Conservation Areas in Harlow
Conservation areas are defined under The Planning (Listed Buildings and ConservationAreas) Act 1990 as “areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.”
There are ten Conservation Areas in Harlow, five of them in the immediate vicinity of the Memorial University campus: Harlowbury, Old Harlow, Churchgate Street, Harlow Garden Village and Mark Hall North. Once a plan has been adopted, the Mark Hall Area will preserve the character of Harlow's first complete New Town neighbourhood. Designation of conservation areas to protect Twentieth Century townscapes is extremely rare in Canada, but there are two of them on the fringes of Old Harlow: Mark Hall and Harlow Garden Village. At the time of writing (November 2016) no plan for the Mark Hall Conservation Area has yet been adopted.
England, unlike Canada, has a robust, national strategy for the conservation and adaptive re-use of the existing build environment. The aim of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. A key element of planning policy is the protection of the historic environment. The NPPF has 12 core planning principles, one of which is that ‘planning should conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance’ because they contribute to the overall quality of life and should be enjoyed by both current and future generations.
Designation of a Conservation Area constrains the type and extent of changes which owners can make to their property. The intent is not to prevent change, but to manage it in such a way that the architectural and historic character which led to the designation of the Area in the first place are not adversely affected. What designation does is add an additional set of planning controls to those already in effect. Permission from the local Council will usually be required in order to make alterations to a building such as changing the cladding, inserting windows, installing satellite dishes and solar panels, adding conservatories or other extensions, laying paving, or building walls. And of course, demolition of all or part of a building will almost certainly require planning permission.
Designations aren’t static. After the original designation of an Area, Councils can change the types of alterations that need permission by making Article 4 Directions.
The trees in Conservation Areas are also subject to regulations. Anyone wishing to prune or cut down a tree must notify Council at least 6 weeks in advance. This gives Council time to assess whether the tree makes a contribution to the character of the conservation area sufficiently important to warrant the making of a Tree Preservation Order.
Designation of a Conservation Area requires the production of a Character Appraisal and a Management Plan. These are always significant documents, clearly written and well-illustrated. Interested readers can find links to them and to boundary maps for each of the ten conservation areas at:
Old Harlow Conservation Area
The Old Harlow Conservation Area, designated in 1969, is the oldest. The special characteristics which led to its designation are described as follows:
- Old Harlow conservation area is a unique place in a unique setting. Nestled on the edge of a post-war New Town, Old Harlow is the original settlement of Harlow. It developed from the medieval period as a market place and this is strongly reflected in the characteristic street pattern and historic buildings found on Market Street, Fore Street and the High Street and in the historic hamlet of Mulberry Green.
- Old Harlow grew during the Victorian and Edwardian era with the opening ofthe Great Eastern Railway in 1848. This resulted in attractive homes along Bury Road, New Road and Park Hill which are of significant historic and architectural interest.
- Though the setting of Old Harlow has radically changed over the last 50 years, it remains distinct from Harlow New Town and has retained much of its original market town character and provides an irreplaceable example of Harlow’s pre-New Town character.
The character appraisal can be found at:
Harlow Garden Village Conservation Area
The most recently designated Conservation Area is Harlow Garden Village.
The designation is based on two considerations: the general characteristics of the area, and the features of the individual houses. The general character of the area is defined by some typical Garden Village features including front garden hedges and lawns, grass verges along the kerb and a significant 'group value'; deriving from a high degree of architectural similarity. Some of the houses have distinctive steep pitched roofs (especially between 19 to 53 The Hill and 4 to 30 St. John's Avenue), others have distinctive sweeping gables (especially between 2 and 60 Manor Road) and some display a distinctive palette of beige, yellow, pink and light blue pastel colours, especially on Manor Road and The Hill, Many still have their original doors and canopy porches.
Harlow Garden Village is a legacy of the entrepreneurial spirit of two members of a Harlow family, and their dreams of economic success. glory that some of them hoped to realize. Basil Scruby lived in a half-timbered house in Fore Street where he established a short-lived doll factory. One of the dolls can be seen in the Museum of Harlow. In the 1920's he and his brother Charles unveiled an ambitious plan to develop a new housing estate on a large site bounded by what is now Station Road on the west, Priory Avenue on the north, Old Road on the east and the backs of the properties along Bury Road on the south. Significantly they referred to their planned estate as a Garden Village. Readers familiar with St. John’s may be interested to know that the Churchill Park development was referred to in the same way.
The Garden City movement was a reaction against the environmental and social problems of large, industrialized English cities. The idea was popularized in 1898 by Ebenezer Howard with the publication of his book Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path To Real Reform. The basic Garden City design principles required that homes be laid out a densities lower than the urban norm, so that their occupants could enjoy sunlight, fresh air and garden space - things that the residents of Victorian terraced houses lacked.
The Scruby proposal for Harlow was one of the many attempts to cash in on the commercial appeal of the idea. The intention was to create a rural idyll that would attract city dwellers who wanted to escape from London. Then, as now, the proximity of Harlow to London was an important part of the advertising, and the reason that the Great Eastern Railway agreed to have its name associated with the project. The Harlow Estates Company was set up to market building plots along St. John's Avenue, Manor Road and The Hill. The project was not a success, and only a few houses were built. However Harlow Council recognized the uniqueness of this chapter in Harlow's development history, and designated a Conservation Area to protect it.
The character appraisal can be found at: