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Chapter 9.1
9.1 Objectives
  1. To ensure that adequate land and water resources are allocated both for organised sport and for informal recreation.
  2. To give the opportunity to all the people of Harlow to make full and enjoyable use of their leisure time through providing a comprehensive range of social, recreational and cultural development sites.
  3. To have regard to the community’s needs for recreational facilities, the current levels of provision and deficiencies, and to resist pressure for the development of open space which conflicts with the wider public interest.
  4. To ensure that wherever possible leisure and recreation facilities are made accessible to everyone including disabled people and those reliant on public transport so to ensure social inclusion.
9.2 Introduction
9.2.1 Harlow has traditionally been regarded as having a good range of leisure, cultural, sporting and recreational facilities. Both the demand and pattern for provision is changing and there are a number of important issues that need to be addressed. Some of the original facilities have been serving the town for over 40 years and are in need of improvement.
9.2.2 The term leisure covers a range of activities, including indoor and outdoor sports and recreation, entertainment and cultural activities. These activities increasingly have significant land use implications. As the amount of leisure time people have increases, the demand for leisure facilities will grow. This provides benefits through greater choice of leisure, encouraging an active and healthy community.
9.2.3 The Harlow Sports Partnership (HDC, Harlow & District Sports Trust, Harlow Recreation Trust and Harlow College) was formed in 1997 to look at sport and recreation in the town. In October 1998 after considerable consultation, a Draft Summary Sport and Recreation Strategy (DSSRS) was published. This looked among other things at the current level of provision and resources for sport and recreational facilities, and the perceived needs of various groups and individuals in the town for new facilities. The Draft Strategy raised a number of issues with land use implications.
9.2.4 In October 2001 The Harlow 2020 Partnership consulted on the “State of Play”, which looked at current sports provision in the town and made proposals for the future. The outcomes of the consultation are included in the draft Harlow 2020 Vision, the Cultural Strategy and the Local Plan. Good quality, sustainable facilities are required for the regeneration of the town and improvement to the town’s image, however, many of Harlow’s facilities are dated and in need of capital investment, to increase participation rates and levels of performance. So far the artificial turf pitch at Passmores School has been completed and planning permission given for an indoor tennis centre at the Latton Bush Centre.
9.2.5 The “State of Play” identified the need for appropriate facilities for athletics, wheeled sports, football, tennis, rugby, swimming and outdoor pursuits, and these are specifically addressed in this Local Plan. There is also the need to consider facilities for the following sports: angling, athletics, archery, badminton, basketball, boxing, bowls, cricket, fitness, golf, gymnastics, horse riding, ice skating, martial arts, netball, squash, shooting, table tennis, trampoline, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.
9.2.6 One of the established design principles of the town is its Green Wedges. These, together with other areas of internal open space in the town, have enabled playing fields and other recreational facilities to be distributed so they are easily accessible to every home. This makes these areas very important for casual recreation. This chapter covers policy for “internal” open space not the spaces within the Green Wedge or Green Belt that are of particular value to the community. These are protected by the Green Wedge or Green Belt policies so individual sites that are of particular value to the community do not need to be individually identified in a policy or on the Proposals Map.
9.3 Playing Fields
9.3.1 Harlow has a high proportion of open space compared to its built-up area. This includes 159ha. of public open spaces, 26ha. of recreation grounds, 58ha. of public playing fields, 11ha. of playgrounds, 83ha. of principal parks and 134ha. of woodlands. This is necessary due to relatively high densities and very little vacant or underused land in the housing areas. Demand for housing, employment and other needs such as formal leisure facilities, create pressure to put open space to alternative uses. This produces conflict with both the design principles of the town and the need to use open land for recreational purposes. Any proposal for new sport and recreational facilities that require built development will have to be balanced against these competing pressures.
9.3.2 PPG17, Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation (July 2002) reflects the policy objectives for open space, sport and recreation to deliver:
  a) Networks of accessible high quality open spaces and sports and recreation facilities which meet the needs of residents and visitors, are fit for the purpose and economically and environmentally sustainable;
  b) An appropriate balance between new provisions and the enhancement of existing provision;
  c) Clarity and reasonable certainty for developers and land owners in relation to the requirements and expectations of local planning authorities in respect of open space and sport and recreation provision.
9.3.3 PPG17 makes it clear that to achieve these outcomes depends upon undertaking local assessments of need and audit of provision. It is recognised that local authorities may already have planning policies based on existing studies and that there is no point in discarding them before new assessments are carried out.
