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Proposals released to support Harlow town centre regeneration

Published date

Harlow Council has released proposals for public consultation to improve and modernise Market Square, Playhouse Square and College Square in the town centre.

The council has put together two proposed schemes which will support the regeneration of the town centre. Both schemes will be part of a business case for up to £25m of funding from the government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF). Earlier this year the council’s expression of interest to the government was successful leading to this next stage.

The FHSF aims to support councils in renewing and reshaping town centres in a way that improves the experience for residents, visitors and workers as well as driving growth and future sustainability.

The proposals focus on three areas of the town centre where the council owns most of the land. The proposals have been developed over the last few months taking into consideration previous consultations and residents and businesses can find out more and have their say on our FHSF consultation page

The survey on the proposals will run until 14 July 2020. The proposals are:

Playhouse Quarter

The Playhouse Quarter scheme is located in Playhouse and College Squares (in between The Water Gardens and Harvey Centre) and aims to create a new welcoming approach to Harlow Playhouse, the Harvey Centre and The Water Gardens, as well as improve the setting and open space around the iconic St Paul’s Church.

The proposals include a series of new buildings developed opposite Harlow Playhouse and on the current Occasio House site providing new spaces for arts, cultural and leisure uses (as well as public sector services).

On the upper floors of these buildings, it is proposed to build new homes for ‘key workers’ (such as nurses, doctors and teachers) at affordable rents. Providing key worker housing enables Harlow to ensure it attracts and keeps key workers.

Major improvements are also proposed to the public spaces including re-siting the existing taxi rank to College Square whilst retaining disabled car parking, creating shared pedestrian and vehicles surfaces to improve connections between the Harvey Centre and The Water Gardens, brand new cycle transport hub (for pedal and ebikes) and new green landscaping.

Harlow Council owns the majority of land in Playhouse Quarter except for Occasio House and discussions are taking place with the owners regarding its future.

Stone Cross Square (currently Market Square and 21 The Rows)

Market Square will be renamed Stone Cross Square and will create a new northern gateway to Harlow town centre with this area becoming a hub of trading activity once again and an event location with open, green spaces and public sculpture.

Stone Cross Square will see the creation of community and commercial spaces to support a range of activities and events including pop-up markets and street trading. The building 21 The Rows will be converted into new, temporary pop-up space for a range of community and commercial uses.

It is also proposed to create a welcoming landscape with a further cycle and ebike transport hub.

Before Market Square was named in the mid to late 1950s, the area was known as Stone Cross, with Stone Cross Hall adjacent to the square. Recognising the shift from a dedicated market place, we want to rename Market Square and 21 The Rows to Stone Cross Square to signal the new chapter in the area’s future.

Market Square has been part of the town’s history and many residents reminisce about this area and how it was in the early days of the new town. These proposals would be a new era for the square, encouraging new trading, introduce more trees and landscaping, community activity and making it an important gateway for the town centre.

The regeneration of Harlow town centre has cross party support on the council.

Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council, said:

“These proposals have been put together to meet the requirements of the FHSF and will support the regeneration of the town centre. Both these schemes recognise that the town centre is no longer just a place to shop, but a place to live, work, visit and socialise. Revitalising our town centre, providing new uses, encouraging different ways to get to the town centre, supporting key workers with new housing and supporting businesses will be important part of the town’s recovery and that of our town centre following the impact of coronavirus. We are committed to securing the long term future of the town centre and these proposals are just the start. I hope we can get the government support and funding needed to bring these plans to life. These schemes on their own are not going to regenerate the town centre, they will improve historical areas of our town centre, put down a marker for our ambitions and act as a catalyst for securing other investment. I encourage residents and businesses to view the proposals and let us know what they think.”

Councillor Andrew Johnson, Leader of the Opposition on Harlow Council, said:

"It is important that we develop proposals which will bring about a positive change to the High Street and support the town centre’s regeneration. The government will be looking for a quality bid and leadership from the council in making the town centre a better place to visit, work and live in. Councillors from both political parties are committed to securing a better long-term future for the town centre. The council’s bid must be ambitious to secure support from the government’s FHSF and my group continues to encourage and support Harlow Council to put forward credible proposals. If you live or work in Harlow then it’s important that you have your say."