HARLOW is now 70 years old and Tony Durcan, the Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Enterprise with Harlow Council, has huge ideas for rejuvenating and transforming the town.
Coun Durcan admits that the Water Gardens is possibly the best place for leisure in Harlow Town, due to its pleasant environment, coffee shops, retail stores and gyms. He said: ‘I get visitors to take in the environment and hopefully they can see it is a positive place where they can live and work in.’
Harlow Council hopes to attract visitors, who tend to stay in the Water Gardens, up to the Market Square/Broad Walk area to relax and shop. Coun Durcan sees the potential in this part of the town because of the unused open space and said: ‘Businesses won’t come to this part of town unless they know they will make money, Primark is Harlow’s most profitable store and it’s in the Broad Walk area.’
Coun Durcan wants to retain the principles of a market, which was once the hub of the town but now, with only two regular stallholders, it has lost its community aspect. Many businesses shut down after Little Walk, the walkway between Market Square and the Harvey Centre, closed. The plan is to reopen the walkway, and create an area featuring small boutique shops with enough room for flats above.
However, making room for new flats puts the shops already there at risk of closure. Coun Durcan said: ‘There is bound to be initial unemployment, but hopefully with the creation of new shops, new jobs will be available. We know the future is with small businesses, not in the larger shops.
‘Everybody complains about change and new redevelopments, however this is about changing the way people look at and perceive Harlow for the better.’
More plans for the Market Square involve outside seating areas, a large cinema style screen for outdoor film viewings and children’s games such as hopscotch painted onto the floor.
Redevelopment plans are currently with the planning development committee and no final decision has yet been made.
All photos and video taken by Leah Bloxham.