Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Harlow 2020 Local Strategic Partnership (NT 05)


  1.  The views expressed in this paper are endorsed by the Harlow 2020 partnership which consists of the following organisations:

    Harlow College, Harlow Council, Harlow Police, Harlow PCT, PA Hospital, Essex County Council, EEDA, Harlow CVS, Harlow Schools Consortium, Employment Service, Harlow Partnership against Poverty, Harlow and District Chamber of Commerce, BAA Stansted ,

Harlow MP-Bill Rammell, Go-East.

  This partnership is the Local Strategic Partnership for Harlow. The partners have been working together on strategic issues in Harlow since 1993.


  2.  Harlow was designated as a New Town in 1947 and is now 54 years old. It was built to accommodate the overspill population from London through the development of a ring of new towns around London. Harlow currently has a population of 80,600 and this is predicted to reach 84,000 by 2011. A recent study however predicts that Harlow has the potential to grow to around 160,000 over the next twenty years.

  3.  Harlow is a major employment centre providing employment for around 33,000 people. It was built on the manufacturing industry and this still remains a strong influence in the town accounting for 24 per cent of all jobs. As elsewhere in the country though, manufacturing has been overtaken by the service sector. Harlow also has a strong R&D sector and is characterised by a small number of large companies providing substantial employment in the town.


  4.  It has been identified by Government as a Priority Area for Economic Regeneration (PAER) in Regional Planning Guidance (RPG9). It is situated on the M11 corridor, which was developed as a corridor of movement from London to Cambridge. The London-Stansted-Cambridge study has been commissioned to examine the potential of the M11 corridor to become a corridor of growth and not just movement and Harlow's position on the corridor in close proximity to Stansted airport means that it may be identified as having the potential to incorporate some of that new growth.

  There is evidence that Harlow is ready to embrace the change that is presenting itself.

  5.  Harlow is looking at whether a formula of regeneration and expansion will provide it with a solution to some of the issues that it currently faces around social deprivation, ageing infrastructure, skills deficit and negative image. Consultation has been undertaken through the Harlow 2020 partnership to gauge the local community's views on how the town should develop over the next 20 years. This will be fed into the community strategy. The initial feedback is that the Harlow community is in favour of embracing the opportunities that significant growth may bring to the town and that this would include growth both within and outside of the town's boundaries. This growth would be based on the original new town principles of sustainability, benefiting local people, respecting the original masterplan principles and contributing to the development of a learning community.

  6.  Harlow has a strong Local Strategic Partnership. The Harlow 2020 Local Strategic Partnership has been very successful in attracting new funding to the town for regeneration activity. An example of this is the SRB programme, "Regeneration through Youth" which has raised £2.9 million in funds for a £12 million regeneration programme that has resulted in the building of a foyer in the town centre.

  7.  There are many positive features about Harlow, but, in conjunction with other new towns of similar age, Harlow is experiencing a number of problems linked to non-organic growth. These contribute to its status as a PAER and can be summarised as follows:

    —  Ageing infrastructure

    —  Unsuccessful housing experiments in the early days of its development

    —  Non-sustainable growth

    —  High levels of in-commuting and congestion

    —  Parking issues in residential and commercial areas

    —  Skills deficits in the local population caused by the transition from manufacturing to service/knowledge economy

    —  Changing demands for housing

    —  Lack of affordable key worker accommodation

    —  Declining town centre

    —  Poor image

  8.  Issues:

    —  The extent to which the original design of new towns is leading to concerns about their long-term sustainability, particularly the effect of their design on urban management, how car dependence might be reduced and the balance between new development and the regeneration of older parts of the town.

    —  The role of new towns in their regional economies

  9.  The original design concept for Harlow was a sustainable one, based on the concept of a town in which people could live, work and spend their leisure time. People who came to live in Harlow in its early days got a house with a job. Built on the neighbourhood concept, everyone in the town had access to local amenities and people walked far more than they do today. In spatial planning terms the principles of new town design are still used today and can be found in the European Spatial Development Programme which promotes balanced spatial development based on cohesion, preservation and balanced competitiveness. The commonality of new town issues in Europe has been recognised through the establishment of the European New Towns Platform which has been set up to lobby on new towns issues in a European context.

