MICA Architects has been speaking to us about its sensitive master-planning approach for housing across six new villages in Harlow North, Hertfordshire. Director, Gavin Miller says the previously restricted landscape at Gilston Park has been opened up to offer a range of countryside uses and outdoor activities for the benefit of the people of the region and for future residents.
Ten thousand homes each within four minutes' walk of idyllic natural landscape has been planned for these new villages, using historic landmarks and introducing streets as spaces rather 'corridors'. Walking and cycle routes will be integrated and a new high quality bus service is to be introduced, using hybrid vehicles.
Hertfordshire County Council has put in a funding bid for £151 million to the Housing Infrastructure Fund to 'unlock Gilston Park' where planning permission for the six linked villages, master-planned by MICA Architects and Grimshaw on land owned by Places for People, has been granted. The Council has said that most of the funding would be used on infrastructure improvements to boost numbers of people using sustainable transport, such as walking, cycling and buses.
Gavin goes on to say that 'this new era of urban vision is marked by a respect for boundaries, responsiveness to changing economic climates and allowance for gentle creative evolution through the guidance of empowered residents'. Please watch Gavin discussing this approach above, and below.
Harlow is an example of the Greenbelt policy that was given shape in plans for London in the 1940's and the subsequent formation of the new towns. MICA believes that the Greenbelt has proved successful in restricting growth and preserving open land but points out that there are instances where the edges are treated unimaginatively - where gardens back defensively on to largely inaccessible land - resulting in failure to achieve the original intention of an accessible rural belt for villages and town dwellers.
Sir Frederick Gibberd in 1967 said 'if we regard the regional landscape as a total design, as indeed we should, the idea of a green belt may be regarded as an out-dated concept'. Gibberd consistently drew a circle around the plans for Harlow says Gavin, and completing this circle more than encompasses the development area required for 10,000 homes, pointing a way forward.