Harlow is set to receive the “biggest programme of regeneration” since it was built as a post-war New Town, including proposals to lobby for an extension the London Underground’s Central Line to the town.
Harlow Council’s cabinet approved plans, called “Harlow @ 100”, last night (September 9) also containing proposals for boundary changes to encompass Harlow and Gilston Garden Town – and could see the town become “a small city”.
The plans will now be put to residents for an eight-week consultation period, due to begin later this month, and the results will be considered before an updated version is put to the cabinet next year.
Read more: Latest news about Harlow
During the meeting, opposition councillors questioned the feasibility of some of the proposals and said plans for a Harlow tube had been announced before any consultation with Transport for London.
At the cabinet meeting, portfolio holder for regeneration Dan Swords (Con, Bush Fair) said the council wanted to oversee “the biggest programme since the town was built”.
He said: “Those that bet against Harlow are going to get it wrong again.”
Portfolio Holder for Strategic Growth Michael Hardware (Con, Staple Tye) said Harlow’s many upcoming developments and strategies, including the relocation of the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England), the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town and the Local Plan, needed “unifying” in one document.
He said: “Early on in the administration we determined there needed to be something to pull these together, a vision for Harlow.”
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Cllr Hardware also confirmed the plans would become a material planning consideration if accepted in their final form.
This means they will have to be taken into account when deciding future planning applications and appeals.
However, Labour councillors attending the meeting said the plans had been made before any costing or consultation had taken place, according to footage by Your Harlow.
Leader of the Opposition Chris Vince (Labour, Little Parndon and Hare Street) said: “I welcome any aspiration for our town.
“I want to see this town as good a possible place as it can be which is why council officers are inundated by emails from me on a regular basis about issues within the wonderfully still red Little Pardon and Hare Street.
“But this proposal is not costed, it’s not enforceable and frankly it’s not achievable.”
Councillor Tony Durcan (Labour, Little Parndon and Hare Street) asked the cabinet for their progress on securing transport links to Epping and extending the Central Line to Harlow.
He said: “Could you please confirm what consultation has currently taken place with Transport for London over this announcement that you’ve made?”
Cllr Swords responded by saying plans would need to be finalised before any consultation took place.
He said: “You have to pull a proposal together, you don’t just go and sit down with Sadiq Kahn in the pub and say can we have an extension of the tube please?”
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, according to the consultation draft.
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.
In addition to a tube station, 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.
A public consultation period will run from late September to November.
The Town Plan Panel will then consider comments made by residents and submit an updated version to the Cabinet in the new year.