Harlow and Gilston Garden Town: “Holding developers to account”

News / Thu 11th May 2023 at 07:02am

EAST Herts Council recently agreeing to approve 10,000 homes as part of Harlow & Gilston Garden Town is just the first step on a long journey from planning to delivery.

Part of this process includes a panel of independent industry professionals reviewing the design plans brought forward by HGGT’s Gilston area developers, Places for People and Taylor Wimpey.

On behalf of the Harlow and Gilston Quality Review Panel, chair Peter Maxwell has written the following blog on the role the panel will play in ensuring that all Garden Town developments meet the high quality standards of the project’s five council partnership.

“Probably the best way to describe the Quality Review Panel is as a critical friend to the Garden Town project.

The panel provides professional advice across a wide range of sectors, from architecture, urban design and landscape, to transport, sustainability and stewardship.

Essentially, all the elements that the five council Garden Town partnership are trying to deliver to the highest possible standard.

Importantly, we also have people who either work or live in Harlow or just outside the town on the panel. Having that local knowledge and knowing the character of a place is key for our commentary and feedback on a scheme’s development.

The panel does not make decisions, but it offers impartial advice for the people who do. We’re not the planning committee but we aim to give a level of assurance and support to local authorities, elected members and existing residents across the area, holding developers to account and getting what has been promised.

Quality Review Panels aren’t a new thing or exclusive to the Harlow & Gilston project.

Traditionally, these have been used in the larger cities around the country, as they’ve seen the most amount of development and building in recent years.

And with that level of construction comes significance.

However, significance is not just about the size of the development but also the impact that a series of buildings or neighbourhoods can have on a wider area.

And there is a real potential for this within the Garden Town, especially in the Gilston area where 10,000 new homes have an agreement for approval from East Herts Council.

The impact isn’t just on those that are going to be living there, but the surrounding areas that have existing residents and communities.

These people will all be interested in making sure Harlow & Gilston is as good as it can be and that it lives up to expectations, and that’s exactly what the Quality Review Panel will advise on.

The Garden Town partners have done a lot of good work already to highlight the key principles that the new developments need to do, how they’re impacting the economy and regeneration, what homes are provided and the type of places that are created.

What is also critical is how people will move around the Garden Town and what choices people have in terms of active travel, bus use and travelling without a car.

We’ll ask developers questions, such as how their plans might impact local roads and solve some of the problems that already exist.

We also ask them about their proposals for the future.

How they will improve walking, cycling and public transport and what are the new connections they will provide, for example bridges, into town centres.

None of these things can be an afterthought.

The key principles of why people move to an area and why they like living in a place have strong foundations in Harlow already. You can cycle or walk anywhere and there’s lots of green space, so there are big benefits already that can be improved upon over time.

The way Gibberd designed Harlow means it is capable of growth and that needs to be done sensitively and with modern living in mind.

There are different pressures now, such as housing affordability and climate change, plus other things that need to be brought into full focus across the development.

I’ve been on the Harlow & Gilston project for five years and through a number of election cycles and what’s impressive is the support for growth regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum.

This is a long project and it’s going to be delivered over 20 or more years. Five local authorities wanting to work together over that time brings a strength of conviction and will be great for the overall outcome and new places created.

For Gilston, the villages will be potentially delivered in more than seven construction phases, and it’ll therefore come forward in chunks over time.

So, it is not just the homes under review, but how the place grows incrementally, its new streets and public spaces, community uses and workplaces, and how they are connected via public transport.

They need to be fit for the future and adaptable to future changes.

What’s also important is that there’ll be multiple points in the future where local communities can see what’s being proposed and feedback on it.

The Quality Review Panel will be seeing the same plans, probably a little bit earlier, and shaping the proposals before they come out for community consultation.

“So I hope that local people get involved when the opportunity arises and help us define the future of the Garden Town”.

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8 Comments for Harlow and Gilston Garden Town: “Holding developers to account”:

Kim Oconnor
2023-05-11 18:59:53

This should never of happened in first place, theses plans are going to destroy out beautiful River stort valley, its wildlife habitat s, and Ecosystem s, and thousands upon thousands of beautiful mature trees. The River stort valley is NOW the only peaceful place we have here in Harlow, this vandalism is a disgrace. Developer's have had there way for to long. We frends of Latton lsland, gathered 6,000 signatures against this monstrosity, stop Harlow north, the Aliance party gathered all most 1,000 , protest campaigning. To no avail, to no avail surrounding villages, to no avail, it all fell on deaf ears. They don't want to see us, or hear us for that matter.

2023-05-11 19:56:38

The whole scheme has been bulldozed through, without any consideration for people's opinions. Any so called consultation was just a public relations exercise, so they could say people were consulted.

Ashley Ward
2023-05-12 04:09:23

The land concerned has been owned for decades by a pension fund and earmarked for development, but for all the ‘right’ reasons it never received permission. Like a child who pesters for a sweet, asking for the umpteenth time, the parent has acquiesced without realising the consequences. Take each point in turn: Access TO the finished development will require significant highway infrastructure from/to the A414 and M11, plus Harlow, S’worth and ‘Stortford. This will require significant civil engineering challenges and costs. How will access to public transport (particularly the rail network) happen? The environmental footprint of future houses (I assume) includes PV roofs, A/GSHP, grey water use, reed bed filtration, solar-gain orientation of properties, ‘zero-carbon’ building materials and practices, permeable road surfaces, attenuation ponds and mature tree planting to minimise rainwater run-off (to name but a few measures) - if not, how on earth will the development meet challenging environmental targets. I am expecting ‘edible planting’ of all public areas as well. Schools, leisure and health. Whilst laudable to build such facilities, what thought has been given to h the staffing, management and integration of these vital services? You cannot have a “build and they will come” approach. Have MATs, PHCTs and the like, inputted, advised and agreed? How will the community be self-sustaining without large commuter traffic and external governance? What local business engagement has taken place and what micro/SME infrastructure will be created? How will 6000 homes make a positive impact to wildlife (how will air quality improve? Lighting pollution minimised? Noise interference kept to a minimum?) in the area. What ecological studies have been carried out? What nature reserves, corridors and areas of special interest will be retained/made? How will minimum levels of LA,-owned social and affordable housing be ensured within a commercial development? I have lived in Stanstead Abbotts for nearly 50years and know the challenges of the Harlow/Gilston/Eastwick area very well. I am struggling to see how the council and developers will be able to answer every question completely whilst competing commercially. Corners will be cut, promises broken and standards lowered (imho). There needs to be a clearer, more coherent plan made that is sustainable in every sense.

Neil WarnerBaker
2023-05-12 10:30:50

Ashley Ward. You sum up the situation very well.

2023-05-12 13:58:45

Really good point Ashley Ward

2023-05-12 13:59:30

Ashley Ward Really good point

2023-05-12 13:59:58

Really good point made by Ashley Ward

2023-05-12 21:15:42

Another Greenwash ; the clue is in how this group is described "Critical FRIEND"s. Should be "independent " experts, however hggt's own consultants and the Environment Agency already pointed out destruction of ecology of Stort Valley ecology, higher risk of flooding, more sewage discharges into Harlow homes, and it's clear that Pye Corner village is very adversely affected by the consequent diversion of a majority of A414 traffic into the east of the town to collide with that from J7a creating congestion, more air pollution and more frequent gridlocks. All at Harlow's cost with no benefits. The writing is on the wall as Harlow is degraded voters like those in East Herts have shown throwing out Conservative councillors replacing them with Green party people.

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