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Chapter 11
11.1 Objectives
  1. To ensure that good design principles and practice are encouraged for all development, including alterations, extensions and redevelopment to add character and quality to the town’s environment.
  2. To encourage sustainable forms of development which respect and enhance the environment.
  3. To achieve a safe and hospitable environment and improved physical access throughout the built environment, for all, by giving consideration to design and layout of existing and new developments.
  4. To conserve and enhance the character of conservation areas; preserve the historic character and setting of statutory listed buildings; and to protect the district’s archaeological heritage and historic gardens.
  5. To maintain and improve the quality of the town and safeguard its urban and natural environments against sources of pollution.
  6. To identify and provide guidance for regeneration areas, strategic developments and areas for possible future development.
11.2 Introduction
11.2.1 The built environment embraces all aspects of Harlow’s buildings, streets and urban spaces and is concerned with both their physical and social qualities. Harlow’s distinct land use layout is a prime example of new town master planning and provides the town with large, valuable areas of landscape which gives Harlow its particular identity.
11.2.2 This chapter sets out the Council’s policies for the design of new development, the protection of Harlow’s historic and architectural heritage and to safeguard all environments from inappropriate forms of pollution. The aims are to provide a high quality environment by ensuring that all new development is of a high standard of design, is safe and accessible, and that all buildings and places of character and interest are protected.
11.2.3 The Local Plan policies support the regeneration initiatives in Harlow. The town is identified in Regional Planning Guidance as a Priority Area for Economic Regeneration. The Local Plan underpins regeneration proposals which directly involve the development or use of land, or otherwise have land use implications. The Local Plan also sets site-specific policies for the areas of Newhall and Eastend.
11.3 Urban Design in the Built Environment
11.3.1 Good urban design is essential if new development is going to produce a high quality, attractive and sustainable town that people want to live, work and relax in. The role of urban design is to create places for people, so that the activities of Harlow’s local communities can flourish in a sustainable environment that caters for current, and can readily adapt to future uses, needs and demands.
11.3.2 The vision for the application of urban design principles is to enable lively places with distinctive character; streets and public spaces that are safe, accessible, pleasant to use and human in scale. Places which can inspire others whilst sustaining changes in social, economic and technological conditions.
11.3.3 PPG1 states that all proposed development should be able to show how they have incorporated the need for good design in their local plans. This is expanded by the government’s publication of ‘By Design’, which looks to provide better urban design in the planning process. In Harlow the adopted Supplementary Planning Guidance of ‘The Essex Design Guide for Residential and Mix Use Areas’ and its companion guide to ‘Mixed Use and High Densities’, plus Harlow District Council’s ‘Common Guidelines’ for residential extensions and alterations are used to enable and assist with planning control and design issues.
11.3.4 The Local Plan requires development to meet policy requirements but there is also the opportunity for new development to create or enhance the distinctive character of an area and add to the quality of Harlow’s public realm. The public realm can be made accessible and legible, in and around the development, to enable a strong perception of personal safety and contribute towards a diversity of uses that can adapt and sustain future change. These design objectives underlie the policies and seek to realise the Council’s vision for Harlow as a distinctive, rejuvenating, sustainable town with a viable economic base.
11.4 Achieving a Sense of Character and Identity
11.4.1 Character and distinctiveness are what make one place different from another. A built environment that responds sensitively to its setting and social requirements is likely to create a valued place with a positive identity. In Harlow this is vital to improve the perception of its urban environment. Development should respect the value of established character and identity, and use positive and innovative design. It should meet with relevant design objectives and requirements set out in supplementary planning guidance, to create a distinctive place.
