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Harlow & Gilston Garden Town

In order to help meet the challenging level of housing need in East Herts, the council is proposing a new development of 10,000 homes on an area to the north of Harlow, known as the Gilston Area. In addition to new homes, the site will deliver a significant amount of new infrastructure including schools, health facilities and parks. Substantial financial contributions will also be made to off-site infrastructure, such as new roads and an upgraded junction from the M11.

The Council and developers are working together, in collaboration with the local community, to ensure that we deliver a development of the highest quality and that is reflective of Garden Town principles.

Please check in here for updates and news in relation to the Gilston Area.   

Gilston Area Concept Framework Consultation

We're running a consultation to provide residents and stakeholders the chance to provide feedback on the draft Gilston Area Concept Framework. The Concept Framework sets out what the development could potentially look like and will be used to to help create more detailed plans. This consultation will help support the proposed allocation of the Gilston Area within the District Plan.

More information is available on our Gilston Area Concept Framework Consultation.

Project updates  

January 2017

East Herts council, along with Harlow and Epping Forest councils, were awarded a government grant of £500,000 to support proposals for a Garden Town at Harlow and Gilston. The Garden Town project will see approximately 16,500 new homes built in Harlow and the surrounding area by 2033, including around 3,000 homes in the Gilston Area.  The grant was provided to help fund the significant amount of technical work required to deliver this ambitious project.

Gilston Area community engagement workshop 1- Introduction to the Gilston Area

The first community workshop was held with attendees representing East Herts, the County Council, the developers and community representatives.

March 2017

The District Plan was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on 31st March. The District Plan seeks to allocate sites for development up to 2033 and beyond. The Gilston Area forms a key part of the overall development strategy for the District. More information, including the forthcoming examination process is available on our District Plan Examination pages.  

East Herts, Harlow and Epping Forest Councils received a further £175,000 from the Government for the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town project.

April 2017

Gilston Area community engagement workshop 2- Governance

The second workshop looked at the principles of good governance for the Gilston Area.

May 2017

Gilston Area community engagement workshop 3- Design Concepts and constraints

The third workshop focused on design issues and constraints to development such as landscape and heritage assets.

East Herts, Harlow and Epping Forest Councils have commissioned ARUP to provide programme management support and to establish a governance structure for the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town.  In addition, Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners (AMUP) have been commissioned to focus on 'visioning' and the preparation of a design charter. The commissioning briefs for the two projects can be viewed below:

June 2017

Gilston Area Community engagement workshop 4- Green and Blue Infrastructure

The fourth workshop looked at green and blue infrastructure in the Gilston Area.

June 2017

Gilston Steering Group Meeting 1

July 2017

Gilston Steering Group Meeting 2

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Gilston Area?

The Gilston Area is a site that the Council is proposing for future development. It forms part of the emerging East Herts District Plan.

How many new homes are being built?

The Gilston Area will provide 10,000 homes to help meet the challenging level of housing need in the District up to 2033 and beyond.

Will the homes meet East Herts housing needs or those of Harlow?

All 10,000 homes will help meet the needs of East Herts.

Will there be any affordable housing?

Yes. The amount and type of affordable housing will be addressed through the planning application process. However at present it is assumed that around 30% of the total development will be affordable (approximately 3,000 homes).

What size houses will there be?

There will be a mixture of flats and houses, ranging from one to five bedrooms, reflecting the level of need in the District. However, the precise mix will be agreed through the planning application process.

Will there be supporting infrastructure as well as housing?

The Gilston Area will provide a significant amount of on-site infrastructure to support the development. This will include:

  • New schools. The Gilston Area will deliver sufficient early years, primary and secondary school places to meet the full needs of new residents.
  • Health centres including GP services, pharmacies and dentists.
  • Leisure facilities including pubs, restaurants and cafes.
  • Retail units
  • Parklands and other green spaces.        

Will the roads in the area cope with the extra cars?

East Herts has worked closely with neighbouring authorities as well as Hertfordshire and Essex County Councils and Highways England in order to ensure that the strategic road network can cope with proposed growth, both within the Gilston Area and other sites in and around Harlow. The advice received from the County Councils and Highways England is that the road network can cope with proposed development up to at least 2033 if certain upgrades are made to the highway network. These upgrades include:

  • A new Junction 7a on the M11
  • Upgrades to Junctions 7 and 8 of the M11
  • Increased capacity on the existing Stort Crossing (Eastwick roundabout to Burnt Mill roundabout)
  • A second Stort Crossing running from Eastwick Road to River Way.
  • Junctions on the A1184 in Sawbridgeworth.
  • Upgrades to the Amwell roundabout on the A414. 
  • Upgrades to various roads and junctions within Harlow, some of which have been completed already or are currently underway.

After 2033, further upgrade works might be required and the Council will continue to work with the relevant bodies to identify these and make sure they can be delivered.

Work will also take place to make sure that 'rat-running' is discouraged on the rural lanes surrounding the site.

What about more sustainable forms of transport?

New and extended bus services will serve the new development which will take passengers to Harlow and further afield.

