Harlow and Gilston Garden Town: A design for life or a life of strife?

General / Fri 12th Nov 2021 at 09:26am

THE DIRECTOR of Harlow and Gilston Garden Town, Naisha Polaine has worked in housing all her professional life.

From being an area director for Homes and Communities Agency to being a non-executive director of housing developer, Hill Group.

But perhaps the greatest challenge is her present role.

In the first minute of this twenty minute interview, Ms Polaine describes the role she has in delivering 24,000 new homes from Gilston, Latton Priory and Water Lane as well as regeneration of key area such as the town centre of Harlow.

We try and get a look at the plans in the context of Harlow as well as what is known as the London, Stansted, Cambridge corridor.

We try and establish whether their relationship with Harlow Council and a number of their other partners is all that it should be.

In this piece we try and get a picture of what (if anything) this could mean for the people of Harlow?

A town with the lowest average income in the east of England and 11,000 residents on universal credit.

Then again, I am sure all this was a similar subject of this reporter’s essays on the London docklands in the early 1980’s!

Is it simply a lot of expensive homes that are out of reach of the vast majority of the people of Harlow?

One bedroom flats in Wych Elm are going for £200,000 a pop.

We try and establish when the first turf will be turned and the first set of keys will be handed over.

We also get an assurance that Harlow won’t be changing its name.

In the end, for all the urban regeneration speak and sustainable communities jargon, is Ms Polaine a glorified estate agents “selling” bricks and mortar to whoever has the cash?

Or will history judge her as head of a visionary project that in many years to come changed how Harlow looked and was looked upon?

In the end, whilst there is traffic chaos in Latton Priory, Water Lane and Gilston, will it be the people of Harlow who suffer and when told about multi-million infra-structure benefits, will say “where?”…

You decide.

But in the end, and as we say in the interview, perhaps the HGGT is not for this 59-year-old journalist, but for his four grandchildren. Maybe they are the recipients of the vision and he has his binoculars the wrong way round.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

22 Comments for Harlow and Gilston Garden Town: A design for life or a life of strife?:

Rob Hughes
2021-11-12 10:09:37

Life of strife we do not have the infrastructure to build another massive housing village again on green belt. Damaging the environment more congestion pollution which at times is so inconvenient.

Kim Oconnor
2021-11-12 10:37:27

Please don't destroy our river stort. Its the only peaceful, beautiful place we have . They speak of well being. They speak of saving our green belt. They speak of our wildlife. If this goes a head it will all be lost to this concrete monstrously. X

Neil Warner Baker
2021-11-12 11:05:05

Interesting Interveiw and Naisha Polaine puts it so well when she 'lets the cat out of the bag' and she points out Hggt is only 40minutes 'down the road' to Cambridge. (Not 20minutes by train I should add!) All this talk of Sustainable transport, local employment, modal shift..blah blah..(hot air for Talking Heads). it simply is a lot of expensive homes that are out of reach of the vast majority of the people of Harlow, but cheap housing for the Middle classes prepared to commute to work in London and Cambridge..Completely against the principles Gibbard and of Garden Towns

2021-11-12 11:51:37

Wealthy, expensive housing is being built around the town, the centre with its 'pooper' housing will be left, a classic donut- development. The town centre will not be developed beyond a bit of 'glitter' being scattered about and the more wealthy people living in the outer 'donut' will shop in anywhere but Harlow town centre. Meanwhile they want to destroy the Stort and severely diminish our area of natural beauty and more importantly habitat. The housing crisis is mentioned, but no mention of the immediate climate crisis.

Joss Noone
2021-11-12 12:04:57

I'm very surprised that no mention ( by name anyway) was given to what has been delivered by hggt already... The Embarrassment that is Gilden Way.. to the sufferance ofthe people of Old Harlow and behond

Nigel Montford
2021-11-12 13:55:45

Naisha Polaine - conflict of interest??? Non Executive Director Hill Group UK Feb 2020 - Present1 year 10 months Non-Executive Director of the Hill Board - an industry recognised leading housing developer and builder providing quality, distinctive new homes across London and the South East. Award winning 5 Star HBF customer satisfaction with a turnover of over £500m and 600 dedicated passionate staff. Proud to be part of TEAM Hill! Natasha was also part of the West North-West Cambridge board when the FT wrote this article: - https://www.ft.com/content/11aa5745-192f-38af-9b2c-66931642359a

2021-11-12 15:41:34

No longer can we get an appoint to see a GP hospital waiting lists local schools at capacity and so why not consider building more homes because the people who come to live in them won’t need any services !!!

