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How Garden Communities create thriving places to live

Adrian Bohr

It has been 75 years since the first Garden City was developed and just as the original Garden Cities were planned in post-war England in the ’50s, where the best of town and country were combined, we have a once in a generation opportunity to marry the two once more.

At Places for People, we take our responsibility to deliver successful thriving Communities with the utmost seriousness. Through our approach, we commit to not only delivering beautiful homes, in quality developments but genuine social impact that meets the needs of local people and improves healthy outcomes.  From small housing developments to large-scale regenerations, we tailor our homes to the needs of the local Community, take responsibility for our environmental impact, and put People First to build a sense of Community. This is at the heart of what we do and we’re already implementing on several projects, including the 8,500 -home new garden community we’re bringing forward at Gilston in Harlow.

Gilston Park forms part of the extensive growth plans around Harlow, situated to the north of the town and consists of six distinct but connected new villages.  Creating these new villages in the Hertfordshire countryside, with the convenience and opportunity of proximity to Harlow’s economic opportunities and infrastructure, will transform an area that is in desperate need of more housing. 

Understanding what makes ‘village life’ so special sits at the heart of creating a garden community and that is why in addition to delivering almost 1,700 affordable homes; two new secondary schools; up to six new primary schools; community and leisure facilities and 88ha of enhanced habitats – to name a few, we’re also committed to working closely with the community to design these assets and facilitate activities to maximise human connections, enabling residents to know their neighbours, find friends and build networks - because the more times residents bump into their fellow villagers, the more the community will thrive.

From the masterplanning process to the on-going stewardship of assets and the community, Places for People are committed to maximising the social impact shaped from the new communities. At Gilston Park, we will usher in a forecasted £6bn economic impact, 2,000 new jobs in construction and future uses and £1bn+ of new and improved infrastructure.   The development will also deliver 7,000+ opportunities for young people and a £600,000 contribution through our community investment fund. 

In simplistic terms, for every £1 spent on the construction, the development will deliver a social profit of £1.80.

A stewardship trust will be formed that will robustly and effectively manage the long-term ownership, operation and management of community assets to ensure they’re looked after in perpetuity, whilst also enabling cohesive and inclusive placemaking and community development.   The structure will ensure community ownership and control of assets and enable residents of all villages to have material representation via village and community forums and with places on the board. 

We also create homes in Communities with strong sustainable values at their core, to ensure significant biodiversity gains. Our goal is to create and manage happy, healthy and inclusive Communities for everyone. 

Whilst this is not just our moral duty to deliver, the enchantment of the environment is central to the key principles of the Garden City Movement.  No scheme of this size happens without challenges but by working with the local council we have created a well-rounded, ambitious outline scheme striking the careful balance between managing the significant Gilston development whilst preserving and enhancing its landscape and habitats.

On a very human level, that focus has also meant understanding existing residents’ concerns, and ensuring that the benefits that come with this development are gained and shared by residents old and new.

We are proud to have seen the resolution to grant outline planning for Gilston in February of this year. This is just the beginning. Now we have our pieces of the jigsaw, we continue masterplanning in earnest, looking forward to delivering key infrastructure and new homes for those who need them most.

Adrian Bohr, recently spoke about creating thriving places to live as part of the Building Garden Communities Conference.