  10.  The impact of the car however, was severely under-estimated. Limited provision was made for car parking in the residential and older commercial areas. The rise in car ownership, changes in skill levels of the local workforce and high levels of in-commuting into the town—around 50 per cent of the working population now commute to work in Harlow—mean that there are severe congestion problems in many of the residential and industrial areas in the town. The car has become the main means of transportation for many people. Buses often have difficulty in moving around the residential areas because of parking and the garages that exist in certain areas of the town do not solve the parking problems on the whole but tend to exacerbate community safety issues. Harlow has a transport strategy based on reducing car dependency in Harlow and increasing levels of public transport. However, certain residential areas in the town need to be re-designed to make them more accessible on foot and public transport and the good practice that exists in certain parts of the town needs to be extended to all parts of Harlow for a real difference to be made. Additional funding is needed to enable this work to be done on a more comprehensive scale.

  11.  The cost of housing has become a real issue in Harlow with key workers in the town experiencing real difficulties in accessing affordable housing and higher paid workers preferring to live outside of the town because of poor perceptions of the town, its educational attainment, etc. This issue has already started to be addressed through the development of key worker accommodation and participation in the Government's new loan scheme for key workers. More work needs to be done however, if Harlow is to retain the next generation in the town and attract new employees in the town to live here as well and in addition to key worker housing there is a need for more social housing in the town.


  12.  Harlow is therefore faced with substantial areas of housing that will need replacing in the short and long term as well as the redevelopment of commercial areas that are no longer fit for purpose. To regenerate and renew these areas in a way that is sustainable, will lead to lower levels of car usage and will maintain the quality of life of local people is a major challenge.

  13.   As part of the work it is doing on the development of a community strategy for Harlow the Harlow 2020 Local Strategic Partnership has looked at the option of growth of the town as a possible solution to the need to regenerate some of its older areas and develop the town as a focal point in the region.

  14.  Given the very tight boundaries that Harlow is constrained by, any significant growth of the town is likely to take place outside of the town's boundaries in areas not covered by the existing local authority. Initial work carried out on options for growth suggest that there is the potential to incorporate growth planned in the adjoining districts into the overall plan for Harlow.

If this is the case, there will be a need to consider how this can be progressed in the context of the Government's Green Paper on Planning.

  15.  Harlow believes that it has a significant role to play in the development of the East of England as a region providing as it does a vital link between Cambridge and London with all the potential to take on some of the overspill from the overheating economies in both of these areas, provide additional space for developments from Stansted airport and provide a valuable source of employment generation for the airport.

  16.  The options for growth suggests that Harlow could redevelop itself in a way which will be more sustainable in years to come and this will encompass both physical, social and environmental regeneration.


  17.  Business attraction, support and development is crucial to the vitality of Harlow. The Harlow Business Support Network partnership is looking at how it can develop a comprehensive support service for new and existing businesses in the town. In addition the network will address how it can ensure that the local workforce has the right skills to ensure that local people can access good jobs with career prospects. We are working closely with the LSC and SBS in this respect. Should further expansion and development of the town occur we would require increased support from these organisations to ensure that the town can meet future skill and training requirements.


  18.  Consultation on options for growth are still in process, but if they gain the consent of local people and fit into plans for the development of the M11 corridor, Harlow would wish to see the Government:

    —  Support it as a sub-regional growth point on the M11 corridor, recognising the linkage between growth, regeneration and renewal.

    —  Help it in the development of a masterplan for the development of the town over the next 20 years addressing spatial, economic, social and environmental issues including skills provision.

    —  Recognise the significance of Harlow in the context of the economy of the East of England, London and South East.