9.3.4 The Council’s Leisure Services have carried out a playing pitch assessment for the Harlow District, which looked at the level of supply and demand, and use and distribution of pitches. The findings of the report identify the demand needs and current supply of pitches provided for football, cricket, rugby union, hockey, outdoor bowls and tennis. The full results are contained in the Harlow Playing Field Assessment 2001-2011. The analysis provides only a snap shot of the town’s changing provision, but can be used as a basis to examine the playing fields in Harlow. The qualitative aspect of the playing pitches and their facilities is not incorporated in the supply side analysis of the report. An assessment is being undertaken in accordance with the requirements of PPG17, and conclusions on the Playing Field Assessment will determine the future of playing fields provision in Harlow. The details will eventually be set out in supplementary planning guidance after the appropriate consultation has taken place.
L1 Planning permission will not be granted for development which will result in the loss of all, or any part of a playing fields, unless:
  1. It can be demonstrated that there is an excess of playing fields in the locality; or
  2. A replacement playing field or fields of equivalent or better quantity and quality is to be provided in a suitable location; or
  3. Any proposed development for an indoor or outdoor sports facility is of sufficient benefit to the development of sport to outweigh the loss of the playing field(s); or
  4. The development only affects land that is incapable of forming a playing field or part of a playing field; or
  5. The proposed development is ancillary to the use of the playing field.
9.4 Open Space and Playgrounds/Play Areas
9.4.1 An assessment is being undertaken in accordance with the requirements of PPG17. The details will eventually be set out in Supplementary Planning Guidance after the appropriate public consultations. Open space should be provided in all new residential developments over 10 dwellings. This will then be applied flexibly, taking into account local provision of open space and the circumstances of the development. If it is not possible to provide open space on site, alternative provision off-site may be acceptable to the Council. A commuted sum is required for the maintenance costs for open space and recreational facilities that are principally for the benefit of the development.
9.4.2 Newhall is the major residential development in the town, therefore it is especially important that the appropriate provision is made in accordance with PPG17 assessment and that these are clearly identified in the Master Plan.
L2 For new development all the following provisions will be sought:
  1. In residential developments of more than 10 dwellings public open space and inclusive playgrounds/play areas are required to be provided;
  2. In exceptional circumstances an off-site contribution to the provision of open space/playgrounds may be considered where it is not possible to provide on-site due to the circumstances of a development, or if there are particular deficiencies in open space in the surrounding area, the Council may seek variations in the component parts of the provision to overcome them;
  3. Open space/playgrounds should be offered for adoption by the Council, with an agreed commuted sum for maintenance, or be subject to community management arrangements for a period of ten years from first provision.
9.5 Retaining, Improving and Developing Recreational, Leisure and Sports Facilities
9.5.1 In order to maintain and enhance standards of sport and recreation provision in the District existing facilities should be retained and improved wherever possible, and further provision encouraged. Exceptions to this may be considered if the redevelopment of an existing facility would result in the provision of an improved facility in the District or a location convenient to Harlow.
L3 For proposed developments that will result in the net loss of all or part of any sports, leisure or recreational facilities, planning permission will only be granted if:
  1. It can be demonstrated that the facility is surplus to requirement and an alternative replacement facility is not required; or
  2. Such a development will be ancillary or support and /or enhance the existing facility; or
  3. The whole or part of the facility cannot be used to redress deficiency of other leisure provision within the locality; or
  4. Suitable replacement facilities are provided elsewhere in an agreed location within or convenient to Harlow.
9.5.2 PPG17 (Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation) indicates that priority will often have to be given to intensive forms of provision, such as multi-sports provision with indoor and outdoor facilities, which will help meet the demand for sport facilities while reducing pressure on open space. Factors that need to be taken into account include local environment and amenity, proximity to public transport, access for the disabled people, traffic and parking, and the relationship to existing open spaces and grass pitches.
9.5.3 PPG6 (Town Centres and Retail Developments) advocates a sequential approach to be taken when selecting sites for leisure development. This means preference should be given to town centre sites, followed by edge of centre sites, and lastly out of centre sites accessible by a range of transport. It is considered that the location of new leisure, cultural and recreational facilities in central areas add to their vitality and viability. Central locations are also generally better served by public transport.
L4 Applications for new sports, leisure or recreational facilities must be supported by an analysis demonstrating that a sequential approach to site selection has been applied in accordance with policy SD3, and that no alternative site is available higher in the sequence.
9.6 “Wet and Dry” Sport and Recreation Centre
9.6.1 A main recommendation of the DSSRS and “State of Play” is that the Harlow Town Pool and the Sports Hall at Harlow Sports Centre should be replaced by a centrally located “wet and dry” sport and recreation centre.
