The UK’s largest water-only supplier, Affinity Water is urging the public to join new movement SOS: Save Our Streams and address their water-wasting behaviours to protect the UK’s chalk streams. To highlight Harlow’s overuse of water – 2.5% more than the national average –Affinity Water displayed a 10.000 litre operational bathtub at The Water Gardens on the 4th and 5th June 2021. The custom-built bathtub was 125 times bigger than a household bath and has been created as part of the campaign.

Waste Management

The Water Gardens boasts over 25 retailers, including fashion and lifestyle brands, a supermarket, several restaurants and cafes, a fitness facility and bank branches. It is a neighbourhood shopping, leisure and entertainment complex, open from early morning until late in the evening, so it produces a fair amount of waste.

A recycling scheme has been introduced 3 years ago and all members of staff have been educated about the best practices to properly dispose of daily waste. Only clear bags are used on site and waste is separated as per the following: food waste, glass, cardboard, food oil, green waste and general waste (that have been cross contaminated).

Environmental Tenant Initiatives

Costa Coffee and Greggs are taking part in the Too Good To Go initiatives. This is a free app which allows customers to purchase unsold food from top eateries at the end of service, to prevent it from being thrown away. This means people get high-quality food at a great price and do some good for the planet. By saving that food from ending up in landfill, it prevents the CO2 to be released when it decomposes, since 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste.

Another great example is Matalan. They are always looking at ways to minimise waste creation throughout their supply chain. They now re-use all their clothes hangers as part of an official re-use programme, with each re-used hanger saving 34% of carbon emissions versus a new hanger. They have eliminated single use carrier bags and introduced bags for life and are working on replacing all plastic carrier bags with FFC approved paper bags by 2022.


The Water Gardens is considered an amazing example of Bio Diversity for Shopping Centres, and is one of the leading example of the synergy of Modern Retail Environments and attention to Nature within the UK.

There is diverse Habitat from large lawns that provide a home to many invertebrates, large areas of thick dense hedges that provide habitat for Insects and small mammals, flowering shrubs and Flower borders that provide an amazing habitat for Pollinators such as Bees, Hover flies and Butterflies.

The main central beds around the Bench Areas and lawns have huge swathes of Lavender that provides essential for Pollinators and serves this local community of millions of Pollinators each year. The care and attention of the Dense Hedge Areas are essential for providing natural nesting sites for the Wildfowl that populate the Ponds and the Centre, as well as providing shelter and nesting for many Bird species and small Mammals.

The Annual and Perennial Planting in the Ornamental Beds provide excellent habitat for Insects and Pollinators. Lupins, a beautiful summer-flowering perennial that stands tall about all other flowers, has also been added the gardens. It beautifully flowers between May and August.

The areas surrounding the Centre adjacent to the surrounding Roads, yet again provide a safe haven for Insects, Birds and Pollinators with an abundance of Russian Sage (Perovskia), various Ornamental Shrubs and areas of Buddleja which is a favourite of Butterflies.

Over last few years attention has been paid to even push Natural Wild Flower establishment including the edge of the lawn area by TK Max, Matalan etc. where there has been a conscious effort to establish an embankment of Poppies that return Annually. In addition, Bulbs have been planted and Wild Flower mixed seeds have been spread in the area adjacent to the underpass near the Fountain.

The woodland area known as Dad's Wood creates an excellent woodland habitat for many small Mammals and Insect Populations, the Woodland has been well managed and fortunately not over managed, so as to create minimal disturbance to the creatures that call this area Home.

The top pond also hosts approximately 70 Koi carp and the middle pond approximately 1000 gold fish and around 200 gold fish in each lily pond. As there are also ducks in the gardens, a Duck House is built in the middle of the lower pond. A wooden structure offering them protection from predators.

The Water Gardens have just planted an additional fir tree - these trees have amazing environmental benefits and help combat global warming, improve our air quality by filtering harmful dust and pollutants and generate oxygen.

Many species of wildlife depend on trees for habitat providing shelter, protection and homes for many birds and mammals.

We have just planted some additional wild flowers to this area ready for Spring 2022 which include more bluebells, Wild foxglove, Field Poppy, Red Campion and more .....

