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Gilston Park developer welcomes 10,000 homes backing from East Herts District Council

The developer bidding to build 10,000 homes in the East Herts countryside around Gilston, Eastwick, Hunsdon and Widford has welcomed the district council’s decision to include the scheme in its draft preferred options to meet housing need to 2031.

Written by SINEAD HOLLAND

Mary Parsons, group executive director at Places for People, said: “We welcome the news that the Gilston area, which includes the Gilston Park Estate site, is one of the locations East Herts District Council [EHDC] considers appropriate for large-scale planned development.

We are now reviewing the documents that the council has made available. We believe Gilston Park Estate is the most sustainable development location in the district to help meet long-term housing needs and also support the regeneration of Harlow.

— Mary Parsons, group executive director at Places for People

In its draft policy document, released earlier this month and due to open to public consultation next month, EHDC estimates that 15,000 new homes will be required in the next 17 years.

It is currently recommending that 4,634 of these be built in Stortford, but argues that this will not satisfy the town’s demand, opening the door to the Gilston Park plan to make up the shortfall of at least 748 as part of a much larger extension for Harlow.

The draft document says: “Housing in the Gilston area is required for development in order to address unmet housing needs from villages in the centre and east of the East Herts area as well as from Bishop’s Stortford, to provide flexibility to the housing strategy for East Herts and guard against under-delivery elsewhere in the district and to help avoid future incremental housing development to the settlements elsewhere in East Herts.”

While campaigners from Stop Harlow North, who have been battling the principle of the development for a decade, believe it is “unnecessary, unsustainable and undemocratic”, East Herts planners are now describing the provision of an extension to Harlow in tandem with new East Herts homes as “strategic scale development”.

The authority argues such a massive project “will enable a comprehensive approach to the planning of infrastructure and the building of sustainable communities”.

It is anticipated that construction could begin “towards the beginning of the 2021-26 period” so just 3,000 would be completed by 2031, “with the site continuing to supply a pipeline of future housing to address local need going forward from 2031 onwards”.

Places for People envisions “a necklace of villages” set around Gilston Park and says: “We are drawing on the character of the Stort Valley, the natural ‘seam’ between Herts and Essex, to create places that feel like they belong; places that people are proud to call home.”