Draft Harlow Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document

Ended on the 31st January 2011
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(12) 1.1 Harlow: The Challenge

1.1.1 Harlow Council with Harlow Renaissance have prepared this guidance for Harlow to set out design principles to guide future development in Harlow and to encourage a design-led approach to development.

1.1.2 The challenge for this Design Guide has been to learn from what works best in Harlow, to help shape future change whilst remaining true to the distinctive features that give the town and its neighbourhoods their sense of place.

1.1.3 This is a consultation draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which the Council is seeking views on. Following the consultation process, Harlow Council intend to adopt the Design Guide as a SPD to support the saved policies in the adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan (2006). The guide will also provide a platform to underpin the policies being developed in the emerging Local Development Framework. Compliance with the guidance will be a material consideration in determining planning applications submitted to the Council.

1.1.4 The planning policy context in relation to the Harlow Local Plan is set out in Appendix C and is referenced throughout the Design Guide.

1.1.5 This Design Guide aims to provide general guidance on the form that new development should take. This addresses a range of development types from new urban areas through to residential extensions. It also covers the design of employment areas and strategic and local green spaces.

1.1.6 Whilst guidance for the Town Centre will be covered elsewhere, this guide will also help shape change within existing neighbourhoods, local centres and ‘Hatches’ including infill and redevelopment and provide guidance for householders’ alterations to their homes.

1.1.7 The test of whether this Design Guide is successful will be in the quality of development that comes forward in Harlow. This Design Guide sets a challenge to developers and their designers to produce something better than the current norm. To achieve this, design must be influenced before it arrives on the development control officer’s desk. The aim of this guide is to inspire designers to rise to the challenge of better design for Harlow.

1.1.8 If places are carefully designed to include high quality buildings and public spaces, that respond both to the needs of their inhabitants and the wider community, then an environment will be created that people from all walks of life will choose to make their future in.

(3) 1.2 The Vision

1.2.1 The development of Harlow commenced in 1947 following its designation as a new town. The town was masterplanned by Sir Frederick Gibberd creating a strong urban identity and sense of place.

1.2.2 Many of the guiding principles from Sir Frederick Gibberd’s masterplan were enlightened and remain relevant today. These are described in more detail in section 3. In recent years Harlow, in common with many towns, needs to address the communities changing expectations relating to housing needs and access to facilities and services, as well the impact of rising car ownership.

1.2.3 Harlow now has an opportunity to change perceptions of the town and re-establish itself at the forefront of the urban planning agenda. Combining Sir Frederick Gibberd’s founding principles with contemporary urban design ethos, Harlow should develop as:

  • A place of attractive, self-sufficient, walkable neighbourhoods;
  • A place shaped by its landscape and natural setting. A green place where pedestrians have easy access to well connected open spaces, areas of nature conservation importance and the countryside beyond;
  • A place that benefits from an efficient, strategic movement network that is not solely dependant on private cars but makes provision for public transport, walking and cycling as viable choices;
  • A place that is built to the highest standards of contemporary design and performance; and
  • A place with attractive and distinctive neighbourhoods.

1.2.4 Harlow should be an attractive place in which to live, which offers a wide choice of well designed buildings and spaces that meet the lifestyle needs and choices of all the community, now and in the future.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1: Sir Frederick Gibberd

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2: Photo of house interior in Harlow in 1966

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.3: Original Harlow New Town plan (from 'The Design of Harlow', F. Gibberd, 1980)

(1) 1.3 Background

1.3.1“The design and physical layout of many of the New Towns, although desirable at the time, now militate against the sustainable living communities which are required to meet current and future needs”

(Government response to the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee report: ‘The New Towns: Their Problems and Future’, 2002)

1.3.2 Since the founding of the post-war new towns, the urban environment has been subject to changing social, economic and political demands. Today people are more mobile, due to the increase in wealth and car ownership. This generates a complex range of trip movements, rather than people simply accessing employment, shops and services that are closest to home. Urban design needs to respond to the impacts of these changing lifestyles in order to provide well designed and attractive living environments.

1.3.3 Due to the increasing awareness of the environmental and resource impact of contemporary lifestyles, current policy and guidance focuses on sustainable environmental design as well as architectural merit.

1.3.4 The outcome is a greater understanding of the importance of place-making and the promotion of the urban design agenda. This has lead to a much-improved awareness of how to create more successful, inviting, safe and distinctive places.

1.3.5 The Harlow Design Guide aims to ensure that the positive elements of the new town vision and local distinctiveness is retained, whilst promoting appropriate contemporary urban design and securing sustainable development.

1.3.6 This guidance has been assembled through a series of stakeholder workshops involving Council officers (including representatives from neighbouring district and county authorities), plus experts and advisors covering regeneration, planning policy, architecture and urban design, development control, highways and transportation, heritage and conservation, accessibility, crime and fire prevention, landscape and biodiversity, and housing (amongst others). This means that the people who best understand the challenges facing Harlow were involved from the start in generating this guidance and this document assembles their collective wisdom on how best to guide future development (see Appendix A for a summary of the process for producing this Design Guide).

1.3.7 The language of the guidance is intended to empower users with the terminology to understand and describe the components of place and to support design appraisals of future proposals. The Guide is supported by a glossary of terms in Appendix E.

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