Nicholas Taylor
2021-11-12 16:08:03

This interview is interesting on a number of levels. Firstly, the private sector has never built this country out of a housing crisis, the planned homes will be built over many years so that demand always outstrips supply, thus keeping house prices going ever higher. When asked, Ms Polaine never answered if there will be any council homes built as part of the HGGT, because the fact is, there won't be any. Secondly the five Councils provide services in different ways and with different priorities, just one small example, how they collect and dispose of rubbish collections, so depending on where you live in this new 'town' people will be getting different services. Thirdly, those residents living in the new estates around Harlow will not be paying any Council Tax to Harlow Council to enable it to provide services like Pets Corner and The Playhouse. Fourthly, I doubt that the addresses of those homes built to the North of the town will be called Harlow, which together with point three and the fact that the nearest home to one in Harlow will be about half a mile away, means that the residents of HGGT will never see themselves as living in one community. Finally, no explanation is given about how people living in say Perry Spring, Brockles Mead, indeed any of us already living here will benefit from these proposals, we have suffered from a poor public transport system for years, ever increasing waits at Doctors surgeries and at PAH and the towns roads becoming more and more congested. This Plan is all about housing greed not housing need, profits for developers and trashing the Green Belt and the Stort Valley

2021-11-12 18:21:31

And the power to stand up for Harlow is in the hands of the Conservative majority on the planning committee about to meet on the 17th November: Harlow gets no benefits from the hggt development we get the pollution, traffic congestion, all of the surface water and sewage thrown in our direction ( more frequent and contaminated flooding) and our natural nature reserve the Stort Valley trashed. It could be different, there's alternative routes and strategies that are greener and at a less cost to the environment and public purse that as shown in the planning submissions, hggt have dismissed out of hand. How Harlow Council fell for this deal is beyond belief and the Conservatives seem to be embracing this pig in a poke. That said many of those Cllrs who have actually taken the time to visit the Valley have said they now support Robert Halfon's suggestion to go back to the drawing board, but there's the strong possibility that Cllrs won't have.the sense to stand up for Harlow and will simply to some kind of party line in support of Conservative Epping and East Herts Conservative Councils, East Herts will be laughing all the way to the bank, they'll get all of the Council Tax and government grants and Harlow no benefits. The hggt community will not shop here and simply travel through to Epping Tube station. There's a distinct danger that Harlow and the wildlife in what will cease to be the tranquil Stort Valley will be literally sold down the river so the speculative property developers that have made such large donations to the National Conservative Party can pockets a fortune.

2021-11-12 20:19:41

Naisha lives in an area where property is 80?times the average salary, no wonder hggt thinking is on a different planet. Affordable housing at 80% of market rate, social at 60% illustrate the fundamental issue, these rents are unreasonable and amongst the highest in Europe. Private House prices and rents never go down. We need a return of Council Housing with rents at no more than 16% of average salary in the region. We need lots of Council housing but recent surveys reveal that with the population falling and thousands of empty properties coming to light so the 300 000 new builds every year seems a gross over calculation. If people want to buy their Council houses then there's no reason why they shouldn't pay the full market rate with the proceeds ring fenced to build more good quality Council houses. Change can be difficult especially when it's destructive of the environment or forces people to live in flats and high density housing. Sir Fred got it pretty well right and none of the plans for Harlow reach the green bar set then. The Hggt Neighbourhood plan to which Naishsa Polaine refers specifically distances hggt from Harlow, saying that they don't wish the development to reflect "urbanised" Harlow. However, Hggt isn't needed to attract graduates to Harlow, with the Kao Science Park and the successors of Public health England Laboratories coming here and GSK nearby there's likely to be more graduates working here as in Cambridge. Why did Michael let Naisha off the hook as far as transport and environment? Hggt pfp are greenwashing and in denial that these aspects of the development are the most damaging to Harlow. A few donated electric cargo bikes don't cut it. The answer to the question about what's the future of transport that Naisha couldn't envisage, is obvious, hydrogen: Hydrogen vehicles on low cost or free and frequent public transport, electric bikes and small bubble cars. This would eliminate the need for a second crossing, the Eastern Crossing, immediately release money that would have been spent on said crossings (£94 million) to pay for such transport and improvements to cycling and walking routes, the kind of routes that were paramount in the thinking of the Harlow garden town and prevent the decimation of the River Stort Valley.

