YOUR edition of July 17 carried a story regarding a proposed scrutiny review of proposals for development of Harrow town centre. It focused on an anguished Bill Stephenson, leader of the Labour group, complaining about the scrutiny review being dropped.
A few facts may be helpful.
As leader of the council, I am intent that there be the fullest discussion of all aspects of Harrow's development.
I wanted, and would still like, the overview and scrutiny committee to consider the future of Harrow town centre. It was due to delays and machinations by Labour councillors that time was lost in instituting a focused review in time for input to the Local Development Framework, a major live consultation on Harrow's future shape and development.
I intend to have a report brought before cabinet in the autumn, updating residents on current progress, and, crucially, the plans in place to ensure services such as police, schools and health, as well as traffic impacts, are covered.
Labour councillors, including Mr Stephenson, were part of an extensive discussion of Neptune Point, deferred at the last strategic planning committee. Bradstowe House, one of the developments currently in process, was passed under the previous Labour administration. Gayton Road was an integral part of that Labour administration's plans, with heights far higher than is now the case. The Labour administration wanted to use the funds arising from this for a performing arts centre/library, whereas this administration decided to plough the money into a major cross-borough enhancement of our sports, leisure and arts facilities.
The Old Post Office site development is yet to come before the strategic planning committee. Whatever development is proposed is up to the applicant, a private company which owns the land in question. As Mr Stephenson well knows, the timing and approach it adopts is up to it.
This administration is keenly aware of the long-term importance of town centre development. That is why we are putting over £4million of improvements into enhancing the area, with brand new seats, lights, paving and a most attractive fountain in St Ann's Road. We are also intent on getting the balance right between the need for 4,000 new homes in Harrow over the current 10-year London Plan, where growth should be located, how much should be affordable, how we can best protect the green belt and suburbs, and how we can best accomodate a 21st century town centre adjacent to the historic jewel of Harrow on the Hill. This is not easy stuff. It is not helped by short-term cheap posturing, since we are talking about long-term changes. I expect better from the new leader of the Labour group.
COUNCILLOR DAVID ASHTON
Leader of Harrow Council