilities we have been seeking for some years.
“It is important, however, that we have the infrastructure, vital to sustainable development, provided at pace to avoid the town being overwhelmed.”
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The “Harlow @ 100 Vision” is set forward in the draft, which aims to provide a “unified cohesive future vision” as it approaches its centenary.
As the town continues to grow in the medium term, the council is set to lobby for boundary changes to encompass Harlow and Gilston Garden Town.
New buildings in the town centre would also be more sustainable, including features like green walls, roof-top gardens and small wind turbines.
The feasibility of extending the Central Line and London Transport zones to Harlow would be investigated and connectivity to Crossrail 2 would be examined.
A masterplan for the town centre is also being produced, with a series of “quarters” being proposed. For example, a cultural quarter around the Playhouse, a retail corridor running north from the Water Gardens to Sainsbury’s and an entertainment and hospitality quarter around the Market Square.
Existing leisure facilities like sports pitches and playing fields would be reviewed to make sure they are suitable for an increase in population. The council also hopes to provide a new theatre to attract touring West End shows and concerts.
The draft notes Harlow’s current recycling centre is not big enough for the potential growth, so suggests a new site should be found in partnership with Essex County Council.
Finally, the plan proposes better promotion of the town, “putting Harlow on the map” to attract further investment.
If approved by the Cabinet, a public consultation period will run from late September to November.
The Town Plan Panel would then consider comments made by residents and submit an updated version to the Cabinet in the new year.