Creating and consulting on a positive vision for one of the UK’s biggest Garden Town schemes

Gilston Park Estate – Places for People

We’ve supported Places for People over several years to bring forward plans for six garden villages at Gilston Park Estate, based to the north of Harlow. The 8,500-home development site has now been included in the East Herts District Plan and an outline planning application was submitted in May 2019.

Every large-scale housing project requires strong engagement with stakeholders and Gilston Park Estate was no exception, with a well-established network including community groups, local council leaders and politicians.

What we did

We took a different approach to engagement; we integrated ourselves in the communities affected and creatively consulted people who had not been engaged over the previous six years. We researched and mapped the stakeholders and influencers focusing on the regenerative benefits to Harlow, the provision of housing to future generations of local residents, and the unlocking of major investment to the wider area.

A fundamental consideration was to appeal to many different audiences, each with varying degrees of awareness, expertise and knowledge.

Community involvement

From the outset, we invested ourselves in the local area, developed a strong involvement in the community and maintained momentum through regular community events.

We increased the breadth of communication channels and carefully developed messaging to address concerns and keep stakeholders informed.

We met members of the public in a local pub garden and carried out a high street public consultation in Harlow Town Centre. We even took the discussion on the road; hiring a double-decker bus and travelling around the local area to ask people the question: ‘Where will you live in 20 years?’

We also put together animation videos and key messages to use on social media through targeted posts, as well as undertaking community surveys, drop-in events and public consultations to understand from the local community what their perceptions of the local area were and what improvements they would like to see delivered.

We also undertook a rebrand of the project with a new website, image style and message approach.

The results

We have created an engaging, positive vision in both messaging and brand identity for one of the UK’s biggest Garden Town schemes, which was only deliverable because of the extensive planning that we put in place through consultation and collaborative effort with a wide-range of stakeholders.

Messaging has been targeted and effective at winning hearts and minds across Harlow and East Hertfordshire. As a result of our public affairs and PR support, the project has received cross-party backing and a supporter base has formed that includes local residents, business leaders and community groups.

Our work on this project continues as the formal planning applications are submitted.