Harrow Council fears the town centre may spiral into decline unless its shops and restaurants are improved.

In a recent report discussed at a council meeting on Thursday (Sept 18) last week, the borough's range of shops were slammed along with Harrow's 'absence' of cultural facilities.

And reeling from a spending reverse by cash-strapped shoppers the centre's future now hangs in the balance as planning applications are put on hold due to the credit crunch.

The report reads: "Although one of London's largest shopping centres and the most important employment location in the borough, Harrow town centre is not fulfilling its potential as a Metropolitan Centre. The range and choice of shops is limited, there is an absence of civic and cultural facilities, the evening economy caters for a narrow age-group and the public realm is outdated and uninspiring."

Rents in Harrow are below those in nearby Watford and Brent Cross which indicates there is higher demand for shops in these locations.

Steve Kent, manager of St George's Shopping Centre, said: "One of the issues with the town centre is that there are multiple landlords which makes it difficult for people to come together. The more national high street names will raise the town's performance. If it was full of pound shops people would see it in a different light. There are parts of the town which are slightly off-pitch and these do have a negative effect. But in the current climate letting premises is very difficult.

"Harrow does have a loyal customer base but we want to make sure we are fitting the shoppers' profile. If the town centre could be filled out, put a bit more weight on so to speak, it might get some stronger tenants."

Councillor Bill Stephenson, leader of the Labour party, believes more focus should be placed on regenerating the town's cultural facilities and improving smaller shopping areas.

He said: "We have been pressing on about this for the past two years. Instead the council supports high-rise residential developments which we totally oppose. Gayton Road should have a library, there should be more performance space, maybe an ice rink or even a bowling alley. We don't want Harrow just to be cafes and pubs. We also want to revive smaller shopping areas like Hatch End and North Harrow. But it needs to have cross-party support. The future of Harrow is too important to get mixed up in politics."