Harlow and Gilston Garden Town Sustainability Guidance and Checklist

Policy, Strategy + Design Guidance

The HGGT Sustainability Guidance and Checklist provides ambitious, practical and technical advice to achieve environmental, social and economic sustainability in major Garden Town developments




High quality sustainable developments require adopting a holistic approach to environmental, social and economic sustainability; in line with the UN Sustainability Development Goals.

The Garden Town seeks to set the agenda for sustainable living, using this Sustainability Guidance and Checklist to help ensure growth that will be being net carbon neutral by 2030, and building strong and integrated communities across new and existing places, with social equity.



The Garden Town will set the agenda for sustainable living, making it easy for residents to adopt sustainable lifestyles. With the goal of reducing carbon emission contributions, and planning for significant growth in the Garden Town, new developments need to have exemplar placemaking and long term sustainability. The guidance and checklist is therefore to be used by developers, design teams, consultants, contractors, local authority officers and review panels in shaping development proposals. This will guide the design of proposals and ensure coordinated and integrated consideration of sustainability principles and targets at an early stage.

The document is split into two sections (Environmental Sustainability and Socio-Economic Sustainability), with sustainability themes cross-referencing each other, and co-benefits indicated throughout. This Guidance has been developed during the pandemic of COVID-19, which has highlighted stark health inequalities relating closely to environmental, social, and economic inequalities. High quality, sustainable and resilient design and development is needed to ensure that existing and new residents of the Harlow & Gilston Garden Town recover from the pandemic in a long term and locally-led manner. Opportunities to foster community strength, provide job opportunities, support green and local economies and bolster residents health must be taken and this guidance promotes early consideration of these. Guidance and checklists are provided on; energy efficiency and carbon reduction, renewable energy, green infrastructure, sustainable movement, water management, circular economy, waste management, air quality, assuring performance, digital sustainability, health and wellbeing, community strength and social infrastructure, and economic growth and job creation. Inclusive design principles and key national and local policy are included for each section. The checklists provide practical application of the guidance, indicating the quality of development in line with standards expected for the Garden Town, and timeline for achieving net zero carbon (by 2050, and by 2030) through a red/ amber/ green approach.



The Garden Town sits across five Local Authorities with its Board made up of representatives from all five Partner Councils. The greatest challenge for the Sustainability Guidance and Checklist was to successfully get these Partners to endorse one comprehensive strategy for sustainability, that developments in all the individual territories must meet. The topic of sustainability is incredibly sensitive, yet even more important, and navigating this challenge required the document to be of the highest quality in order to be accepted. Alongside the political context, the document also had to be accepted by the developers looking to build the town. Their endorsement required the document to be pragmatic and truly useable – whilst still maintaining its ambition.

To seek endorsement from these two challenging environments required extensive consultation, workshopping and developer forums and thanks to this process, the document is well tested, user-friendly and truly useful. It is stronger thanks to this challenge.

Places where the document excels in particular, which helped it pass through the challenging process of endorsement, were the traffic light system of targets: Each topic the strategy covers is divided into minimum, medium and high quality targets – red, amber, green - with these corresponding to net-zero carbon, waste and best practice targets as necessary. This forms a simple system for everyone to test where their ambitions sit currently and where they need to aim to meet the Garden Town Vision.

Additionally, the interactive nature of the document made it as easy as possible for everyone to use. No need to print it out or edit in any way. The strategy comes ready with interactive checklists and pop-outs, with extensive reference libraries, fully linked to relevant documents – a one stop shop for anyone interested in sustainability in the Garden town, as streamlined and easy to use as possible.

Project Team

Harlow and Gilston Garden Town Team
East Hertfordshire District Council
Epping Forest District Council
Essex County Council
Harlow District Council
Hertfordshire County Council

Key Facts

Homes: 16,000 up to 2033 - 7,000 proposed beyond this plan period

Judges' Comments

"The HGGT team have produced
much needed specific and achievable targets for the sustainability of new development, that deserve to be applied nationally to prevent climate change and ensure the wellbeing of future generations."