BE1 All new and extended buildings should relate to their setting to strengthen, enhance, protect, or create local character. Planning permission will be granted for new development provided that all the following are met:
  1. It is well connected to and integrated with the wider settlement;
  2. The height, massing, layout, appearance and landscape makes an appropriate visual relationship with that of the form, grain, scale, materials and details of the surrounding area;
  3. Building design is specific to the site and its context, respecting whilst not necessarily replicating local characteristics and consistent within its own chosen style;
  4. On sites with high public visibility it enhances the character, image and perception of the area.
11.5 Providing a High Quality, Legible and Successful Public Realm
11.5.1 A building is never viewed in isolation it is always seen as an integrated part of the wider public space, private enclosures, landscape and other buildings that surround it. It is how these spaces relate to buildings and each other, and are defined, understood, utilised and enjoyed, that indicate the value a development brings to its surrounding space which forms the public realm.
11.5.2 Proposed major new developments should be designed to create a successful living, working and recreational environment and a high quality public realm. It should meet with all relevant design objectives and requirements set out in supplementary planning guidance.
BE2 Planning permission for major new development will be granted provided that all the following are met:
  1. New buildings are designed as part of a group of buildings creating a sense of enclosure;
  2. Public spaces should relate to the scale, appearance, location and function of the buildings around it;
  3. The layout of buildings, routes and spaces are clearly related;
  4. The fronts of buildings provide primary access and clearly define streets and public spaces;
  5. Public spaces are clearly distinguished from private areas;
  6. The ground floor use encourages activity and interest that is appropriate to the location and character of the area;
  7. Pedestrian, cycling and, where appropriate, horse riding routes are shown on the development layout and link into the existing network.
11.6 Sustainable Development by Design
11.6.1 The concept of sustainability is one that can be addressed through the encouragement of higher densities and the good urban design principles of robust and flexible layouts and mixed-use development. Government guidance 'By Design' advises that places need to be adaptable at every scale. Simple robust building forms, not tightly designed to a very particular use allow for the greatest variety of possible future uses to be accommodated.
11.6.2 A development should be able to adapt to changes in the needs and lifestyle of its users. This is crucial to the long-term vitality of an area and is important to avoid future dereliction and under-use that would be detrimental to the character of Harlow. Proposed development should ensure that buildings and surrounding open space are robust enough to enable flexible layouts and flexible design, and the greatest variety possible of future uses and activities to occur having regard to its location. However, some uses may require specially designed buildings that may be difficult to adapt to other uses. Developers attention is drawn to the DETR publication “By Design: Urban Design in the Planning System” which promotes simple robust building forms.
11.6.3 Urban concentration and intensification are the sustainable approaches of using Harlow’s previously developed land and suitable sites existing in urban areas for development. This should be combined with the use of higher densities provided that it does not affect the amenity or character of an area. Through the application of the sustainable sequential test this policy can help increase the vitality and viability of Harlow town centre. It also reduces development pressure on greenfield and open spaces so sustaining both the built and natural environments.
BE3 Proposals for development on previously developed land at a density higher than that existing (or previously existing), in terms of additional number of units and/or increase in floor space, will be granted planning permission provided that:
  1. It is accessible by public transport or is in a sustainable location relative to proximity to supporting services and/or employment sites;
  2. It does not result in over development;
  3. It is compatible with the character of the area and urban design policies and guidance.
11.7 Accessibility in the Built Environment
11.7.1 The Council wishes to ensure accessibility is provided to prevent exclusion. This is to ensure that all groups of people are free to move about without impairment caused by the physical structure of development. This includes people with pushchairs, the elderly, wheelchair users and people with physical disabilities or other sensory impairments.
11.7.2 For new developments appropriate provision to achieve accessibility should be an early design consideration which is integrated into the buildings form and the surrounding curtilage or urban area. This provision in existing development will require careful design particularly for listed buildings and buildings within conservation areas.
BE4 Planning permission will be granted for new development, change of use, alteration or extension to any building which is open to the public or is used for educational or employment purposes, providing provision has been made to achieve accessibility for disabled people, including accessibility to any public or private open space that serves that development.
11.8 Crime Prevention and Personal Safety
11.8.1 The design and layout of new development can reduce the potential for crime and enhance people perception and experience of a place. The use of measures such as defensible space, natural surveillance, security lighting and appropriate planting and landscaping is encouraged for applications in both new and alterations to existing development. These ideas are embodied in further advice given in the DoE Circular 5/94 and the ‘Secured by design’ initiative.
