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Stantec supports Harlow & Gilston Garden Town in maximising digital insights throughout the consultation process

Stantec’s evidence-informed and digital approach to community engagement helps local authorities in Harlow & Gilston Garden Town identify consultation challenges and opportunities


Stantec, a global leader in sustainable design and engineering services, is supporting Harlow & Gilston Garden Town in making better use of the community insight it gathers during consultation activities across district and county boundaries.

Harlow & Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) is a transformational growth and regeneration project facilitating the delivery of 23,000 homes and related infrastructure. The garden town itself encompasses Harlow, together with surrounding strategic development sites in East Herts and Epping Forest Districts.  

HGGT secured investment from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) via the Local Digital Fund Round 6 and PropTech Innovation Fund Round 3 to undertake a data discovery and digital solutions project.

This will enable storing, sharing, and visualising of consultation data across boundaries to maximise the value of the information gained. The garden town is now investing in a range of innovative, digital community engagement activities alongside Stantec so decision-makers can better understand residents’ needs.

The discovery stage of the research process began in July, focusing on internal technical officers. It comprised a series of face-to-face workshops where officers from the participating local authorities and planning, transport, health, environment, and GIS/ICT teams shared the challenges they faced during the consultation process. The user research explored how the officers currently managed consultation data, allowing Stantec to develop potential solutions to test in the next phase of development. The team used AI technology to quickly digest and organise the hundreds of written notes generated during the sessions.

The resulting insights were organised by priority and shared via an intuitive online dashboard. The next stage is focused on understanding further user cohorts: the local community, elected members, and developer stakeholders. Stantec will use intuitive online surveys to capture insights around consultation data and its provision.

The team used various data sets from previous local surveys and national data sets to gain a deep understanding of the digital behaviours of the community to ensure the survey and upcoming interviews provide the insights needed to inform better solutions. The user research recognises the need for a hybrid (digital and in-person) approach even when promoting and testing digital solutions. HGGT and Stantec are working collaboratively with local community specialists at Rainbow Services to support this hybrid engagement and user testing.

Andy Porter, Stantec’s head of digital services for community development, said: “We’re increasingly seeing more value in taking a quantitative and data-driven approach to consultation. Reducing consultation fatigue within communities is an important issue for authorities. We’re excited that Harlow & Gilston Garden Town is making use of our discovery and research workshops, as well as our evidence-informed, data-led insights and reporting. This will help them reduce inefficiency and develop solutions that result in better insight and learnings from their communities. We’ve also had the opportunity to introduce agile methods of delivery to the HGGT project team during this discovery stage to build their internal capability and allowing them to lead the future stages of this innovative digital project and gain digital and organisational value from the DLUHC funding.

“Going forward, we’re also looking at how different Harlow & Gilston Garden Town residents make use of digital technology in their areas and how we can use their digital preferences to positively influence engagement. This undertaking will help us ensure important messages from partnership authorities are reaching and resonating with people, in the right places, in the right way.”

“We’ve worked with Stantec to gather and analyse data from residents on an unprecedented scale across Harlow and the local area over the last 12 months,” added Naisha Polaine, Harlow & Gilston Garden town director.

“Too often people say, ‘what’s the point of giving a view, nothing happens,’ but we want to show the community it does make a difference to what we do. So, our first steps were to make sure we have the right digital and data systems, skills, and tools in place to do this, and our partnership with Stantec has helped us to discover that and put those results into action. We will then be looking at creating an accessible dashboard for the public and our Garden Town Partners through the PropTech Innovation fund. As a five-council partnership, we’re committed to creating thriving and sustainable communities for this and future generations.”

Stantec previously supported Harlow & Gilston Garden Town with its Your Quality of Life project, which outlined priorities for people in and around the area. Read more about that and Stantec’s Better Places report

About Stantec
Communities are fundamental. Whether around the corner or across the globe, they provide a foundation, a sense of place and of belonging. That's why at Stantec, we always design with community in mind.

We care about the communities we serve—because they're our communities too. This allows us to assess what's needed and connect our expertise, to appreciate nuances and envision what's never been considered, to bring together diverse perspectives so we can collaborate toward a shared success.

We're designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers, innovating together at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.

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Media Contact
Calum Metcalfe
Stantec Media Relations
Ph: +44 7928 501 112       

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