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Plans to build a new town of up to 10,000 homes have moved a step closer to becoming reality.
A funding application, known as an “expression of interest”, relating to the Gilston Garden Town has been jointly submitted to central government by three councils.
The development, known colloquially as North Harlow, is a part of East Hertfordshire District Council’s district plan which is set for public consultation next month.
Campaigners argue the funding application prejudges the local plan before the public has been fully consulted.
But East Herts council leader Linda Haysey said securing funding would allow the authority to maintain an element of control of the direction of the development.
Spike Hughes, a Gilston parish councillor and member of the Stop Harlow North campaign group, criticised the decision to put in the application before the consultation process.
“To be honest this is all par for the course. We have morphed from a Conservative party which in 2010 said this would never happen on our watch. They have done an about turn,” he said.
“I think when we had a Labour government they were very happy to fight it and now it’s a Tory government they are happy to go along with it.”
Mr Hughes also said the area’s “creaking” infrastructure could not cope with additional homes and criticised the decision to build on the green belt.
He said: “The infrastructure in the area is creaking already, what will happen if they start building houses before the infrastructure goes ahead.
“It’s just a fundamentally wrong place to put a large number of houses.”
Mrs Haysey said the funding application would support the plan and that “details” could be sorted out at a later date.
She said: “[The infrastructure] is part and parcel of looking at the detail. Particularly in Gilston the roads and lorries on the A414 are an issue but this is detail that needs to be looked at.”
The proposed development would include 10,000 homes, with 3,000 to be built before 2033.
There is also provision for an expanded road network, two new secondary schools and a range of community facilities.
The expression of interest was submitted in September by East Herts, Harlow Council and Epping Forest District Council.
A spokeswoman for East Herts said: “While the expression of interest has been submitted in advance of the examination of the district plan, it does not circumvent the plan process.
“Rather, a successful bid would assist the three authorities in undertaking further, more detailed analysis of the needs of the proposed development.
“The government has indicated that the number of bids that could be supported is limited, so the sooner an Expression of Interest is submitted, the more likely it is to succeed.”
Jon Clempner, the leader of Harlow Council, said: “Harlow Council has clear ambitions to both regenerate and transform Harlow and believes growth particularly to the north of Harlow could help to achieve that.”
He added: “However, expressing an interest at this stage is purely about helping all Councils to undertake further and more detailed analysis of the needs of potential development in and around Harlow.”
Councillor John Philip, of Epping Forest council, echoed the sentiment of East Herts and said the expression of interest would assist with additional research.