9.6.2 The Council has resolved to grant outline planning permission, subject to legal agreements, for a new leisure centre on the southern section of the existing sports centre site, with new housing on the northern section of the site. It has been indicated that the new centre could accommodate; main sports hall; events/exhibition/community arts hall; 8 lane 25m swimming pool; separate learner/therapy pool; indoor and outdoor tennis courts; squash courts; outdoor multi games area; health and fitness facility; kids club and crèche; learning zone and homework clubs; a healthy living zone for health education; alternative therapy; the arts etc; sports shops; health food; and bar/restaurant facilities. However, there is the opportunity to provide a “wet and dry” sport and recreation centre close to the Town Centre and public transport at a site adjacent to the College. The site has been allocated for the proposed “wet and dry” sport and recreation centre adjacent to the College for the replacement leisure facilities from the Sports Centre and swimming pool which are now allocated for housing.
L5 A site adjacent to the College as shown on the Proposals Map has been allocated for a “wet and dry” Sport Centre
9.7 Football stadium
9.7.1 The proposed redevelopment of Harlow Sport Centre involves using the land currently housing the football stadium and Harlow Town FC. It is proposed to relocate the football club in a new purpose built stadium at Barrows Farm in the Pinnacles. Facilities should be built and operational before the redevelopment of the existing facility.
L6 A football stadium is allocated at Barrows Farm on Roydon Road. Adverse environmental impacts, where identified, should be minimised.
9.8 Athletics
9.8.1 The current athletics track at the Sport Centre is in poor condition and will need to be replaced once the site is developed. A new facility, to be used by both schools and local athletes, is proposed at Mark Hall School.
L7 A new athletics track and associated facilities are proposed at Mark Hall School. Any proposal should be built and operational before the development of the existing site.
9.9 Rugby Club Ground
9.9.1 Harlow Rugby Club has outgrown their existing site at Ram Gorse and has been seeking relocation for sometime. The club requires additional pitches to cater for more juniors, mini rugby, women’s rugby, training, tag rugby, increased car parking, a fenced ground, and a new clubhouse. Green Wedges are recognised for their valued character and amenity, however formal sports uses have always been integrated as part of Harlow’s sport, leisure and recreation provision. A suitable alternative site for a Rugby ground, to meet the growing needs of the club will be sought.
9.10 Indoor Tennis Centre
9.10.1 There are 13 public tennis courts in the town. There are also courts at Harlow Tennis Club, the Sport Centre, schools, and social and community association sites. The major issue is the need for an indoor facility. The feasibility of this facility at the redeveloped Sport Centre should be considered. Planning permission has been given for such a development at the Latton Bush Centre. The provision of indoor tennis facilities as part of a developed sports centre or in an alternative, appropriate location is encouraged.
9.11 Wheeled Sports
9.11.1 Wheeled sports are very popular; these include cycling, BMX, mountain biking, roller-skating, roller-blading, roller hockey, scooters, skateboarding and go-karts. Development or change of use to create a new facility, particularly located indoors, is required. The Harlow Velodrome was developed for offices in the early 1990’s, it has proved very difficult to identify an acceptable site for the location of a new facility within the town. Any new facility should aim to be multi-purpose for many types of wheeled sports. Although an indoor multi-use facility is sought, this may be difficult to provide so outdoor facilities are acceptable to help meet this sport deficit.
9.11.2 The Road Safety Centre in Edinburgh Way may come available, as with computer simulations actual road layouts are no longer necessary. This would provide an opportunity for this type of sport as road layout could be adapted for such purposes. There are some buildings on site which could be redeveloped or adapted to provide indoor facilities to support these sports. The location is also close to the water centre so there may be some supportive synergy between these facilities.
L8 The Road Safety Centre is allocated as a leisure site for the provision of a multi-use facility for a wide range of wheeled sports.
9.12 Local Recreation Provision
9.12.1 There is a need to enhance the pattern of town wide recreation provision. At Mark Hall School greatly improved facilities for the school and the surrounding expanding community are proposed as part of the school’s bid for specialist sports college status. Other proposals include a multi-use leisure provision at the Church Langley Park by the local Youth Provision group. New indoor facilities in Katherines and Potter Street were proposed in the 1995 Adopted Local Plan but never built, it is not proposed to include them in this Local Plan.