    —  In the case of growth not taking place within Harlow, to recognise that the town should benefit from any growth that takes place outside of the town's boundaries.

    —  Recognise the need for ageing new towns to regenerate and renew their infrastructure through holistic measures and partnership working, in a way which is recognised through Government's allocation of funding to the local authority.

    —  Expand and develop key worker accommodation programmes

  Issues  Whether social exclusion in new towns is being exacerbated by the current Government approach to regeneration and neighbourhood renewal, in particular relation to small pockets of deprivation.

    —  Whether the Government needs to change its policy in respect of social inclusion in new towns.

  19.  Harlow appears as the 82nd most deprived local authority in England and Wales under the Government's 2000 Indices of Deprivation. This places it as having the third highest level of deprivation in the East of England and the highest in Essex. In addition, it has been identified as a Priority Area for Economic Regeneration under RPG9 guidance. As a result of this Harlow has been able to access SRB funds in rounds four and six but it has not been able to access any of the Government's funding for Neighbourhood Renewal.

  20.  We are told that this is because the 88 Neighbourhood Renewal Fund priority areas were selected from the top 50 districts in the country for any one of the six domains of education, employment, income, health, child poverty, housing or access. The concentrations of deprivation in Harlow mean that it did not meet the selection criteria on a ward basis.

  21.  This poses a real problem for Harlow and for other areas in the East and South East of England which are traditionally thought of as being wealthy areas but suffer from relatively low concentrations of deprivation at a ward level. Deprivation in Harlow tends to be spread across the wards. None of the wards in Harlow appear in the top 10 per cent of wards under the IMD. However, seven out of the 16 wards in Harlow are in the top 20 per cent of most deprived wards of all wards in England and Wales and these are Hare St and Town Centre, Passmores, Stewards, Mark Hall South, Netteswell East, Netteswell West, Latton Bush.

  22.  In the specific domains, Harlow has six wards in the top 5 per cent, and 12 wards in the top 10 per cent of all wards under Education which means that 75 per cent of wards in Harlow have significant problems allied to education. In Housing, there is one ward in the top 5 per cent and eight wards in the top 10 per cent which means that 56 per cent of wards have significant problems allied to Housing. In all of the other domains the concentrations of deprivation tend to be more dispersed. Harlow, in line with other new towns has very low levels of problems linked to the access domain because they were so well planned and this tends to further dilute overall levels of deprivation.


  23.  What we see in Harlow therefore is a pattern of deprivation that tends to be spread across a significant number of wards in the town. The Government's Indices of Deprivation recognise that Harlow overall has significant levels of deprivation in the IMD index but this is not translated into a recognition of the need to deal with the pockets of micro-level deprivation spread amongst wards across the town.

  24.  The impact of changes in ward boundaries about to take place in May this year is also likely to impact on deprivation levels in the new wards and this will need to be taken into account when the Government carries out its next review of the Indices of Deprivation.

  25.  In addressing neighbourhood renewal therefore Harlow's approach needs to be based on areas that transcend ward boundaries and acknowledge the spread of deprivation over a wider area than that of the ward. We are starting to identify corridors of deprivation that need to be addressed across the town.

  26.  Harlow has not therefore been recognised in the strategy for neighbourhood renewal as being an area for consideration for funding. However, the Harlow 2020 partnership has as one of its strategic priorities a commitment to address social exclusion issues in the town to create a more balanced society. The partnership has made the transition to becoming an LSP in the last year and is recognised as having developed some excellent practice in this area. As the partnership moves into the implementation phase of the community strategy it increasingly recognises the need to develop its capacity to deliver on this very broad agenda.


