‘Mark One’ New Town – Designated 25 March 1947

Identified as the location for a London ‘ring town’ in Patrick Abercrombie’s 1944 Greater London Plan, Harlow’s existing connections to road and rail networks and the quality of its landscape influenced its designation. Conceived through Sir Frederick Gibberd’s masterplan, Harlow’s ‘green wedges’ give the town a distinctive character and connect residential neighbourhoods with open spaces and the countryside beyond; although today they present their own management challenges. Harlow’s population increased significantly in the 1950s and 1960s, but numbers declined in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, supporting the town’s regeneration aspirations, there are proposals for around 12,000 new dwellings by 2031. Harlow’s recent extension at Newhall has won several architecture and design accolades.

Key facts:

  • Location: 37 kilometres north east of London. Harlow District is a small predominately urban district with a tight administrative boundary.
  • 2011 Census population: 81,944, in 34,620 households.
  • Local authority: Harlow District Council.
  • Local Plan status: Saved policies from Harlow Local Plan 2006. A new Harlow Local Development Plan to 2033 was submitted to Secretary of State in October 2018.

New Town designation:

  • Designated: 25 March 1947.
  • Designated area: 2,558 hectares.
  • Intended population: 60,000, revised to 80,000 (in the second masterplan, approved in 1952) (population at designation: 4,500).
  • Development Corporation: A key design feature was higher-density housing, with the majority of the town’s open space provided within ‘green wedges’. Expansion proposals between the 1950s and 1970s put forward a population of up to 150,000, which was turned down in 1977. Development Corporation wound up 30 September 1980.

Figures taken from Harlow ‘5 minute’ fact sheet – TCPA New Towns and Garden Cities, Lessons for Tomorrow research, available here.

Council website:


Information about regeneration:


Local museums and archives:

Harlow Museum and Walled Gardens: https://www.harlow.gov.uk/harlowmuseum

Essex Records Office: https://seax.essexcc.gov.uk/

Harlow at 70:


This short film was made in November 2020 as part of a virtual study tour held by the TCPA. It provides an overview of Harlow’s history, growth and renewal, including issues such as urban design and architecture; art and cultural heritage; town centre renewal; permitted development rights; garden communities; stewardship and more.