Characterized by its picturesque countryside, charming towns and cities and close proximity to London, Hertfordshire has long been an extremely desirable place to live, work and visit. As a ‘Green County’ with about seventy percent of the land identified as Green Belt, the region is known for its various landscapes – from farmlands, forests and valleys to the historic market towns of Hitchin and Hertford and the garden cities of Welwyn and Letchworth. Today the region is famed for its quality of life, and accordingly has been subject to continuous population growth and housing development.
The East of England Plan, published in May 2008 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, puts forth Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) for five counties, which include Hertfordshire. The RSS covers a interrelated issues and disciplines, but the key element is the provision of housing, of which there is a current deficiency in the East of England region of 508,000 dwellings.
For the planning period 2001-2021, Hertfordshire is mandated to accommodate 83,200 of these dwellings. Some of these dwellings have already been built since 2001, while others are in the planning process; the remainder must be allocated by the local councils and planning departments. The process of allocation within the County promises to be highly controversial as the area is already strained by traffic congestion and overburdened transit. In addition, some of these dwellings will inevitably be located on land that is currently in the greenbelt.
In hopes of generating environmentally-sound and economically responsive development, Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company was commissioned to generate possible development strategies for the County and engage in discussion regarding international best practice. Specifically, the DPZ proposals promotes sustainable planning principles, including the development of lively, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with compact developmental footprints, the design of which will be tailored to the specific landscape of the County and its legacy of villages, market towns, Garden Cities and New Towns. These design proposals -– intended to encourage mixed-use, sustainable development -– will offer an alternative to the single-use suburban-sprawl style building which has become more and more commonplace in the UK, and which has little relevance to Hertfordshire’s history or urban landscape. The six growth scenarios are also to be used to inform subsequent public discussions at council levels.