2021-11-12 22:23:27

https://www.ft.com/content/e36cec28-7acd-4154-b57d-923b5d1610da The Times. Indicates that what's driving developments like hggt is not a need for housing but making profits from overseas investors.

Judith sullivan
2021-11-12 23:30:19

Absolutely outrageous. Support from the good will and aspiration from the public. What a load of crap. Everyone I know disagrees with this enormous development. What about the travelling showman and traveler's site in high wych ? This isn’t mentioned is it !!!! Destroying a place of natural beauty and habitat for the wild life. She lives in the clouds who does she think she is? Would she like to live next door to that site ? Noooo is the answer. Plus the big road going over the stort. I just can’t believe all the blurb she saying in this interview.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-11-13 10:25:04

Lets not forget, Naisha is a paid employ of HGGT, it's a bit like a legal team employed to defend someone who clearly is guilty of an offence but they have to convince a jury the person is innocent. She talks about public engagement, but this has been woefully short when it comes to those of us living in Harlow. Our Council did little if anything to promote dialogue with it's residents, it legally did not have to do so as all these homes will be built outside of the towns borders and of course as we all know, the same thing goes for Epping Forest DC and East Herts DC, who had no legal obligation to consult what us residents in Harlow because we live outside of their borders. The creation of HGGT was done without any consultation with residents in the Harlow bit of the title. Only the Harlow Alliance Party objected to much of what is going on now, don't be fooled by Politicians of other Parties who are now holding their hands up in mock horror, whether about the homes to the south of the town or the Stort River Crossing.

2021-11-13 10:57:57

Harlow "mock horror" can be turned into positive action by Cllrs if they block the development of the Central Crossing and stop the building of the Eastern Crossing to save our town and river Valley environment. HGGT and the five local Councils should then go back to the drawing board especially with respect to transport, perhaps getting government green funding that other councils have accessed called "Active Transport" and rethink the pollution issues associated with water, sewage and flooding. Hggt pfp needs to be green rather than greenwash, Councils need to insist that a substantial number of Council houses are built within the hggt development at Gilston. Meanwhile Latton and the other developments that will be as leaches on Harlow need to be reappraised in the light of Climate change.

Angela Kurton
2021-11-13 12:07:28

The trashing of the Stort in Harlow is utterly unacceptable, totally inexcusable. We need this environment, as local residents and also as global citizens. We are in the midst of a global biodiversity slow-motion car crash, and this sacrilege is being visited on us even as COP-26 enters an extra unscheduled day. This woman should be ashamed of herself for the power she wield so unwisely.

Ros Deer
2021-11-13 17:24:59

Naisha Polaine says HDC require 30% of new HGGT housing to be 'social' (60% of market rent) and 'affordable' housing (80% of market rent). In contrast, HGGT as part of the 'golden triangle' (bio-medical/research centres) ie London, Cambridge and Oxford, will be"20 minutes down the road" from Cambridge. Unsurprisingly, only vague references to transport modes & carbon emissions and absolutely nothing about destroying the Stort Valley and Green Belt. It's clear what Naisha Polaine's priorities are. What are HDC's priorities?

Nicholas Taylor
2021-11-13 18:03:24

The Conservatives have always been clear on this matter, they support development to the North of Harlow but that of course in turn requires the building of extra capacity in respect of transport in and out of Harlow. There are no votes to be gained by raising objections, unlike to the South of the town, where new homes in the EFDC area are as close as 12 feet from the gardens of homes in Harlow. Here they have pledged to stop these developers but have done very little since coming to power in May, probably some three years to late, to make any difference. HDC have been taken for mugs by East Herts and Epping Forest DC, much of their housing development being dumped on Harlow's borders, whilst getting all the financial benefits.

