Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is unashamedly ambitious for the future of our places and people by harnessing technological advances to create sustainable communities. Through the development of our Local Industrial Strategy, we are identifying opportunities to respond positively to the need for growth, but not growth at any cost.

Over the past five years, we have made good progress in re-investing in our larger towns of Watford, Stevenage and Hemel Hempstead, with further regeneration in our smaller towns of Waltham Cross and Bishop’s Stortford. In March this year, the Government announced it was providing £3.7m for five new Garden Towns to fast-track delivery of 64,000 new homes across England. Hemel Garden Communities, on the west of the county, was one of the successful bids in this new round.

The bid was developed in partnership between Dacorum Borough Council, Hertfordshire LEP, St Albans City and District Council, Hertfordshire County Council and The Crown Estate, to deliver a mixed-use residential and commercial development for Hemel Hempstead, delivering up to 11,000 homes and 10,000 new jobs. Hemel joins Harlow-Gilston, another planned new settlement that has been awarded Garden Town status, on the county’s eastern fringes.

In announcing the new funding for Garden Towns, Minister of State for Housing Kit Malthouse MP said: “These new towns will not only provide homes for families, but will be vibrant communities where everyone, including neighbouring communities, can benefit from new infrastructure – leaving a legacy for future generations to be proud of.”

This legacy can be traced back to the Garden City movement which began in Letchworth Garden City. Its custodian is Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, whose values are underpinned by a series of principles developed by Ebenezer Howard. These include land value capture for the benefit of the community; long-term stewardship to ensure that communities stand the test of time; integrated public transport systems with access to core services in walkable neighbourhoods; bio-diverse, attractive spaces and a strong local job offer.

The Government’s commitment to new Garden Towns has been welcomed by the Town and Country Planning Association. TCPA has been campaigning over the past six years for a new generation of garden cities to help address Britain's housing crisis. These large settlements would allow for the highest sustainability standards, economies of scale and better use of infrastructure which could not be addressed on a plot by plot basis.

They would include a complete mix of housing types, including social and affordable housing; zero-carbon design; sustainable transport; vibrant parks; local food sourcing and create local employment opportunities. Fundamentally, TCPA advocated for them to build on the Garden City Principles of land value capture for both societal and commercial gain.

Running parallel to this campaign to drive up standards in existing and new housing stock has been the TCPA’s campaign Room to Breathe. The campaign marks the centenary of the Planning and Housing Act of 1919 and the step change it represented for space and quality of housing. The campaign is a response to the findings of the TCPA’s Raynsford Review which showed that deregulation of the planning system and permitted development rights (PDR) is creating devastating outcomes for people.

Here in Hertfordshire, the impact of PDR can be felt in the dramatic loss of employment space over the past decade across the county. According to a report commissioned by Hertfordshire LEP, this loss of employment land is equivalent to the total office space in St Albans, Watford and Welwyn Garden City combined.

Responding to the report by surveyors Lambert Smith Hampton, Hertfordshire LEP Chair Mark Bretton said: “This report indicates that the impact of PDR is more keenly felt here in Hertfordshire than in other parts of the UK. Collectively we must push Whitehall to ensure that local planning authorities continue to deliver sustainable economic development by being able to plan adequately for employment. PDR clearly weakens their control, flexibility and freedom to shape local communities for the future.”

One of the county’s biggest growth opportunity in decades is its new enterprise zone, Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter. It is the western commercial anchor of Hertfordshire’s east-west growth axis, which is likely to accommodate around 50 per cent of the county’s housing growth, with an enterprise zone and a new Garden Town at each end. As lead partner, we have the opportunity to shape its development with potential for national significance.

With an unprecedented level of housing growth, pressure from adjoining areas, especially London, Hertfordshire’s services and transport systems will face increasing stress. Now more than ever we need to respond positively to this need. The onus is on us collectively to find new and innovative forms of development that can accelerate housing delivery, find modern live-work solutions while meeting a high quality threshold for sustainable design, materials and build methods.

With the development of a Local Industrial Strategy, we have the potential to both check and challenge current and new ways of working and become a UK testbed by building on our legacy of ideas and pioneering heritage to pave the way for future generations.

Find out how we are developing a Local Industrial Strategy.

Trialling innovation: case studies

Hertfordshire IQ

Hertfordshire IQ is leading the development of three million sq. ft. of new commercial space over the next 10 years in Hemel Hempstead. It offers opportunities to collaborate with its partners: construction industry leaders BRE Group, global leaders Rothamsted Research and the University of Hertfordshire – experts in AI, robotics and Big Data. It also brings together established networks of cutting edge green tech businesses through the Green Triangle and agri-tech innovators through the Hertfordshire Science Partnership.

Its sustainability framework sets out the measures it is adopting to encourage smart, sustainable transport, a high build quality across all new developments and the adoption of low carbon operations.

Hertfordshire IQ will be at the centre of the Hemel Garden Communities in Hemel Hempstead, a development of 11,000 new homes and 10,000 new jobs that will fuel a vibrant, connected community, making a great place to work, live and play.

Mark Bretton, Chair of Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership said: “We have a proven track record of clustering commercial activity around science and research and that’s exactly what we’re delivering with Hertfordshire IQ.

“We’re encouraging a cluster of modern construction and agri-tech companies to locate here, shining a light on the world-leading expertise we have in Hertfordshire.”

Visit Hertfordshire IQ: www.herts-iq.co.uk

Re-Imagining the Garden City Design Ideas Competition

Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation recently teamed up with RIBA Competitions to call for contemporary interpretations of the Garden City principles. Using a potential development site north of the existing Grange Estate as a case study, the competition, Re-Imagining the Garden City, attracted 95 entries from architectural practices around the world.

The competition was seeking imaginative responses to the need for new homes, the first expansion of the urban area of Letchworth since the 1980s. Design concepts generated by the winning team will inform the overall masterplan and subsequent build on an approximately 110-acre case study site.

The site is included in the North Herts Local Plan for housing, which is due to be adopted in 2019, and includes proposals for 900 new homes on this land (of which 40% will be affordable housing), together with a new primary school, local community facility and retail space.

EcoResponsive Environments were one of four teams short-listed to develop the concept masterplan. Their winning design proposal Grange-in-the-Hedges showed a strong understanding of resource efficient design which built on team members’ experience of living and delivering projects in less developed parts of the world.

On announcing the result, David Ames, Executive Director of Stewardship and Development for the Foundation, said: “We are delighted with the quality and number of the entries we received, which demonstrates a continuing interest in Letchworth as the world’s first garden city. We feel that the team at EcoResponsive Environments will make a positive contribution to the evolution of our development proposals and the wider debate on modern garden city living and we look forward to working with them”.

View the shortlisted entries: www.ribacompetitions.com/letchworthgardencity/