The site benefits from its close proximity to Harlow Town train station. The Council and the developers have worked with the Train Operating Company throughout the planning process. There is potential to increase capacity by adding extra carriages, while the proposal to four-track the line between Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne will also provide benefits.

Encouragement of walking and cycling will form a key part of the development. In particular there is an aspiration to create sustainable transport corridors running north to south and east to west through Harlow. More work will be done on this initiative over the coming months.    

Will Rye Meads Sewage Treatment Works be able to cope with the level of development?

Rye Meads serves a wide catchment covering large parts of eastern Hertfordshire and west Essex. Thames Water has advised that Rye Meads has sufficient capacity to cater for all the growth proposed in the wider area up to 2024. Through their usual planning processes, Thames Water will consider what further investment will be required to provide capacity beyond 2024. The Council will continue to engage with neighbouring Councils, Thames Water and the Environment Agency to address this issue.

Won't wildlife be harmed?

Part of the area is currently used as agricultural fields which, due to modern farming practices, do not provide high quality habitats for wildlife. As part of the Gilston Area development, hundreds of hectares of parklands and other managed open spaces will be provided that have the potential to increase biodiversity. In addition, there are proposals to enhance the environment of the Stort Valley to the south of the development site.   

How will the issue of flooding be addressed?

Areas that are at risk from river flooding will not be developed as part of the development - these will be used for recreation and wildlife. The risk of surface water flooding, caused be an increase in impermeable surfaces, can also be reduced by introducing sustainable drainage techniques that gather excess water. This issue will be addressed through the planning application process.       

How will the infrastructure be funded?

The developers will fund all of the infrastructure to be provided on-site. They will also be required to make significant financial contributions towards other infrastructure schemes off-site like highways projects. The required level of funding will be set out in a legal document known as a Section 106 document. This document will also identify when infrastructure should be delivered, taking account of the number of homes built at any given stage.

The remaining funding for off-site schemes will come from a variety of sources including: financial contributions from other development sites, funding from the two County Councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships and funding from Government.

Why is the Council proposing such a big development in this location?

The benefit of proposing a large new development like the Gilston Area is that it maximises the amount of new infrastructure that can be provided. For instance, by proposing a series of smaller sites, the significant new areas of parklands that are proposed as part of the Gilston Area would never be provided. It is also better to plan for a single large development, rather than proposing a smaller site and adding new developments to it over time.

Will the Gilston Area end up being bigger than 10,000 homes in future?

No, land surrounding the development will continue to be protected. In addition, the ownership of the land immediately to the north of the development, which will accommodate much of the new parklands and open space, will be handed over to a Community Trust or equivalent mechanism. This will mean that the local community will decide on what the land is used for in future, rather than developers or the Council.  

Why is the Council proposing to build on Green Belt land?

The Green Belt is a valued resource for many residents in East Herts. Through various local plans over many years, the Council has always adopted a strategy in which the Green Belt is maintained and protected as far as possible when considered in light of the need to provide for the District's housing needs. However, the housing need at present is very challenging: at least 16,390 homes between 2011 and 2033. The level of need is also increasing.

There are very few brownfield sites within the District that are available for development. Where these do exist, they have been allocated for development within the District Plan. However, in order to meet the significant housing needs that exist, Greenfield sites are required. The Council could have chosen to locate the vast majority of homes in the northern part of the District, outside of the Green Belt. However given the lack of access to services and facilities, and access to sustainable modes of transport, it is not considered that this would be an appropriate approach, and such a strategy would therefore not be in conformity with national planning policies.

There is a common misconception that Green Belt land is 'sacrosanct' and that it should never be developed. In fact this has never been the case. National policy is very clear that Green Belt should only be removed through a review of the local plan, and only in 'exceptional circumstances'. It is the view of the Council that the severe level of housing need, and the requirement to provide development in sustainable locations close to services and facilities, represents 'exceptional circumstances'.

Can the local community influence what the development will look like?

The Council has already started discussions with local community representatives. However, there will be a number of opportunities for the wider community to get involved over the coming months, both in the planning application process and masterplanning. This page will be updated as events are publicised in due course.

When will building commence?

The Gilston Area forms part of the Council's emerging District Plan. The Plan is currently at the Examination stage where an independent planning inspector will decide whether it is fit for purpose. This will take a number of months, and if successful, it is unlikely that the District Plan will be adopted by the Council until Spring 2018.

In addition, a great deal of work is also required in terms of masterplanning and the planning application process. It is therefore unlikely that development will start before 2021.

What is the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town?

Garden Towns and Villages are part of the Government's drive to increase the level of house building across the country. East Herts, working jointly with Harlow and Epping Forest Councils, applied to Government in order to seek support for a Garden Town covering the wider Harlow area (the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town). The Garden Town initiative covers Harlow and areas surrounding the town within East Herts and Epping Forest Districts. Overall it is expected that around 16,500 homes will be built by 2033, including approximately 3,000 homes in the Gilston Area within East Herts. The remaining homes in the Gilston Area will be built after 2033.

The Government decided to support the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town in January 2017. The Government's support will provide the three councils with funds to undertake technical work, and will also provide access to other funds that may assist with things like infrastructure delivery.

Updates on the Garden Town project will be provided on this webpage.