Potential Eco-Town Locations Revealed

Posted on: 03 April 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

15 locations have been shortlisted for the next stage of an eco-towns programme.

Housing Minister Caroline Flint announced today, 3rd April 2008, that 15 potential locations will go forward to the next stage of the Government's programme to build the UK's first eco-towns, the country's first new towns since the 1960s.

Eco-towns are intended to tackle the combined challenges of climate change - by cutting carbon emissions from housing - the need for more sustainable living and a real shortage of housing for families and first-time buyers.

The Government has said it wants to build five eco-towns by 2016 and up to ten by 2020 as part of ambitious plans to build 3 million homes by 2020.

Flint said everyone now has the opportunity to express their views before any decisions are made. "We will now consult widely for three months to get preliminary views on the benefits of eco-towns and these shortlisted locations, the first of four key stages to becoming an eco-town." Shortlisted locations face public consultation and a detailed Sustainability Appraisal.

"A final shortlist of locations will be published later this year," said Flint, "after which each potential eco-town will need to submit a planning application."

However, the Government is proposing a radical change in the planning application process that will mean the normal planning processes could be ignored, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Councils would be unable to insist that vital services such as schools, shops, parks and public transport were integrated into plans for large new housing developments.

Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the LGA, says, "While we are in favour of tackling the housing crisis by building thousands of extra homes, imposing plans from Whitehall is not the right way to do it.

"It's no use building carbon neutral, environmentally-friendly houses if they are in the middle of nowhere with no facilities so that people have to drive miles to buy a loaf of bread or take their kids to school.

"This proposed change in the planning process will allow developments to be built in isolated areas without any regard to the essential facilities needed by people in their everyday lives. Eco-towns should be vibrant places where people are able to walk or use public transport and car use is kept to a minimum.

"Eco-town settlements are set to include up to 50 per cent social housing, but these will become the eco-slums of the future if they are built without regard to where residents can get to jobs or training."

Council leaders warn that the proposals must have the support of local people, meet targets to cut carbon emissions and not bypass the normal planning procedures.

"Many of the proposed locations on the Government's shortlist are supported by local authorities and have the potential to be successful developments. But it would be totally unacceptable if the proper planning processes were bypassed and the final decisions taken away from local councils and local people.

"Local people's democratic representatives are best placed to decide where new housing developments should be built and what facilities are needed in order for them to become pleasant places to live. Any central diktat will ride roughshod over the wishes of local people who elect councils to put them first."

57 initial proposals were received from local authorities and developers across the country. The 15 shortlisted locations are:

  • Pennbury, Leicestershire
  • Manby and Strubby, Lincolnshire
  • Curborough, Staffordshire
  • Middle Quinton, Warwickshire
  • Bordon-Whitehill, Hampshire
  • Weston Otmoor, Oxfordshire
  • Ford, West Sussex
  • Imerys China Clay Community, Cornwall
  • Rossington, South Yorkshire
  • Coltishall, Norfolk
  • Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire
  • Marston Vale and New Marston, Bedfordshire
  • Elsenham, Essex
  • Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire
  • Leeds City Region, Yorkshire

The Government announced that no new homes would be built on Green Belt land, and more than 30 per cent of the overall new houses will be affordable housing.

The shortlisted locations make significant use of previously developed brownfield land including former MoD land, military depots, disused airfields and former mining pits and industrial sites.

They address regional priorities such as a severe shortage of suitable housing - such as Elsenham and Ford - or the regeneration of former industrial areas - like Marston Vale and New Marston.

Flint has also announced she intends to form a panel of experts who will work with developers to improve their plans. To be formed of leading figures from the fields of climate change and sustainability, energy, planning, transport, and business, the Eco-town Challenge will provide expert advice to bidders and challenge them to deliver the most sustainable developments possible.

"Some really innovative green ideas have been proposed - from free public transport for all residents to using the waste heat from nearby power stations to heat homes and businesses," said Flint.

"The final schemes being promoted will have to reach zero carbon standards by promoting leading edge green technologies, provide high levels of affordable housing, demonstrate how they will deliver key infrastructure such as good public transport, schools and health facilities and safeguard local wildlife."

Web Links

Communities and Local Government website: www.communities.gov.uk

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