A major garden town development project in East Herts is still moving forward despite the coronavirus lockdown.
In January 2017, Harlow and Gilston was designated as a Garden Town by the Ministry for Homes, Communities and Local Government and will see the area completely transformed.
The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town will bring brand new housing, schools, job opportunities as well as improved infrastructure and town centre enhancement and regeneration.
The development will be carried out over the next 15 years or so, with East Herts District Council, Harlow Council and Epping Forest District Council all collaborating with one another.
They are also being supported by Hertfordshire County Council and Essex County Council.
Like many other development proposals, questions were raised over whether these would not be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, the Garden Town’s planning application is still going through the assessment process and the teams are all working successfully from home.
So what exactly will this project entail and how will it change the surrounding areas in both Hertfordshire and Essex?
Here is everything we have so far on the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town project:
What is the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town project?
In April 2018, it was announced that East Herts District Council, Harlow Council and Epping Forest District Council had an “ambitious and exciting project being planned”. Over the coming years, we will see Harlow’s town centre and suburbs completely transformed, as well as seven new villages being built in the Gilston area of East Hertfordshire to create a Garden Town. Both Essex and Hertfordshire County Councils are assisting in the project which will create a fantastic and improved place for new and current residents. The project will take place more than the 20 years or so and will see the area completely changed.
How will Harlow and Gilston being changed?
One of the major changes coming to Gilston is the creation of 10,000 new homes across seven new villages.
3,000 of these new homes will be built by 2033 and the remaining 7,000 will be built from 2033 onwards.
There will be a mix of owned, privately rented, social rented, affordable and shared ownership homes and they will cater for the needs of all residents at all stages in life and all abilities. Housing densities will be broadly between 25 and 55 homes a hectare.
The roofscapes will all be varied too, with terraced rooflines being avoided on high ground so that the horizon remains green and natural.
Traveller sites will be considered across the Garden Town in accordance with authorities’ Local Plan requirements.
The villages and neighbourhood centres will also have primary schools including early years facilities.
The district and county councils will work together to identify where best to place new secondary schools which will be close to primary schools, community services and green spaces.
New health centres
A new health centre will be provided and Princess Alexandra Hospital will potentially be redeveloped or moved to a new site.
Opportunities to establish an innovative health care campus will also be encouraged.
Green open spaces and landscapes
All of the development planned for the Garden Town will respond to the landscape and local topography, so that it sits comfortably in terms of scale, massing, density and orientation.
In the early stages of the development, green infrastructure including planting and drainage will happen so that it matures as places are established.
The Green Wedge network around the Garden Town and in between villages will be expanded to help connect out to the wider countryside and Stort valley.
Areas of the green belt will also be improved with investment in public access, landscape and biodiversity enhancement, and the creation of country parks where appropriate.
Playing fields, adventure spaces, play areas, running trails and bridleways will also be located throughout the development to support new and existing residents.
The new development will be designed to overlook streets, open spaces and the Green Wedge network.
The developers will also ensure that their designs are flexible, adaptable, and incorporate cutting edge technology in the fields of low carbon, low energy consumption, low water demand and water conservation.
The River Stort – which separates Hertfordshire from Essex in the area – will help to characterise the Garden Town to benefit resident’s physical and mental health.
The Stort Valley Park will form an important leisure, recreational and ecological asset at the heart, helping to unite the new villages with the existing town and its new neighbourhoods.
Improvements to Harlow Town Centre
Harlow’s centre will become a vibrant, diverse and attractive destination at the heart of the Garden Town, the application states.
The centre will have high-quality homes, shops, workspaces and leisure facilities and will generally be transformed.
To also help with regeneration and change public perception of Harlow’s centre, a programme of temporary uses and pop-up activities will be promoted in vacant shops and public spaces.
Connected villages and communities
All villages and neighbourhoods are being designed with an open street network that integrates with surrounding areas. Cul-de-sac developments with little connectivity across them will be discouraged from the Garden Town.
Village centres will be located at the meeting point of local routes and both villages and neighbourhoods will be integrated with the wider network of surrounding settlements.
New crossings over the River Stort will be built to connect the Gilston villages to Harlow and the villages and neighbourhoods will have a range of new shops and businesses.
The streets themselves will include interactive public art, generous amounts of public seating and level access for mobility scooters and pushchairs.
The heritage of Harlow as a New Town will be identified and celebrated to share the rich history of the area with residents and visitors.
Bus Rapid Transit
A new approach to sustainable travel is being taken for the Garden Town.
Bus Rapid Transit services will run on routes that connect key destinations including local centres, schools, transport hubs, employment areas and the town centre with dedicated lanes or priority at key junctions.
The stations, which will be within a ten minute walk of all homes, will be high quality with live updates, free Wi-Fi and pay before boarding services.
An app will allow you plan your journeys and look at how often the buses are and how the service is doing that day.
UK Innovation Corridor:
The new Garden Town will lie at the heart of the London Stansted Cambridge UK Innovation Corridor.
The developers of the Garden Town believe it will have the ambition and capability to support significant economic growth in the region.
Based on existing and planned industry, the Garden Town will also deliver growth across a number of sectors in the corridor such as Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering and ICT, Digital and Tech.
Harlow is already the home of fibre-optic technology and so the Garden Town will champion the latest information and communication systems including connecting all new development through ultra fast fibre broadband.
The location is said to help attract businesses and all work-spaces will be well-designed and accessible.
What is happening with the project during the coronavirus lockdown?
While the coronavirus lockdown has majorly disrupted most of the country over the past few months, the plans on the Gilston Garden Town Project are still going ahead.
Guy Nicholson, Independent Chair for Harlow & Gilston Garden Town, commented: “Harlow & Gilston Garden Town is a long term project and the Garden Town team switched to home working as soon as the lockdown period commenced to ensure work continued across the project.
“The Gilston village’s Planning application was submitted prior to the lockdown and, led by the East Herts District Council Planning team, the application is currently going through the assessment process. “Prior to the lockdown, the Government announced £172m for infrastructure investment for the Garden Town that will connect Harlow and Gilston and planning is well underway to realise this investment.”