11.8.2 For new development appropriate design to minimise the potential for crime and increase personal safety should be a consideration that is integrated into the buildings’ form and the surrounding curtilage or urban area. Such provision in existing development will require additional measures to meet improved standards. For listed buildings and buildings within conservation areas careful consideration must be given to ensure that there is no adverse effect on their character, appearance or form.
BE5 Development proposals should demonstrate how the potential for preventing crime has been satisfactorily addressed through the design, layout and landscaping. These measures should be an integral part of the design and not compromise the creation of an area with distinct character, high quality landscaping and a successful public realm.
11.9 Listed Buildings
11.9.1 In Harlow there are currently 173 listed buildings that are of special architectural or historic interest. Of these, 5 are classified as Grade I, 8 are Grade II* and 160 Grade II. These buildings are very important to the heritage of Harlow, especially as a New Town, and are viewed as irreplaceable assets. The Council will protect the character and setting of these buildings and safeguard them from demolition and unsympathetic change.
BE6 Proposals for the extension or alteration of any listed building, alteration of its setting, conversion or change of use should not adversely affect or harm any of the following:
  1. The character that forms its value as being of special architectural or historic interest;
  2. The particular physical features that justify its statutory protection;
  3. Its setting in relation to its grounds, the surrounding area, other buildings and wider views and vistas.
BE7 Planning permission for development that would necessitate the demolition of a listed building, or buildings, or compromise its/their character or setting, will not be granted.
11.9.2 The best way to ensure the upkeep and maintenance of an historic building is to keep it in active use. The best use will often be the one that it was originally designed for, however this may not always be possible or viable. Therefore proposed development will be considered for alternative uses of redundant listed buildings if that is the only way to preserve or enhance their special architectural or historic character.
BE8 Planning permission may be granted for the change of use or conversion of a listed building, even if it conflicts with other policies of the Local Plan, if it can be shown that this is the only way to preserve the building by providing an income for the upkeep and repair. Such development will not be justified on the basis that it will generate increased revenue or property values, and any changes must have maximum possible compliance with Policy BE6.
11.10 Conservation Areas
11.10.1 Conservation Area is an area defined as having ‘special architectural or historical interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’. Conservation Areas are designated because of the value and quality of the townscape rather than just the individual buildings.
11.10.2 Table BE-A on the next page is a list of Conservation Areas in Harlow to which policies BE9, and BE10 apply. From time to time the Council may designate additional Conservation Areas which these policies will also apply.


The following areas are designated as Conservation Areas.
Ref.No. Conservation Area
1. Old Harlow
2. Churchgate Street
3. Netteswellbury
4. Mark Hall North
5. Town Park/Netteswell Cross
6. Harlowbury
7. Puffers Green
8. Harlow Mill & Old Road North
9. Tye Green
11.10.3 Within a Conservation Area there can be buildings that make little or no contribution to the area’s special character and can harm and detract from the special appearance and setting that the other buildings and features provide. The Council will encourage redevelopment and refurbishment that would enhance a Conservation Area and replace a building harmful to its special character.
BE9 Demolition and/or redevelopment of a building in a Conservation Area will be permitted if the demolition and/or redevelopment is not detrimental to the architectural or historical character or appearance of the Conservation Area.
11.10.4 New development within Conservation Areas must respect the character, appearance and features that invoked the special designation of that area. Development outside a Conservation Area can also affect its setting and views into or out of the area. This will be a consideration when assessing such proposals. New development must also enable the area to remain prosperous and alive despite primarily being an area of conservation.
