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A major urban extension in Hertfordshire

Design South East – Highsted Garden Villages

In March 2019, the Secretary of State for Housing announced the unveiling of 5 new garden towns, unlocking up to 64,000 much-needed homes across England. Chosen from more than 100 ambitious proposals, the 5 taken forward receive an initial £750,000 to help develop plans for vibrant, thriving destinations where people can live, work and raise families.

As the Secretary of State at the time said: “This plan is about the government working with councils and developers to get great homes in keeping with beautiful areas in England. We want to help local authorities build strong and vibrant communities where people want to live, work, and raise families.” Design South East was appointed to support the development of one of the 5 successful destinations, Hemel Garden Communities, a proposed major urban extension of Hemel Hempstead providing both new employment space and delivering up to 11,000 homes.

Environmental credentials and high-quality design are at the heart of the project vision, looking at innovative and sustainable new growth through to 2050 and beyond. Drawing its experience of working with local authorities on similar projects across the wider South East, Design South East brought its understanding of the ingredients required for the creation of successful garden towns to the project and is helping the local authority to secure design quality through the planning process.

Developed in line with the TCPA principles, 4 key priorities were identified for the project which support both green and social infrastructure, and also mobility aspirations. It is of increasing importance that urban infrastructure is designed with future communities in mind and be fit for purpose for modern day requirements, such as electric vehicles and new SMART building and urban technologies. Natural landscaping supports low energy living and aligns with the importance of sustainable infrastructure to provide social value opportunities; alongside the design and inclusion of community focal points which encourage familial wellbeing and healthy lifestyles. Drawing on the opportunities offered by the existing topography helps to retain character from the unique qualities and landscape features, views and natural habitats inherent to the local area and its surroundings.

Design South East is working closely with the council in the delivery of a series of workshops with the local council and its stakeholders, facilitating the development of the masterplan, unlocking opportunities and addressing challenges. We are also delivering a programme of design reviews to test emerging design principles against the original vision and intent. This impartial service brings cost and time efficiencies to the planning process, drives quality and promotes stakeholder consensus; supporting policy considerations and integrating local sensitivities.