Work to regenerate Harlow town centre into an ‘urban forest’ could be underway 12 months, the local council has heard.

The town centre masterplan, that sets out regeneration plans to remodel the town centre to create new shopping, leisure, hospitality and arts, was passed by the council last night.

And after years of delayed promises, cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Dan Sword said he anticipated work to be underway in 12 months.

The town centre planning framework, which was adopted at the council’s cabinet meeting on March 24, is the first step of a new three-part plan to drive forward the much-needed regeneration and transformation of Harlow town centre.

Read more: Harlow town centre masterplan up for approval

Step 2 scheduled for autumn 2022 will be the production of a brief to attract a development partner to work with the council while the final step in spring 2023 will be the procurement and engagement of a development partner to deliver an agreed town centre development programme.

Cllr Sword said: “This is a significant moment for the future of Harlow town centre because this evening we are passing the first of three steps on delivering on the regeneration and rebuilding of the town centre which has been promised for so long but not delivered.

“The masterplan passed tonight changes the game. It means for the first time ever we will have an element of control over the town centre. The longstanding excuse that there are many landowners and therefore we can do nothing will dissipate with the passing of this masterplan.

“But we are not just giving the planning department material consideration for applications we are setting out our bold new plans to rebuild Harlow town centre.

Harlow Councils cabinet meets on March 24

Harlow Council's cabinet meets on March 24

“We are not rehashing the same old plans and initiatives that have gone around the town centre like a bad small for the past decade, fermenting failure and lack of delivery, we are now setting out a one way road map for regeneration.”

Among the design principles in the masterplan is to transform Harlow from a “grey urban centre” to an “urban forest” with extensive tree planting.

It also has highlighted priority projects to create a northern transport hub at Terminus Street and a hub for leisure and hospitality with spaces to encourage outdoor dining and trading at Stone Cross Square.

The creation of a northern, town centre garden complementing the Water Gardens is being envisaged for West Square while the Playhouse Quarter is being designated for arts and culture.

Read more: Harlow: Masterplan divides town centre into separate hubs

The Broad Walk is being earmarked for retail and commercial activity with the infrastructure to support traditional outdoor markets and street trading.

Cllr Sword added: “I genuinely want you to imagine in just 12 months time we will report to the same cabinet meeting that we have a fully designed town centre with a fully mapped out programme of delivery, financed secured and a development partner on board and further construction work underway.

“In 12 months times we will be making good on our vision to make Harlow town centre one of the best in the country with new clean green development, cutting edge design and delivering a new town centre with high end shops, bars restaurants cafes and live music.”