The battle to save the countryside around Harlow

Can we really afford to lose countryside like this?

The concept of Harlow and Gilston Garden Town has been around for a long time. Originally tagged Harlow North, the proposal for some 10,000 new homes on greenfield land on the Essex-Hertfordshire border has preyed on local residents’ peace of mind and quality of life for years.

Now, it seems, the planned ‘garden town’ could be far worse than anyone – at least outside developers’ or planners’ offices – had ever envisaged.
Harlow and Gilston Garden Town could ultimately grow to 23,000 homes if the three local authorities behind the scheme – East Hertfordshire District Council, Harlow Borough Council and Epping Forest District Council – have their way.
A press release has highlighted plans for 16,000 homes to be built by 2033, with another 7,000 coming to follow.
A spokeswoman from East Hertfordshire has stated that that the widely-used figure of 10,000 homes refers only to the part of the garden town to be built within Hertfordshire. The other 6,000 are targeted for Harlow and Epping Forest.

The new figure came with the announcement by the three local authorities of a panel to push through the planned development.

The accompanying press release says: “Harlow and Gilston Garden Town is an ambitious and exciting project being planned and delivered in partnership between Harlow Council, East Hertfordshire District Council and Epping Forest District Council, with support from Essex County Council and Hertfordshire County Council.

“The Garden Town provides the opportunity to create fantastic new communities, delivering 16,000 new homes by 2033, with a further 7,000 new homes planned to be built beyond that.”

Campaign groups in north Hertfordshire and Essex have united in condemning the plans.

Kevin FitzGerald, honorary director of our neighbours at CPRE Hertfordshire, concurred: “If it succeeds, this plan heralds the death knell of the rural character of a swathe of Hertfordshire.

“Beautiful villages, supposedly protected by Green Belt, look set to be swallowed up by the urban sprawl of a neighbouring town.”