Double award success for Hunsdon, Eastwick and Gilston Neighbourhood Plan Group
The Gilston Area Neighbourhood Plan was a double winner at the Planning Awards 2021.
At the ceremony on Thursday June 10, the work of the Hunsdon, Eastwick and Gilston Neighbourhood Plan Group (HEGNPG) with master planners URBAN Silence first picked up the accolade for plan-making.
The title is given to the entry that best shows how a plan can have a positive impact on the physical or environmental quality of a place or the economic or social wellbeing of its community.
The Gilston Area Neighbourhood Plan, which passed its referendum in May with 98% of the vote in a 37.2% turnout, also won the prestigious Editor's Award.
The judges said the plan was "brave and innovative" and "demonstrates the power of collaboration between local planning authorities and communities".
Overall, they described it as "an exemplar approach to neighbourhood planning [in areas of] growth".
Hunsdon, Eastwick and Gilston are the parishes most impacted by developer Places for People's scheme for 8,500 new homes as part of the Gilston Park estate, formerly known as Harlow North, to create six new villages to the north of the Stort Valley. A seventh community of 1,500 properties is planned by Briggens estate.
HEGNPG chairman Anthony Bickmore said: "These two awards are a massive national endorsement of our Neighbourhood Plan.
"Our ground-breaking plan is the first of the Neighbourhood Plans for the new garden towns."
He added: "This major recognition shows the ongoing importance of community involvement and the need of planners to respect localism and listen to what local communities have to say in the formation and implementation of development policies.
"Following this double award from the judges and the overwhelming endorsement from local residents, we as a group are further empowered to work with the planners in the right spirit, if they respect our policies."
Joanna Chambers and Martina Juvara, of URBAN Silence, said: "The double award is a testament to the value created when a community comes together to influence and shape the future of their area.
"As the editor Richard Garlick said when he gave the award to the Gilston Area Neighbourhood Plan, this is the best, and maybe only, way to plan large-scale developments in future."
Mary Parsons, chair of the Town and Country Planning Association and former director at developer Places for People, said: "It is a testimony to all of the hours, and the evenings and weekends, spent working on it. [It] shows the role that positive neighbourhood planning can play in large-scale development."