Back in 2016, Harrow was abuzz with the news that the existing Civic Centre on Station Road was to be relocated in order to make way for a project signalling a new, brighter future for the borough.
The announcement was met with approval, particularly as it involved the regeneration of some of Harrow’s most troubled areas and, a tentative date for completion was set at 2020. The ambitious plan for Harrow, which is said to have a price tag of a cool £1.75 billion, is, for many, long overdue as some areas of the borough are plagued by crime.
Bringing Harrow back to life
The Civic Centre, which was constructed between 1970 and 1972, has long since been considered outdated and uninspiring and so, following the regeneration plans, Harrow’s social media was awash with speculation. It was announced that prestigious design company, Gort Scott, would be leading the design of the new area which is said to include council chambers, residential apartments, leisure facilities and new connections to nearby Byron Park.
Unfortunately, excitement regarding the project has recently stalled with the news that it is ‘very unlikely’ that the move to a new Civic Centre in 2020 will be possible. In the true spirit of politics, Harrow’s two main council leaders have been quick to blame the other.
The Labour administration has been heavily criticised for what many see as their failure to deliver on a promise. Conservative Councillor, Stephen Greek, has even gone as far as to say that the planned new green ceramic Civic building will be an eyesore and, will ‘stick out like a sore thumb’.
In response, Labour Councillor, Graham Henson, admitted that there are delays to the project but, retorted that, ‘We’re not going to take unnecessary risks just to move something forward.’ Mr Henson went on to explain that the fact that Harrow does not have the budgets of some other councils, means that, ‘we have to make sure that it is completely viable, before we start.’
The Building A Better Harrow site records council and community meetings regarding the regeneration plans and states the aims as:
- 21st Century Civic Centre – lean and efficient
- New central library and arts provision in the town centre
- Up to 5,500 new homes within the action plan area, adding to town centre vitality
- Up to 3,000 new jobs within the action plan area
- A revitalised evening economy in the town centre, with a strong leisure, cultural and restaurant offer
- Grange Farm estates renewal (Homes for Harrow)
- Two new primary schools
- District energy programme
- Linked pocket parks and new urban spaces, with high quality streetscape running through the centre and along Station Road
- Positive marketing programme for the Heart of Harrow
- Renewed, accessible commercial gateway to the town centre through Harrow on the Hill Station
As great as it all sounds, the delays to the project has caused some disillusionment in the borough with some speculating as to whether the planned work will in fact happen at all. According to Harrow Council’s website, the current status of the project is ‘Planning consented’, which means that the development concept has been given the green light but is, by no means, guaranteed.
One of the project’s most stringent critics, Conservative Councillor Paul Osborn, described the project as ‘A staggering indictment of the current administration,’ adding that, ‘There is no business plan in place, no robust figures and almost all of the schemes cannot possibly go ahead on their current basis.’
At present, we can do nothing but wait for further updates on regeneration project – in the meantime, Harrow’s skyline changes almost daily as block after block of flats appear with impossible speed.
By Nicci Rae
(Image Credit: architectsjournal.co.uk)