Lewis brand
2021-11-13 21:55:56

“We’ll connected to nature” your words… did you know there’s already a road existing next to your proposed crossing, Literally you don’t need to walk a stone throw away to be “connected to nature” that’s without, smashing nature to bits to line your own pockets, everyone knows this is about profit not nature or for the people of harlow. Less roads more public transport. Harlow residents will not benefit, after the stort river thats East Herts territory which is where the houses will be built, fact is, East Herts will claim all the benefits I.e council tax, but will be a burden on harlow services which are already under enough pressure, I.e doctors, hospital, dentist, roads like we don’t have enough traffic already. SAVE OUR STORT!

David Forman
2021-11-14 03:31:34

Natasha talks from 9minutes 8seconds about the "transport strategy being predicated really on a significant modal shift." This means reducing car journeys onto something less polluting. However, if one examines the Agenda Reports Pack for Harlow Council's meeting on the 17th you will discover evidence that the developers in the early stages were not that interested in reducing car journeys.You can see this in paragraph 4.10 on page 20: "There was a feeling that the crossings should be conceived and delivered as urban and landscape interventions that will entice pedestrians and cyclists and become successful places. The Panel felt that the landscape thinking was not fully formed, that this represented a significant gap and it was concerned at the potential loss of vegetation. There was a concern at that early stage that the proposals appeared to prioritise car travel." You can download the reports pack on this Harlow Council link -https://moderngov.harlow.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=141&MId=1441 There you can see on page 37 the concerns about "potential for peat deposits of regional importance to be present and for evidence of Mesolithic to Late Bronze Age settlement to be present within and beneath the peat." Experts say "the condition of these deposits remains untested, but could be of ‘medium to high significance’." The following paragraph 9.11 states: "The proposed development is such that it should be regarded as likely to have an impact on heritage assets of archaeological interest." So not just ecological, which you can see in paragraph 9.12 on page 37 which states: "Consideration has been given to the loss of river floodplain habitats due to the proposed widening of the road. This equates to approximately 1.33ha of habitat loss. The crossing proposals will have a significant and permanent impact and therefore the highest priority should be given to securing demonstrable and sustainable benefits to ensure these can be adequately mitigated and addressed at the earliest stage of overall development;"

2021-11-14 08:22:01

The 60% 80% market rate rents was explained NO Really Affordable Council housing .A true balance was explained this is NOT a Balance .Even the housing need register is not Accurate people are taken off list.there is NO equality for the real needs of really affordable rent.This is shown over the changing planning legislation for a private developers benefit charter.I also have been a housing campaigner for the last 30 yrs.The parliamentary APPG (All Party Political Group) for council housing sees the need for council housing,The Local Government association (LGA all party's. Local Councils) latest report says we need Council housing .It now costs more in housing benefit than what it would cost to build Council homes.We have family's now living in Permitted developments ,that are actually illegal living conditions.Harlow Defend council Housing Harlow and District Trades vUnion Council.BUILD COUNCIL HOMES IT IS SOCIALLY AND ECONOMICLY CORECT>

Paul McLintic
2021-11-14 19:39:11

I read Michael Casey's introduction and the 20 or so comments by various people before watching the interview. It's hard to relate the introduction and the comments with what Naisha Polaine actually said. She describes and perfectly credible and integrated vision for the development and regeneration of the town. Harlow is a small district with multiple neighbours and if it is to become a vibrant and thriving town again it needs people like this director of this organisation, HGGT, to help build the vision and pull it all together. Let's not call this as a "design for life versus a life of strife", which trivialises and characterises this as a competition rather than a shared endeavour. What we need is a heroic and herculean combined effort to make a better future for ourselves. I'd much rather see effort going to support it and not to throwing rocks at it before it's had a chance to show what it can do.

Nicholas Taylor
2021-11-14 20:29:43

Paul ... by the time it has had a chance to show what it can do, it will be to late. These villages may well be nice places to live but by their very nature are they just large housing estates similar to Church Langley, which was described by developers at the time as a village Everyone of working age will have to commute to work and shop. Car companies are are not spending billions of pounds developing new cars in the expectation that more of us will be using buses in the future. As a result of this, the roads in and around Harlow will become even more congested and damaged, to the financial detriment of Harlowe Council and it's residents and Essex CC. No Council homes despite the evidence produced in the Local Plans of the Councils involved, promises of a good bus service, but we all know what we have had to endure for years, a hospital which is already on it's knees. This is all about housing greed not housing need.

Leave a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *