The proposal came as the Government announced support for the first ever Garden Villages, 14 in total, of between 1,000 and 10,000 houses. Harlow and Gilston is one of three new Garden Towns supported. The others are in Aylesbury and Taunton.
East Herts. District Council put in a successful bid to fund the new "Garden Town", which the Council included in its draft District Plan. The announcement heralds the potential loss of a particularly attractive area of Green Belt. Gilston village and the neighbouring hamlet of Eastwick, with a current parish population of 228, would be swallowed up. The local community have been fighting against development in this area for many years. It appeared that their campaign had been won when plans for development north of Harlow were rejected as part of the defunct East of England Regional Spatial Strategy.
Ironically, in drawing up his Masterplan for a New Town at Harlow, Sir Frederick Gibberd, referred to the "Hertfordshire Hills" as an important backdrop for the area.
CPRE Herts. Planning Manager, Steve Baker, says:
"The District Plan proposal, strongly opposed by local communities and CPRE Herts, has not been submitted to the Government yet, and would then have to be formally examined by an independent Planning Inspector at a Public Examination of the draft District Plan, and included in the final Adopted District Plan, before it could become part of statutory Planning Policy. The Garden Town proposal should be considered in this context."
Kevin FitzGerald, Honorary Drector of CPRE Hertfordshire, adds:
"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."