BE10 New development in Conservation Areas or development that affects the setting, surrounding area, or inward and outward views will be granted planning permission providing:
  1. It does not harm the character or appearance of the Conservation Area;
  2. The scale, height, form, massing, elevation, detailed design, materials, and layout respect the character of the Conservation Area;
  3. The proposed land use is compatible with the function and activities of the Conservation Area.
11.10.5 Environmental Improvement Schemes proposed by the Council will be used to preserve and enhance the special character of Conservation Areas. In particular, consideration should be given to the following:
  a) Floorscape and street furniture make a vital contribution due to their distinctiveness, appearance and quality;
  b) Traditional artefacts, surfaces and layouts should wherever possible be retained or reintroduced;
  c) As part of the protection of the historic environment the Council will consider initiatives to create pedestrian zones and other traffic calming measures where appropriate. Such measures would need careful design so that they reinforce rather than diminish local character;
  d) The work of statutory undertakers must not be detrimental to the special character and appearance of a Conservation Area. After any work the existing materials must be reinstated or substituted for the closest possible match if they cannot be reused.
11.10.6 Existing Conservation Areas will be reviewed against the criteria for designation to ensure that they still justify their status of special historical or architectural interest. Potential Conservation Areas will also be reviewed against the criteria to assess their potential for designation. Assessments will take into account topography, historical development, archaeological significance and potential, prevalent building materials, character and hierarchy of spaces, quality and relationship of buildings, and trees. The purpose of this is to produce a character statement that clearly defines these areas so that decisions can be reached regarding the enhancement and protection of their character.
11.11 Historic Parks and Gardens
11.11.1 In Harlow there is just one registered park and garden: The House, Marsh Lane. This register is maintained by English Heritage to protect parks and gardens that are deemed to have special landscape or historical interest. Although the register does not have statutory provision the adverse effect on any designation caused by development is a material consideration.
BE11 Development proposals that would adversely affect the character, appearance, setting or views into and outward of a registered historic park or garden will not be permitted.
11.12 Archaeology
11.12.1 Archaeological remains contain irreplaceable information about our past, they constitute a finite and non-renewable resource and are in many cases highly fragile and vulnerable to damage and destruction. In Harlow there are 11 Scheduled Monuments that are given statutory protection because of their national importance. There are also numerous other sites of existing or potential archaeological importance, even though they are not designated as a Scheduled Monument they are still important and must be protected, conserved and enhanced wherever possible.
BE12 Planning permission will not be granted for development proposals that would adversely affect the site or setting of a Scheduled Monument listed below or other archaeological site of national or particular local importance.
Ref. No. Scheduled Monuments
BE12/1 Chapel at Harlowbury
BE12/2 Harlow Roman Temple
BE12/3 Netteswellbury Barn, Netteswell
BE12/4 Little Parndon moated site
BE12/5 Site of Parndon Hall
BE12/6 Harlowbury deserted medieval village
BE12/7 Bowl barrow, 230m north of Harlow Hospital
Bowl barrow, 140m north of Harlow Hospital
Bowl barrow, 110m north-east of Harlow Hospital
BE12/8 Cursus, south of Gilden Way
BE12/9 Roman villa, 500m north-east of Harlowbury
BE12/10 Bowl barrow, 240m north of The Kennels
BE12/11 Passmores House moated site, immediately south of Todd Brook
11.12.2 Not all sites of archaeological remains are of equal importance, for those of lesser importance the Council might have to reconcile between the need for development and the importance of conservation. This balance is influenced by whether a proposed development can preserve the remains in situ, either through sympathetic design and landscape, or by sealing for future excavation and technological advances. If this is not feasible ‘preservation by record’ may be acceptable, this however is viewed as the second best option. Developers should engage in discussions with the Council at an early stage so to reduce possible conflicts that could occur.
BE13 The desire to preserve the remains and setting of a site with archaeological remains of lesser importance will be a material consideration when considering development proposals affecting the site. This desire will be balanced against the importance of the remains; the need for the development; the possibility of preservation in situ; and / or the appropriateness of an archaeological excavation for 'preservation by record’.
11.12.3 Not all sites of archaeological interest in Harlow have been discovered. Where there is an indication that a site of archaeological interest may exist the Council will require an archaeological field evaluation to be carried out before planning permission can be determined.