  27.  Access to Neighbourhood Renewal Fund for LSP development

  The Harlow 2020 partnership has received support in its development from Harlow Council through the servicing of its meetings and the development of the community strategy. It has raised some funds through its members to pay for external training for its members. The agenda for the LSP in Harlow is potentially enormous, particularly if the town commits itself to significant growth over the next 20 years. Harlow 2020 would benefit from additional support in this area to enable the LSP to become an exemplary model for LSPs in the country. Additional funding would be used to:

    —  Provide training for members of the LSP in the development of the community strategy

    —  Training and support in the development of new and innovative delivery mechanisms for the implementation of the community strategy involving the mainstreaming of budgets.

    —  The development of performance measures against which the LSP can monitor its progress

    —  The development of a case study of good practice around the development of the LSP

  28.  Recognition of new towns as a special case for neighbourhood renewal

  Harlow needs to develop a neighbourhood renewal strategy that will address deprivation across all sections of the community. To do this it needs recognition from Government that:

    —  New towns should be treated as a special case when it comes to regeneration and renewal because of the problems caused by physical regeneration having to occur at the same time.

    —  That new towns built on the manufacturing economy in the 50s and 60s often face skills deficits in the local populations which restrict job and career opportunities for the local workforce and cause local employers to employ people from outside of the area. This creates unsustainable patterns of growth.

    —  New towns should be able to make specific cases for support for regeneration and renewal in recognition of the above.

  29.  Issues concerning the organisation and regulations operating in new towns in particular:

    —  The consequences of EP's control of land supply and its role in the Planning System

    —  The effect of the transfer of assets and liabilities to local authorities

    —  The role of LA residuary bodies and non-departmental bodies in promoting sustainable regeneration in new towns

  30.  All of the above can be dealt with through a discussion of the role of English Partnerships in Harlow.


  31.  There are a number of ways in which EP impacts on developments in Harlow:

Covenants and claw back

  32.  There are a number of sites in Harlow which were transferred to Harlow Council from the Harlow Development Corporation but which EP continues to exert an influence over through a combination of covenants and claw back. This affects sites such as the town park, theatre, golf course, allotments, recreation sites and the town centre market.

  33.  EP also has the benefit of covenants on properties owned by Essex County Council and Harlow Health Centres Trust for such properties as schools and health centres. It also retained the benefits of covenants on properties sold within the industrial areas.

  34.  A number of sites deemed not to have any significant value at the time have claw back agreements with EP, which mean that should a new use be found for the site which will increase its value, a proportion of that increase has to go back to EP. Claw back came into force in 1987 and the amount reduces by 2 per cent per year. This means that 14 years down the line EP could expect to reclaim 72 per cent of any increase in land value. This can inhibit any incentive to develop new uses for these kinds of sites.

  35.  Development of a site by the Council can become protracted and uneconomic if there is a need to vary or remove a covenant or pay claw back to English Partnerships.

  36.  In other instances EP have seemed reluctant to deal with schemes to vary covenants if they do not raise any substantial revenue even though the local community would benefit.


  37.  EP still retains ownership of a small number of landscape areas within the town.

The Council has an agreement with EP to carry out certain maintenance functions for some of these green areas such as Playhouse Square, a car park on South Road, the forecourt of Moot House Community Centre. This amounts to around £2,500 per annum currently.


  38.  EP has ownership of the sub-soils of many of the main roads in Harlow such as Southern Way and the A414. This means that they have to be consulted on any development affecting sub-soil. A prime example would be the service road at the rear of the Stow Shopping precinct which would be central to any redevelopment of the Councils car park and depot and the adjacent private service industry bays.


  39.  EP also owns some sites in Harlow such as Latton Farm and the flood plains to the north of the town. The Council has to negotiate with EP on any planning proposals involving those sites. In the past, there has been pressure for open space to be developed for housing which has been clearly unsuitable.


  40.  Harlow Council finds itself restricted in the development or change of use of sites in Harlow which EP has an interest in.

  41.  It is estimated that approximately 1,000 acres of land (one-sixth of the town) in Harlow are subject to claw back and covenant agreements with EP. Unlike other towns, Harlow does not have access to many assets that are not subject to EP interest.

  42.  Negotiation of change or new developments on any area whether large or small involves unnecessary bureaucracy and delay.

