Field Trip to Harrow Area

July 10, 2007

On Thursday, 4th July, members of the project team undertook a trip to the Harrow area. Beginning from Harrow-on-the-Hill tube station we explored the centre of Harrow and continued on foot to Wealdstone via Station Road. We then returned to Harrow via Walton Road, passing the Kodak plant and cutting through residential areas. At this point the party (a little footsore) went their separate ways. I continued the walk to South Harrow via Harrow on the Hill.

Harrow (a ‘metropolitan centre’ according to the GLA) is clearly the largest and busiest of the three town centres visited (Wealdstone and South Harrow are ‘district centres’ while Harrow on the Hill is a distinct local centre). There are a large number of things that could be said so I will restrict this post to my impressions of how the centres related and some straightforward comparisons.

Although quite close in terms of distance (approximately two miles from South Harrow to Wealdstone) all three larger centres are on different underground lines while Harrow and Harrow and Wealdstone are on different overground lines, (South Harrow is a tube station only), suggesting that typical movement between these centres must be by car, bus or foot. The hub of local bus activity is the interchange at Harrow.

Harrow is separated from Wealdstone (to the north) by the railway and a large residential area. Relatively direct pedestrian movement between the two is possible along Station Road but there was only limited evidence of this. Station Road itself is where the smaller and independent shops tend to be located (in addition to a large Tesco) but these dwindle the further one gets from Harrow. By contrast, Harrow’s pedestrianised high street area (St Ann’s Road) and its adjoining shopping centres feature more chain stores in larger units. To the south, Harrow is separated from South Harrow by the topographically distinct settlement of Harrow on the Hill and areas of open space to the east of West Harrow. It seemed likely, given the quietude of Harrow on the Hill, that pedestrian movement between Harrow and South Harrow, such as there is, tends to follow the major traffic routes either side of the Hill rather than take the shorter (but steeper) route over the top. My impression was that buses and cars were the main modes of travel between the centres since pedestrian movement was limited beyond the immediate area of Harrow Town Centre (where multi-story car parking is available).

Wealdstone and South Harrow are centres of a similar scale with the majority of retail activity along single stretches of main road (the A409 and A312 respectively). Both were busy – especially at the end of the school day. Wealdstone is at something of a crossroads between two important roads running north-south, east-west – a junction which separates the high street from the overground/underground station. The High Street in Wealdstone is a relatively narrow single carriageway and perhaps for this reason feels more locally embedded than in South Harrow where the wide, dual carriageway, high street (Lower Road) suggests the presence of urban-scale movement. By contrast, the centre of Harrow feels like two centres, divided between the classically suburban pedestrianised shopping malls and the more diverse, traffic intensive area around Station Road. There was considerable evidence of ethnic diversity in all centres but from the variety of foods available on the high street this appeared highest in South Harrow.

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