9.12.2 To ensure the requirements of PPG17 are met suitable replacement sports and recreational facilities are required. An area of land in the Green Wedge, north of Newhall and south of Gilden Way, has been allocated for such facilities. The replacement leisure buildings are to be located on the previously developed land within the Green Wedge. The provision of suitable separate facilities, if appropriate, of the replacement sports and recreation facilities such as playing fields, cricket pitch, tennis court, playground equipment, changing facilities and club house are required before the employment development commences on the land and buildings that are in active leisure use.
L9 New sports and recreation facilities are allocated at the following sites:
Ref.No. Allocated Sport Centre
L 9/1
Mark Hall School, an eight-court badminton hall with health and fitness provision, and an artificial turf pitch.
L 9/2
Church Langley Park, the multi-use provision of a community gym, extension to the existing tennis courts, a floodlit all weather playing surface, and a summer paddling pool/winter BMX and skateboard park.
L 9/3
Land to the north of Newhall is allocated for the provision of sport and recreational facilities.
9.13 Latton Farm
9.13.1 Latton Farm introduces farmland into the heart of the town, and the preferred use for the site is to continue as farmland. However, it is recognised that at some point it may become no longer viable for it to continue as a working farm, and an alternative use would have to be found. As the area is a Green Wedge in the centre of the built up area of Harlow, the future use would need to retain the open nature of the land and be opened up for public access.
9.13.2 Green Wedges are recognised for their valued character and amenity. However, formal sports uses have always been integrated as part of Harlow’s sports, leisure and recreation provision Reflecting its location, the future use would need to retain the open nature of the land and enable it to be opened up for public access.
L10 If the applicants demonstrate that the use of Latton Farm as farmland is no longer viable the only acceptable alternative use is playing fields.
9.14 Water Based Recreation
9.14.1 The River Stort and its navigation run along the town's northern boundary. This provides a number of leisure opportunities including walks, boat trips, and angling. Improvement of access to the River Stort and its environs for recreation will be encouraged where appropriate. Particular encouragement is given to the improvement, maintenance and inclusive accessibility of river/canal side walkways. The river and its floodplain are also important for wildlife and landscape value and any recreational use of the river should take this into account.
L11 Proposals to provide improved access to the River Stort and its environs for recreation will be required to have regard to the conservation of existing wildlife habitats.
9.14.2 The land east of Allende/Fifth Avenue and west of Burnt Mill Lane had been allocated as a site for leisure provision in the 1995 Adopted Local Plan. This was expanded by ‘State of Play’ that suggested that this site and the land west of Allende/Fifth Avenue could be turned into lakes for water based recreation, if minerals were first extracted from the area. However these sites are very environmentally sensitive, being an important part of the River Stort in terms of its ecological and landscape value and are designated Green Belt and a natural habitat site.
9.14.3 Following consultation with the Minerals Planning Authority (MPA), current need and demand for new mineral reserves cannot justify the excavation of the proposed site and therefore is no longer allocated as a leisure site. The site is designated as Green Wedge in the Natural Environment Chapter.
9.15 Allotments
9.15.1 There are 35 allotment sites in Harlow providing a total of 946 individual allotment plots, however the number of allotments in use is only 59% at 2002. This provides a current standard for allotment provision of 86.7 plots per 1000 population. This high standard of provision together with the low take up of allotments suggests that there should be a rationalisation of existing sites, and reduced standards of provision in new housing areas depending on local demand and allocation. The standards arising from PPG17 assessment will eventually be set out in supplementary planning guidance after appropriate public consultation takes place.
L12 The following will apply for the provision and allocation of allotments:
  1. Where over-provision of allotments is apparent in an area, every consideration will be given to rationalising lettings. This land would be retained with the creation of wildlife habitats where appropriate. The value of allotments as a public amenity is recognised and to ensure their long-term protection the land would revert to allotment use should the demand increase;
  2. Where sites or part of sites are unsuitable for allotment cultivation, they will be permanently released either for open space uses or other uses compatible with the policies of the Local Plan and in consultation with local residents;
  3. New allotments will be provided as part of major new residential developments as appropriate. At Newhall the Master Plan will make appropriate provision for allotments.
9.16 Public Rights of Way
9.16.1 The town’s footpath network links residential areas, shopping centres, industrial areas and the open countryside. The network provides an informal recreation resource, especially those routes which form part of the Town Trail, the Heritage Trail, Forest Way, Harcamlow Way and the 40th Anniversary Trail. The fine woodland areas in Harlow also serve as valuable recreation areas, to which the public should have ready access. These and all other public rights of way provide an important sports, leisure and recreational resource that should be protected, enhanced and expanded ensuring the highest standards of design, accessibility and personal safety for all users.
L13 The existing network of definitive public rights of way within Harlow will be safeguarded.