  43.  Any initiatives which result in an increase in land value of a site subject to claw back mean that money goes back into the treasury not into local regeneration activity in Harlow.

  44.  There is very little in-built flexibility within the current system to allow decisions which don't have financial implications for EP, to be made at a local level without recourse to EP.

  45.  The overall framework within which Harlow as a new town operates seems to restrict rather than encourage regeneration activity.

  46.  EP retains title deeds and documents which are relevant to Harlow Council. This restricts the Council's ability to carry out management of its property.

  47.  In the context of a review of the functions and future of EP, Harlow 2020 would like to make the following points:

    —  Harlow is an ageing new town and has a pressing need to address the problems of replacing infrastructure that ages all at the same time. This is a particular problem for all new towns and no funding provision has ever been made by Central Government to prioritise or address this issue.

    —  Infrastructure, existing social and economic issues along with its position within the region mean that Regeneration has become a key priority for the Harlow and this needs to be a key priority for all of its partners.

    —  The Council has strong community leadership role in the town and is part of the Local Strategic Partnership involved in the development of a Community Strategy for the town over the next 20 years. It has positive links to the East of England Development Agency and supports the implementation of the regional economic strategy.

  48.  The following recommendations are put forward:

  49.  Recommendation One: Harlow Council becomes successor in title to all EP interests with claw back or covenant agreements.

  This would give the Council the freedom, in partnership with its community to respond to and develop new regeneration initiatives without the cumbersome restrictions imposed by EP covenants and clawback. It will also have a much greater incentive to regenerate areas if the increase in land value can be re-invested in the local community. We would argue that the Council is the appropriate, accountable body in which to invest these responsibilities. There is a precedent here in that when housing stock was transferred to Harlow Council, it was also conferred with the benefit of covenants and has the right to remove, waive or amend existing covenants.

    —  Existing EP owned-landholdings are transferred to Harlow Council and subject to the normal planning and regulatory controls of a local authority.

    —  EP transfers the freehold of the subsoil of roads within the town to Harlow Council.

    —  In the event of EP landholdings being transferred to the Council, it is recommended that a commuted sum should be allocated for the maintenance of these areas.

    —  The statutory functions of EP as the residuary body for new town corporations are removed in the light of current changes in Government structures and the introduction of RDAs and Assemblies.

  50.  Recommendation Two The RDAs and Assemblies take on the additional roles of EP concerning research and the development of a national overview.

  51.  Recommendation Three

  In the event of some or all of the above restrictions remaining with EP, new working arrangements should be put into place with EP which reinforce the protocol for Regeneration and acknowledge the importance of the partnership approach to regeneration activity in Harlow. Membership of Harlow 2020 might be one way of ensuring that the right connections are being made.

  52.  Recommendation Four

  In the event of EP functions being transferred to another body such as the RDA, it would be important to ensure that lessons are learned and good practice built upon from the EP experience. The issues of democratic control, automotivity and influence will need to b addressed through this process.


  The Harlow 2020 partnership believes that Harlow has a great future. As a former new town it has benefited from many aspects of its original designs which are now recognised by planners and architects as vital to sustainable development. It has learned the lessons of innovative and pioneering development that do not always withstand the test of time. This puts it in a good position to build on the positive aspects of the town to take it into its next phase involving regeneration, renewal and expansion. To do this it will need the support of national Government and its regional counterparts to enable it to develop in a way which is sustainable and benefits local people as well as putting the town firmly on the regional map. The final pieces of the jigsaw in the way forward are still being put together in the community strategy as this is written, but the Harlow 2020 partnership would ask the Government to consider the potential strategic importance of Harlow and support it in its transition to become a major economic force within the region as outlined above. Harlow needs recognition from the Government that as a new town it has specific issues around social deprivation and renewal.


   The Harlow 2020 would make a final recommendation to Government that it considers the establishment of a specific fund for new town regeneration.

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