At the Board meeting of Harlow Renaissance tonight, in the public session, we had a really interesting report back on a piece of work we have been doing looking at the proposed Junction 7A of the M11 motorway.

The study showed exactly how gridlocked Harlow can become and where the key pinch points were, it also showed that a single lane (not my preference) relief road and fresh junction to the north of the town would provide immediate relief from the traffic. Interestingly the study showed that by 2021 the new road could be at 90% capacity – clearly showing how much such a change is needed!

My preference is of course for a dual carriageway relief road, which would not reach capacity as quickly, but of course would be more expensive. Talking of expense, the study also showed that a new junction would be no where near as expensive as originally thought, costing somewhere in the region of £15 Million, which whilst still being a lot of money is considerably more affordable than previously quoted figures.

The junction is still a long way off but this study is a key step on the road to achieving it, and the start of a very good case to lobby the government with!


What a day. I said at the beginning of the week that it was going to be a roller coaster, culminating in Friday.

Every month, I try and take at least one day “off” work to spend in Harlow. Its a killer for the Holiday record at work but very worthwhile and means I am able to deal with those issues that cant be done over phone or email, or in the evening.

The morning starts with a nice lie in (if you call nice being jumped on by your two year old, excited that “daddy hasn’t gone to work!” and then breakfast with the Wife and daughter (which is rare in itself) marred momentarily by the fact that our heating seems to have broken down.

On to the office (leaving the indomitable Mrs J to deal with heating situation) and the first hour is taken by paperwork with my hardworking PA, responding to invitations, letters and the like and making sure the diary till Easter is “right”

Then its time to stop and have a meeting with the Chairman of the local Hospital trust, who wants to talk to me about how far they have got with their Foundation trust application. It’s always good to hear that the hospital are doing well, and important that leaders of big organisations in Harlow take the time to sit down and have a coffee and “catch up” – sharing intelligence and just briefing each other pays dividends in the end.

Then on to a meeting with the Head of Regeneration, an area that I have put top of the councils priorities. As you will have read me say before, Harlow is aging all at the same time, and many bits of it really do look over 60 years old. We need to regenerate the “experimental planning” of the 50’s and 60’s now, or risk handing little on to the next generation of use.

Lunch is outside of the civic centre, as I want to discuss the Conservative party plans for fighting the by-election, and rightly we are not able to use the council building for party political reasons. It may be a small difference to some but it’s a big issue for me, so I eat just a few steps away from the civic.

At half two I put my leader of the council hat back on and it’s down to “the grove” for the end of Harlow’s first ever Youth Conference, organised by the Youth Council. I am there to participate in a Question Time style panel session, with The Labour MP, the youngest Harlow Councillor Joel Charles, a police officer and a youth worker amongst others; all chaired by the Chairman of the Council Tony Hall. The questions are superb, showing a lot of thought, and range from “Wouldn’t it be better to legalise drugs and remove dealers from the streets” to “Why do the papers only report bad things about young people? We are not all bad”. The latter question prompts some considerable anger from the young people in the audience, members of the youth council, the young Essex assembly, the princes trust and representatives of each school council, are all very upset that the local press didn’t turn up to see or report on the event, and conclude that the press only like bad news stories about young people. Overall it is a wonderful conference and I hope the first of many!

From there it is a dash back to the civic centre (my thanks to Cllr Charles for the lift!) and a meeting with the Chairman and Chief Executive of Harlow Renaissance Limited, to clarify some challenges I set them recently as part of their ongoing business plan. Its a good meeting, and I always feel excited when we talk about regeneration of Harlow.

From there its off to the Latton Bush centre, which Harlow conservatives have hired for the Evening for a party meeting followed by the AGM of the party.

All in all a good but exhausting day. My wife jokes moments ago – “did you have a good days holiday?”

Would it be too sad to say “yes”……?

OMG (for those of you not able to speak TXT that’s Oh My God!) what a week!

Monday is never my favorite of days…. alright its my least favorite of days… but this morning I feel like I am about to be hit by a hurricane.

My week consists of four very busy days of work in my full time job in the Health Service, onto which I am piling:

  • Audit and Improvement Committee meeting on Monday.
  • Policy and Resources Committee meeting on Tuesday.
  • One to One with the Chief Executive of the Council on Wednesday &
  • Meeting with the Chairman of the Local Strategic Partnership (Harlow 2020) and Chief Executive of Rainbow (she is double hatted) also on Wednesday.
  • Full Council on Thursday.
  • Full day in the Council on Friday, including a meeting with the Chairman of the local Hospital trust, the Harlow Youth Conference and a meet with the Chairman and Chief Exec of Harlow Renaissance…. to name just three of the many things during the day.
  • Friday night – no not a relax, but not Council business, I have a special Executive Meeting of the Party, followed by the AGM of the Party… and at some stage I have to write my report of the year as Deputy Chairman Political of the Harlow Conservatives.
  • Weekend consisting of campaigning for the By-election, we have an action day on Saturday if anyone wants to help beat the Lib Dems in an election.

Mrs J (the other Councillor Johnson) is understandably not chuffed, although we do get to have dinner together on Friday, since she is also going to be at both the Special Executive and the AGM…. I feel takeaway beckoning already!

Weeks this busy are not the norm, but spare a thought for my daughter whom I will carve out as much time as possible for during weeks like this, and who (bless her) already understands that daddy has three different offices to work from!

Tonight saw me at a meeting of Harlow Renaissance Ltd (HRL) of which I have recently been elected Vice Chairman.

HRL has been running since July 2006 and is focused on driving the regeneration and growth process in Harlow. Their key role is to deliver a range of renewal programmes in the short to medium term whilst having one eye to the longer-term growth opportunities of the future.
the company brings together four key members:

Harlow District Council
Essex County Council
East of England Development Agency (EEDA)
Homes and Communities Agency

As well as having people like The Government Office for the East of England (GO-East) and the Chairman of Harlow’s Local Strategic Partnership, Harlow 2020, and four independent Directors bringing a range of additional expertise all under the Chairmanship of someone from the private sector.

Its a lot of expertise to assemble around one table and should theoretically be able to bust through any problems holding up the regeneration of Harlow.

At the moment they are working on spending the “Growth Area Funding” that Harlow has received, with regeneration programmes for Old Harlow, Clifton Hatch, Prentice Place and Staple Tye.

The evening was good, with lots of work to get through, but the most interesting thing was a presentation from British Waterways.

The thrust of the presentation was to ask us think differently about the river Stort. Most councils etc see rivers as boundaries but we were encouraged to think wider about the Stort, as a key feature of the town, and as a gateway.

The comment that really hit home, was when talking about the fields around the river, near the A414, which for those of you who know Harlow well are the ones that flood all the time; So the chap from British Waterways said “why not flood them properly and make the area a water complex” When you think about it homes and businesses and leisure around water is very popular and doing something like that to this area could really make an iconic statement about an entrance to Harlow.

What do you think? Can every bit of river around Harlow be as well presented as loved sections like Parndon Mill (below)?