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Council buys Harvey Shopping Centre for £21m

Published date

Harlow Council has bought the Harvey Centre for £21m in a deal which sees the authority take more control over the wider regeneration of Harlow town centre. 

The purchase is one of the largest acquisitions made by the council and transforms the authority into one of the biggest town centre landowners.

The deal was completed this week after the shopping centre was put up for sale in June at a guide price of £24.5m.

The total deal covers 8.5 acres of land and buildings including the retail and leisure units in the main Harvey Centre building, service yards and the multi-storey car park. It also includes the vacant former BHS building which offers a further development opportunity and the cinema leisure extension added in 2016.  

The council wishes to stress that this purchase does not detract from the delivery of other priorities. The council will be continuing to invest in all its regeneration work such as improving and repairing existing council homes and building new council homes. The purchase of the Harvey Centre is funded by borrowing money with the council receiving regular surplus income which will fund other regeneration activities as well as pay off the borrowing.

The Harvey Centre, which has been at the heart of Harlow shopping for over 42 years, will continue to be run on a day- to-day basis by experienced property and asset management companies. The council will continue to operate the Harvey Centre as an essential part of Harlow’s retail offer whilst looking to make improvements at various times over the coming years.

Footfall in the centre continues to increase back towards pre-pandemic levels. In 2019 the footfall was 8.5m and in 2022 the footfall is back up to 7.5m. The centre is a successful operation with many retailers having long-term leases.

The decision to purchase the centre is supported by both political parties on the council.

Image of Councillor Dan Swords inside the Harvey Centre

Councillor Dan Swords, Deputy Leader of the council, has hailed this moment as a once in the lifetime opportunity for the council, a moment which shows how serious the council is about regenerating the town centre, he said: 

“This purchase makes us a major player in the town centre with a huge stake in its future. It also gives much-needed stability and security to the Harvey Centre and the businesses and local people that work there.

“It is probably the biggest town centre decision this council has ever made, but it is not one which has been taken lightly. We have been guided all the way by property experts with extensive shopping centre expertise who have checked and double-checked everything about the centre and its operation. The experts have worked up future forecasts for the best- and worst-case scenario, but the biggest risk to the town centre is someone else buying the Harvey Centre. The alternative could be the centre falling into the wrong hands, a new owner which does nothing to support it, but uses the centre simply as a cash cow.

“There are so many benefits to the regeneration of the town centre from this purchase. Overnight, we become the second biggest building and landowner in the town centre, with this brings serious clout and power which we can use to bring even more private investment into our town centre. We will also have full control over what happens to the Harvey centre and the surrounding land, and that control means we will maintain its key focus as a shopping centre and improve its offer for the benefit of the wider regeneration of the whole town centre.

“We have huge ambitions for the town centre and this purchase shows just how serious we are. Our plan to truly regenerate the whole town centre is coming together and we are taking bold but sensible decisions to secure its future.”  

“I would like to thank all the council staff involved in securing this deal and I welcome the cross-party support that this purchase has.”

Councillor Chris Vince

Councillor Chris Vince, Leader of the Opposition on the Council, said:

“This is a huge opportunity for Harlow Council to acquire a large amount of land in the town centre after it was sold by the Development Corporation in the 1980s. However, it is also an opportunity to regenerate the existing Harvey Centre and ensure it is protected for future generations to enjoy.

“Of course, this purchase is not without its risks but the risk of doing nothing and the area being land banked is greater. I hope potential business investors recognise the cross party support this acquisition has and the opportunity it has.

“I also look forward to supporting local community groups and charitable organisations to utilise some of the space particularly in difficult times.”