Proposed neighbourhood, Latton Priory, will sit to the south of Harlow & Gilston Garden Town with at least 1,050 new homes alongside community facilities including a new secondary school, primary school and early years childcare.

Epping Forest District Council’s Urban Design Officer, Krishma Shah, explains in this blog how £120,000 Design Code funding from the Dept for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will make a big difference to the planning of this new Garden Town neighbourhood.

It’s a really exciting time as Government funding will give us an opportunity to take an active role in shaping the new community at Latton Priory and will ensure council and community aspirations are embedded into the plans from the very start.

Traditionally, Design Codes have been shaped by the developers but there was a recent change to the National Planning Policy Framework which places more emphasis on local authority delivery.

This is why Epping Forest, as one of the five Garden Town partners and the area where Latton Priory will sit, is moving this forward on behalf of the Harlow & Gilston project.

Existing residents and stakeholders will play a big part in creating our Design Code criteria and we will be asking the public to work with us to identify key themes, inspired by national design guidance and other planning policy.

Movement and open space will be an important focus and we will be looking at what makes streets and spaces more people-friendly rather than geared towards car movement.

We think this really opens up neighbourhoods to being more sociable, more vibrant, more accessible and better for kids who can play in the streets safely.

Linked to that is junction design and how we reduce car usage as the Garden Town partners have a modal shift target of 60% sustainable journeys across the new developments, creating a healthier population through more active travel and less air pollution.

Latton Priory is going to be a Garden Town development with a focus on environment and connecting communities to the countryside so we want to make sure that the open spaces provide everything that people need for both recreation and socialising plus enhancing local biodiversity, a requirement of the upcoming Environmental Bill.

The timing for this couldn’t be better with Harlow & Gilston Garden Town running their ‘Your Quality of Life’ project this summer, which will collect information on what people value locally and this data will be fed into our Design Code process as well.

Most of the Government funding will go into specialist resourcing but Epping Forest District Council has a multiskilled team already in place to work on the Design Code, from architects and urban designers to specialists in green infrastructure and sustainable drainage systems.

By establishing high-quality design principles and design code process, the Department for Levelling Up can take elements of our process and roll it out to other local authorities working on similar projects and developments across the country.

Our end aim is to have a document which will be the Latton Priory Design Code. Not only will it be endorsed by the five Garden Town councils, but it will carry material planning weight which developers will have to refer to in their planning applications.

It means that Epping Forest and the Garden Town partners are really at the forefront of delivering best-practice design that will merge local policy with community views to create a fantastic new neighbourhood.