Elected to the Policy Council of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) in 2020, Jake Shepherd was born in Harlow and is involved in a range of voluntary activities and campaigning.
“You can’t just put everything back in the box and make it 1974 again,” is a quote from Richard Sobey and Chris Haddon’s 70/70 Vision project.
In capturing the culmination of Harlow’s seventieth anniversary in 2017, 70/70 focused on “the residents of the town, rather than the architecture and master plans that more usually spring to mind when we think of new towns”.
More longstanding, the late landscape architect Sir Frederick Gibberd described Harlow as “an organism which would go on changing and being rebuilt as the needs of the people altered”.
It’s the people, specifically young people, that I will ensure are heard when it comes to the future of Harlow & Gilston Garden Town.
Our needs are two-fold; truly affordable housing and a meaningful stake in the future of the town and villages which many of us call home.
However, the lack of enthusiasm and hesitation from our political leaders represents a hideous dereliction of duty towards my generation.
Central government has insisted upon housing delivery from local authorities – meaning that no development is not an option.
Anyone who tells you that we can afford to do nothing and leave things as they are, ignorantly disregards the wishes and aspirations of an entire generation.
Their obsessive fixation in preserving some nostalgic image of a town that once was is obstructing the very purpose for which Harlow New Town was designated in the first place.
The pivotal link between people and planning can be traced back to the Addison Act (Housing and Town Planning Act) of 1919.
Since then the Raynsford Review of Planning in England, published over one-hundred years later, concluded that “we are building too many poor quality homes that will have a negative impact on our health, not last many of those that are being delivered through permitted development”.
I am the last person to suggest that we forsake our heritage – but the first to embrace the vision for a truly equitable master-planned community that will create the health and sustainable homes of the 21st century.
The UK’s new towns still represent the greatest urban experiment of the 20th century. In this 21st century, amidst a climate crisis and chronic lack of truly affordable housing,
I am taking a stand in supporting a vision for a better future which will allow everyone to play their part in Harlow & Gilston Garden Town.
Another quote from 70/70 Vision from someone who knew the late Sir Frederick Gibberd better than I ever could, reads: “we never got to see the full plans of Gibberd. We were once at the forefront of modern town planning; an inspiration to architects and planners around the world”.
I sometimes cycle around our town and villages and wonder why that noble vision is yet to be surpassed? Harlow is not a town that does things by half-measures.
It is certainly not a town to be cowed by change – we rise to it in common endeavor!
So, what does change look like? I insist that truly affordable housing must be placed at the heart of our master-planned community, much like the ‘mixed-communities’ of the last century which shattered Edwardian class boundaries in a post-war era.
Our master-planned community must embody the radical ‘Spirit of 1947’ if it is to withstand the climate crises of this century.
Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), local food systems and sustainable transport corridors as well as appropriate design codes will all play their part in creating a climate resilient community by 2030.
What makes you so certain that homes will be affordable? A common question that cloaks a commonly felt uncertainty amongst my generation.
Nobody should be priced out of the neighbourhood they grew up in, and everyone should have the realistic option of remaining within the community they call home.
Given that both East Herts and Epping Forest District Councils have pledged in their local plans that 40% of homes in the Garden Town will be affordable, alongside Harlow setting a 30% target, my generation can start to look forward to the very real opportunity of not just simply getting on the housing ladder but to live, work and play in the town and community we’re apart of.
And that can only happen if we embrace the new Garden Town development and recognise, to paraphrase Gibberd, that the needs of the people, especially young people, have altered