The 100% Native Wild Flower Seed Mix includes: Bluebell (endymion non scriptus), Red Campion (silena dioca), Garlic Mustard (allaria petiolata), Hedge Woundwart (stachys sylvatica), Betony (betonica officinalis), Wood Avens (geum urbanum), Meadowsweet (filipendula ulmaria), Wild Foxglove (digitalis pururea), Hedge Bedstraw (galium mollugo), Self Heal (prunella vulgaris), Hairy St Johns Wort (hypericum hirsutum), Wood Sage (teucrium scorodonia), Ramsons (allium ursinum), Upright Hedge Parsley (torilis japonica), Nettle Leaved Bellfower (companula trachelium), Corn Cockle (grostemma githago), Cornflower (centaurea cyanus), Corn Marigold (chrysanthemum segetum), Field Poppy (papavor rhoeas), White Campion (silene alba), Corn Chamomile (anthemis arvensis)

Existing Wild Flowers spotted today: Cuckoo Pint (arum maculatem), Annual Honesty (lunaria annua), Common Borage (borago officinalis), Common Yarrow (achillea millefolium), Hedge Woundwart (stachys sylvatica)


Community Relation

The Water Gardens have a history of community engagement, having supported local organisations and charities, by developing campaigns, organising donations and raising awareness amongst our local customers.

Over the years The Water Gardens have been supporting Razed Roof, an inclusive performing arts group for people with, and without, learning difficulties and disabilities, by supporting their fundraising and raising profile within community with their annual marathon mini stroll around the gardens, among other initiatives.

In 2020, to thank local key workers for their efforts during the pandemic, a donation of several Easter Eggs was made to the following organisations: St Clare Hospice, Fire Station, Police Station and Harlow Foodbank.

Over Christmas 2020 the centre worked with two local organisations that provide key resources to the Harlow community – Streets 2 Homes and Harlow Foodbank – as part of the “Giving Days” campaign. The community, that included customers and member of the Water Gardens team, came together to contribute, by donating essential items. This allowed these organisations to reach a wider audience and receive some of the support they needed to bring some joy to these families.

It is important to note that there’s also an ongoing work and dedication from the on-site team that have dealt with several delicate situations and are recognised by entities such as Streets 2 Homes, for their way of handling different incidents. “From reporting any newly identified rough sleepers, to assisting them when they are in the area and struggling with their mental health and behaviours. The Team always take their time and have been known to sit with someone struggling for hours talking to them and we have received feedback from rough sleepers especially the ones struggling with addiction that they are always treated with respect”. The teams has also provided hi vis vests and jackets for their street outreach.

To be an integral part of the community, we must do what we can to help local people live better lives and that is why the centre will continue to work and support local groups.

The Water Gardens also values suppliers that give back and that’s one of the reasons why the centre worked with Jager Studio to create a 3D themed vinyl, where part of the fees were donated to the local Wildlife Trust.

Local Partnerships

Recently there’s been a partnership created between the centre and Harlow Art Trust to promote their Sculpture trail. As there are a number of sculptures that can be found in the gardens and around the shops, the goal is to encourage people to discover Harlow’s sculpture heritage.

Additionally, also as part of the partnership, a trail map for kids has been developed – Wild Water Gardens Sculpture Trail – that takes kids around the gardens to explore the different plants, animals and sculptures that can be found at The Water Gardens, along with bonus material around 3 HST sculptures: 'Boar', 'Bird' and 'Seven Mosaics', plus curiosities about the biodiversity.

Diversity & Inclusion

The Water Gardens is proud to be an equal opportunities employer. They are fully committed to providing equality in the workplace and ensure all opportunities for, and during employment, will be afforded to individuals fairly and irrespective of age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race including colour, ethnic or national origins and nationality, religion or belief or sexual orientation (“the protected characteristics”). The centre want their organisation to reflect the diversity of the community and welcome applications from people of all backgrounds.

Social Tenant Initiatives

Costa Coffee has been supporting the Costa Foundation by organising a monthly raffle, where customers have the chance to win a Costa Hamper. All money raised goes to the Costa Foundation. To date they have built more than 90 new schools, over 750 classrooms in 10 countries. Giving over 90,000 people access to education in coffee-growing communities across the world.