Community feedback report outlines priorities for people in and around Harlow & Gilston Garden Town

Community feedback report outlines priorities for people in and around Harlow & Gilston Garden Town

Preserving green space and better public transport are key priorities for people within Harlow & Gilston Garden Town and the surrounding area. The feedback comes from the town’s Your Quality of Life consultation which ran for 12 weeks across the summer.

Published last week, the first results and insight from the consultation feature in an independent community feedback report from the Quality of Life Foundation and global sustainable design and engineering firm, Stantec.

The Your Quality of Life Community Feedback Report notes that respondents also cited community as a priority in their feedback to the Garden Town, with more than half recording positive comments about their local area.

65% of people surveyed felt a strong sense of belonging to their neighbourhood, beating the national average from the government’s Community Life Survey in 2021.

With Harlow town centre regeneration already underway, Garden Town Director, Naisha Polaine, has welcomed the community’s feedback: “We’re pleased to see that people are so passionate about community, green space and better transport.

“They are all huge priorities for the Garden Town and listening to what people want is integral to creating a great place for the future. It is exactly what our five-council partnership is committed to achieving for both existing residents and those that follow.”

Harlow & Gilston Garden Town’s vision for future transport across the local area, which includes a travel network accommodating cycling, walking and rapid bus services, has already won a 2022 Essex Housing Award.

Discussing green space, Naisha added: “Our stance on this has always been very clear that we want investment in public access, landscape and biodiversity enhancements while expanding areas of the existing green wedge network. And when I say investment, I mean it in a financial sense and in dedication to delivery.

“Providing a home for wildlife and giving local people an opportunity to enjoy nature and green spaces, critical for mental and physical wellbeing, is something are all five of our council partners support.”

Speaking about next steps, the Garden Town’s Your Quality of Life project manager, Ione Braddick, added: “We will be working with our project partners to develop and action recommendations around stronger engagement, building community-led processes and focusing on local priorities, based on the feedback received.

“Areas of improvement such as transport links and ensuring that local people have a stronger sense of control and empowerment have also been highlighted in the Quality of Life Foundation’s report and we are considering how to address these in the short and long term, to help plan the future.

“We want to ensure that local people influence how the Garden Town moves forward so the recommendations and our action plan for progressing these will be published in the first quarter of 2023.”

Global sustainable design and engineering firm, Stantec, was commissioned to compile the study, testing the principles outlined in its recently released Better Places 2022 report. It examined how data gathering and analysis are key to making informed decisions to support better social value outcomes for communities.

Andy Porter, Head of Innovation & Digital Services, at Stantec, commented: “Nature and biodiversity can have such a positive impact on a development. Green spaces can help reduce the urban heat effect and support better drainage, but also provide fantastic benefits when it comes to health and wellbeing.

“When we look at the future of mobility, it’s clear that this needs to be rooted in active and community-based travel. Rather than having people continue to make excessive numbers of car journeys, we need to promote healthier and more sustainable lifestyles. There is such a demand for smart and accessible transport infrastructure across these types of developments and we need to meet it.”

Matthew Morgan, Director at the Quality of Life Foundation, said: “It has been a privilege to work on this project to get a real understanding of the issues that matter to the people of Harlow, Gilston and the surrounding areas.

“We’ve had some fascinating conversations with residents and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to speak to us, fill out our survey or leave a comment on our digital map. We know that giving local people a say in the things that happen in their neighbourhoods can have very real benefits for people’s quality of life. So, it’s really encouraging to see the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town partnership listening to people’s views, and we look forward to developing a set of actionable recommendations to help the partnership respond to local needs.”

Read the Quality of Life Community Report here:

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