BE14 Development proposals that affect a site where archaeological remains may exist will only be determined after an archaeological field evaluation has been undertaken.
11.13 Contaminated Land
11.13.1 Contamination is a problem that can affect previously used land. However this land is important for sustainable development in Harlow because it reduces the pressure on green field sites. Contaminated land can have potentially serious risks and consequences to health, safety and environmental issues and therefore needs careful investigation and assessment before and during any development. The Council will encourage the reuse of contaminated land for appropriate development and as useful amenity and recreational space, but seeks to ensure that there is no unacceptable risk to health and safety or the environment by ensuring the developer implements all remedial measures necessary to make the land, surface water and ground water ‘suitable for use’.
BE15 Planning permission will not be granted for developments on or affected by ground that is known or strongly suspected to be contaminated until fully investigated, to establish the level of contamination in soils and/or groundwater/surface waters and identify appropriate proposals for remediation measures. Where there is only a suspicion that land may be contaminated, or where the contamination is only slight, planning permission may be granted but with conditions that a site investigation and assessment is carried out and that all remedial measures, shown to be necessary, will be incorporated before or as part of the development.
11.14 Light Pollution
11.14.1 Where developments propose any form of external lighting the amenity of nearby land users, the visual character of the area and sites of wildlife importance can be harmed through unwanted light spillage and glare. This light pollution can result from poor or insensitive design or installation of external lighting. The principle concern is from floodlighting of sports pitches and security lighting. This not only is an inefficient use of energy but can also cause a distraction for road users and contribute to the sky glow effect at night. The Council wishes to minimise light pollution by requiring the details of external lighting schemes to be submitted with the planning application for consideration.
BE16 External lighting proposed for any development will not be granted planning permission if any of the following apply;
  1. It is unacceptably visually intrusive;
  2. Its use would cause an unacceptable disturbance to the surrounding area;
  3. It causes danger to road safety;
  4. It is proven to have an adverse effect on sites of wildlife importance.
  Where permission is granted, development will be required to minimise light spillage through the use of good design, screening and deflecting of the source; and the nature and intensity of the lighting and its hours of use will be carefully controlled.
11.15 Noise Pollution
11.15.1 Noise pollution can have a significant effect on both the natural and built environment and on the quality of amenity that can be enjoyed. The layout of Harlow and its land use segregation means that noise pollution is generally not a major problem. To maintain this situation it is important to control the location of new development to ensure land uses are compatible in terms of noise generation and sensitivity. New development that is noise sensitive such as residential dwellings should be located away from sources of unacceptable noise levels; whilst noise-generating developments, if possible, must be positioned so not to pollute other sensitive land uses.
11.15.2 The encouragement of higher density and mixed-use developments means this segregation is not always possible. Therefore development will be subject to conditions of noise mitigation such as relevant engineering, layout or administrative measures so to enable proposals to proceed where otherwise it would be refused. In such cases all conditions requiring necessary work must be undertaken before any of the development permitted is made available for occupation.
BE17 Planning permission will be granted if noise sensitive developments are located away from existing sources of noise and potentially noisy developments are located in areas where noise will not be such an important consideration, or adequate provision has been made to mitigate the adverse effects of noise likely to be generated or experienced by others.
11.16 Air Pollution
11.16.1 Local authorities are required by the Environment Act 1995 to undertake a review and assessment of air quality in their area to identify areas where it is unlikely to achieve the Government’s air quality objectives. Government’s published guidance in 1997 on “Air Quality and Land Use Planning” advises local plans to have regard to Air Quality Management Areas. In such areas constraints on certain types of development may be necessary to achieve objectives of the action plan. Development proposals which may have potential to cause significant levels of air pollution or which may be affected by existing sources of air pollution should be restricted in and near these areas. Air quality readings have been undertaken in Harlow and there are no areas where the air quality has led to the designation of an Air Quality Management Area.
11.16.2 Government Guidance in PPG23 however advises that there should be guidance on the location of potentially polluting developments and the location of sensitive developments in the vicinity of existing polluting developments.