  New footpaths, bridleways and cycleways will be required as part of new developments, to link with existing routes outside and within the town’s boundary, and to provide better access to the surrounding countryside and areas of woodland within the town. Proposals for new or the enhancement of existing public rights of way will be required to meet the highest standards of design, accessibility and personal safety.
9.17 Joint Provision and Dual Use
9.17.1 The joint provision and dual use of leisure facilities is an efficient use of land and resources and can also add to the range of facilities available. Harlow’s schools, particularly at secondary level offer a wide range of facilities, ranging from swimming pools to gyms and outdoor sports pitches, which the wider community can use. The use and provision of schools, and facilities of local firms and sports clubs are particularly encouraged for multi leisure and cultural activities. The Council seeks the active involvement of the Sports Trust, Essex County Council, schools, voluntary organisations, individuals, and other public and private bodies, to operate in partnership to finance and provide new facilities, and offer joint use with the community.
9.18 Art, Culture and Entertainment
9.18.1 The Council has always encouraged the arts in the town, particularly in the areas of theatre, museums, sculpture and the visual arts, and these activities are important to regeneration, employment creation and quality of life.
9.18.2 The Council has consulted on a Cultural Strategy for the town. The intention is to integrate cultural issues into the development plan and other Council strategies for the town, and express and realise a vision in response to the needs and aspirations of the local community. It will enable our cultural assets and services to be recognised and used to help boost the local economy; encourage regeneration and improve qualities of life. The need for specific new cultural and entertainment facilities may arise from this strategy. Facilities have improved by relocating the museum to a single site, and the need to expand the Play House has been identified.
L14 Encouragement is given to the provision of new cultural and entertainment facilities. In particular those which overcome specific deficiencies identified in the Council’s strategy:
  1. Applicants will be required to demonstrate that a sequential approach to site selection has been applied in accordance with Policy SD3, and that there is no alternative site available higher in the sequence. If the applicant fails to demonstrate that a sequential test has been applied, or if there is an alternative site available, planning permission will be refused;
  2. Applications which result in the loss of cultural and entertainment facilities will be refused, unless an appropriate alternative is provided, or the applicant has demonstrated that there is no longer a need for the facility.
9.18.3 Efforts to improve the visual quality of the town by the provision of sculptures, murals, street decoration etc. are to be supported. Particularly through “Percentage for Art” schemes, whereby developers are required to put aside a percentage of the construction cost of a scheme to improve the aesthetic quality of the development.
L15 Public art through “percentage for art” and other schemes will be expected to be provided as part of development.
9.19 Golf Courses and Large Scale Open Uses
9.19.1 The potential impact of golf courses and driving ranges is great, due to the large areas of land normally required, associated development, landscaping and traffic generation. There is limited opportunity for new golf courses within or adjoining the town. Any proposals should be located and designed to conserve the natural environment, and ensure harmony with their surroundings, particularly in relation to archaeological remains and conservation areas, and not result in the loss of high grade agricultural land. Proposals should have safe and convenient access by a choice of means of transport. The Essex County Council document “Guidelines for the location and design of Golf Courses and Associated Development” will continue to be used as supplementary planning guidance where appropriate.
9.19.2 It is possible that proposals may arise for other large scale uses of the countryside or the open spaces in the town, such as equestrian facilities. Development in areas designated as Metropolitan Green Belt and Green Wedges is regulated by their respective policies in the ‘Natural Environment and Natural Resources’ chapter. These apply to any proposed development for golf courses, golf driving ranges and other large open space uses. In addition to this any proposal should be considered against a range of other issues.
L16 Proposals for new golf courses and golf driving ranges, and any other large scale open space uses will be considered in relation to the Green Wedge and Green Belt policies and the following:
  1. The use should be compatible with adjoining land uses, and with surrounding landscape character;
  2. The visual appearance of the area should be enhanced;
  3. The use should be easily accessible by a choice of transport modes and generated traffic could be accommodated in both physical and environmental terms;
  4. Uses will not be permitted which would damage or destroy high grade agricultural land, areas of landscape importance, sites of nature conservation importance, buildings or areas of historic and archaeological importance, or result in large scale new building in the Green Wedge or Green Belt, or in the loss of public rights of way.
9.20 Golf Courses and Large Scale Open Uses
9.20.1 Ryehill Park is currently under utilised and provides an opportunity to provide additional leisure uses. The site has previously been identified as suitable for bowling greens. However it provides the opportunity for additional leisure provision. Therefore, proposals for bowling greens and formal leisure provision will be supported at Rye Hill Park.
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