Our Work

Development and the Built Environment

Local engagement is key to successful development.

Development will always be a contentious matter. Change will give rise to fears for what the future might hold. Much of Gascoyne’s approach to development is driven by a similar range of concerns and a desire to provide an alternative approach to the challenges of growth.

Since 2006 Gascoyne have sponsored and hosted a number of events examining many of the issues which lie at the heart of growth and modern development. We believe that engaging with the local communities who might be affected by a development is a vital part of the planning process, enabling local communities to collaborate with designers on a vision for their future. Our preferred approach is through the charrette method – a well refined and interactive form of consultation.

A charrette is a collaborative process engaging local stakeholders – residents, businesses, community leaders, schools, politicians – and designers. This provides a platform for ideas. It offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. And it enables everyone taking part to be equal authors of the plan for their local area.


Recent years have seen Gascoyne Cecil produce codes for design on its own core estates. Whilst we maintain the quality and attention to detail of our work in our immediate area, producing design codes for our work in Hatfield, for example, we are also a vocal advocate for broader coalitions driving initiatives across Central Hertfordshire – for instance the green corridor and innovative solutions to public transport.

Our past work across Hatfield Park, around Old Hatfield and as a key stakeholder in the design and delivery of the Hatfield Station redevelopment shows our strong track record of delivering good quality mixed use development in a traditional Hertfordshire style which is nevertheless capable of adhering to twenty-first century building and sustainability standards.


Hertfordshire Charrette – A Guide to Growth

The Hertfordshire Charrette was sponsored by Gascoyne Cecil and facilitated by the University of Hertfordshire at its MacLaurin building, de Havilland campus. Formal meetings and design sessions were attended by local Councillors, planners and other leaders, University of Hertfordshire geography students and Building Research Establishment staff as well as members of the public.

The process afforded local stakeholders the opportunity to participate with a professional design team in developing solutions to growth across Hertfordshire. Members of the public had the opportunity to work with design professionals, architects and urban planners to determine the most socially sustainable and environmentally sensitive means for the county to grow, whilst seeking to maintain its current character and landscape.

This exercise yielded six development approaches for growth, detailed in the Hertfordshire Guide to Growth. Gascoyne Cecil agree with many of the outcomes from the Hertfordshire Charrette and this has guided our subsequent work. Rather than pursuing any particular scenario, however, a balanced response will be required in order to address the pressures of present development.


Old Hatfield Charrette

In 2008, we hosted the Old Hatfield Charrette in the Riding School at Hatfield Park. The aim was to give residents the opportunity to discuss problems that the town faced at the time, such as lack of parking, poor quality shopping and unattractive civic spaces, and to consider how we might solve them together.

Those attending responded enthusiastically, bringing energy, expertise and aspiration – there were some lively debates. Respected urban planner Andres Duany led the design process, assisted by a team of experienced designers. Local residents attended plus business owners and local planners. Working at a fast pace the team produced an impressive array of work, including masterplans, diagrams and illustrations which still guide development today. Residents were enthusiastic, offering comprehensive verbal and written feedback and information on Old Hatfield’s history, ensuring the design team could produced a well-received, coherent and collective proposal.

What has happened since?

Since the original charrette in 2008, we have worked alongside the local community to deliver this shared vision for Old Hatfield. Dunhams Mews (a development of nine homes) replaced an ugly garage court which was no longer fit for purpose. Arm and Sword Lane has been resurrected with further new housing and business premises. Church Lane has also been much improved whilst the railway station is transformed as an attractive and locally valued transport interchange.

In Church Lane we have built a further ten new dwellings. These prove that high density development can still be attractive and enhance locations. Whilst ten cottages have replaced just four flats feedback has been resoundingly positive.

Arm and Sword Lane provides proof that it is possible to build traditional architecture whilst embracing modern sustainable technology. All houses and business premises within this development are heated and cooled using shared ground source heat pumps.

Mill Green

In 2011, we hosted a three-day charrette in Mill Green to discuss how we might revive the hamlet. Again, it gave residents a platform to discuss the challenges they were facing, and how to improve both the natural and built environment whilst simultaneously creating a stronger village community. Specialist expertise from Hatfield Park Estate and Brooks Murray Architects guided the process, presenting proposals which residents responded to and refined. The majority of locals were optimistic about how the village facilities could be revitalised, the museum, open spaces and landscaping improved and a new development incorporated within the village. Progressing these plans has taken time due to changes in planning policy. A formal planning application, closely reflecting the Charrette outcomes, has recently been prepared and will be determined during Autumn 2016.

Approach to Growth

During 2010 Gascoyne Cecil began to consider its possible approach to the impending challenges of growth in the Borough. Involvement in the Hertfordshire Guide to Growth had already initiated a discussion about how the County might accommodate growth. These discussions centred on our own attitudes to growth on Estate land. How did we feel about this? Where might we consider this to be acceptable and what would our approach to delivery be?

It was decided that a programme of positive engagement was the most favourable option. Any decision to release land for development would be set against a backdrop of rigorous technical analysis and a sound understanding of the sites concerned. Since this time we have worked alongside a team of specialists examining diverse areas including ecology, archaeology, landscape, transport, utilities and infrastructure as well as more obvious topics of architecture and town planning.

Throughout, we have sought to communicate our findings and thoughts through a series of exhibitions, research and our website.

Stanboroughbury & Symondshyde

Most recently, earlier in 2016, Gascoyne Cecil hosted the Stanboroughbury and Symondshyde Charrette. Responding to housing demand and the call for sites in the Local Plan process, and after an extensive study of the land we own and manage, we had concluded these two sites held potential to reinvigorate Hertfordshire’s pioneering planning history with carefully designed, built and managed communities.

The charrette was a vital part of this process, enabling us to relay our thoughts to local communities concerned, and for those who attended to inform us of their specific or wider concerns about the location, design or vision for these proposals.

We invited over a thousand people from the local area to a comprehensive 8-day design process. Several hundred managed to attend throughout the week, offering important critiques, acute local knowledge, concerns or enthusiasm.

Local knowledge

What was achieved can be seen in the Post Charrettte Paper.

What happens now?