Suzy Stride's Reaction to the refusal of the planning application for out of town M&S store
The Councillors on the planning committee, with representatives of all three political parties, made a unanimous decision to reject the M&S proposals for another out of town food store.
The planning committee have to make decisions in accordance with planning policy, centred around ‘Town Centre First’, in the best interests of Harlow residents. While the decision of the planning committee on Wednesday night may not have been what M&S wanted, that is not what the planning committee was asked to consider.
When many people think of Harlow we think of it as a "new town" with its shopping centre at its heart. Like most communities the town centre is an important part of Harlow's sense of community.
The store has been in the town centre since 1969 and so it's been a familiar face and "anchor store" for Harlow for almost as long as the town's been around.
When I meet residents many express their concern to me about the disappearance of some shops and the effect on the general appearance of the town centre. . We should never forget that Harlow town centre is more than just a collection of shops, it’s a focal point, a meeting point and it was in the past a source of pride. It is literally the centre of our community. It’s also easily accessible for those less mobile and a source of employment.
The owners of the Harvey Centre and the Water Gardens are investing in the future of Harlow, with a new cinema, food outlets, and the future redevelopment of Little Walk. With continuing development at Fifth avenue, New Hall, and the Enterprise Zone making good progress, Harlow has a bright future.
I'm very concerned and disappointed that Marks and Spencers have attempted to blackmail Harlow by saying they will leave the town if they don’t get what they want.
I'm encouraging Marks and Spencer's management to enter a proper dialogue with staff at the site and the wider community who have been poorly consulted and who are worried about their future. I would also encourage them to properly investigate the many options for a town centre presence.
It’s disappointing that the local MP has chosen to take the side of a supermarket and instead of publically encouraging them to invest in the town centre, as many others have and continue to do, he has instead focused his efforts in trying to get local councillors to ignore planning rules.