BE18 Planning permission will be granted if a development does not have the potential to contribute to significant levels of air pollution or is not sensitive to the effect of existing sources of air pollution or if adequate provision is made to mitigate against adverse effects on air quality.
11.17 Environmental Improvements
11.17.1 Harlow is listed in the top quarter of the government’s index of deprivation and is the most deprived former New Town district in the Southeast. It is thus recognised by the RPG as a Priority Area for Economic Regeneration (PAER). Much of the town’s old building stock is deteriorating and is in need of renewal especially the town centre and older residential areas.
11.17.2 The Council has a specialist regeneration team that will work to form proposals and attract funding from the public, private and voluntary sectors. Through a partnership approach their aim is to enable successful bids to be submitted and money secured from Single Pot, Lottery, Home Zone, European and other sources of regeneration funding.
11.17.3 Harlow in recent years has attracted economic investment from several major companies. The town’s location is its primary strength; it has excellent train links to central London and the buoyant, technology based Cambridge; it has good motorway and rail links with nearby London Stansted; and it is located in an attractive high quality natural environment.
11.17.4 Regeneration initiatives in Harlow are focusing on the neighbourhood areas of Little Parndon and Hare Street, Toddbrooks and Staple Tye, being the most deprived areas in Harlow. Community consultation with the residents of the housing areas of Briars, Moorfields and Great Parndon is being undertaken from which details of regeneration initiatives will arise. The regeneration area of Northbrooks where the environmental and economic improvements will take place is identified on the Proposals Map.
11.17.5 In addition Old Harlow has also been identified as an area of opportunity, with the potential for regeneration arising from several new development opportunities. The re-organisation of the community uses, and the introduction of housing to create mixed use development will help to enhance the environment opportunities in this area and provide support for the High Street retail area.
BE19 Two regeneration areas that involve partnership programmes and funding, and other initiatives have been identified as follows:
Ref. No. Name
BE19/1 Northbrooks Regeneration Area
BE19/2 Old Harlow Area of Opportunity
11.18 Design of Shopfronts, Signs and Advertisements
11.18.1 Shopfronts, signs and advertisements form a dominant part of the visual character of Harlow’s town centre and other commercial areas. The importance of advertisements to the vitality of Harlow’s economy is recognised but control must be given to prevent brash, over-dominant or incongruous advertising spoiling an areas visual amenity or local character. Their design should enable business to express their individuality while still sympathetic to the building or street in which they are located. The other consideration is public safety and the impact an advertisement might have on road or other transport users.
BE20 Proposals to alter an existing shopfront, sign or advertisement, or create a new shopfront, sign or advertisement, should have regard to the following:
  1. A new or refurbished shopfront should be designed to take account of the design, style and proportions of the building of which it forms a part and the character of the street scene in which the proposal is located;
  2. Advertisements, signs and notice boards must be appropriate in scale, design and materials to the character and appearance of the building of which it forms a part and the character of the street scene in which the proposal is located;
  3. Proposals for external security measures on shopfronts will be resisted unless the need can be adequately demonstrated;
  4. The new shopfront should be accessible to wheelchair users and disabled people;
  5. Hanging or projected signs must not interfere with the visibility requirements of existing CCTV cameras;
  6. Advertisements should present no threat to public or highway safety.
11.19 Newhall Plan
11.19.1 The proposed development at Newhall is potentially the largest development area in Harlow. It has a strategic role in the growth of the town and in the provision of new housing. Therefore it is important that the benefits of good urban design principles, as laid out by the policies of the Local Plan and relevant design Supplementary Planning Guidance, are incorporated into this development at an early stage. To ensure this a Master Plan will be required for consideration and approval by the Council.
BE21 The developer of Newhall will be required to submit a Master Plan to the Council for approval. This will incorporate a design statement that will demonstrate, in principle and in detail how development will encompass the Local Plan design policies and those in the ‘Essex Design Guide for Residential and Mixed Use Areas’.
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