UK govt announces new ‘watered down’ plans for more eco towns

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The UK government has unveiled its latest list of possible eco towns and released millions of pounds for local authorities to develop plans.

The announcement comes six months after the first four eco town sites were named as Whitehill-Borden in Hampshire, St Austell in Cornwall, Rackheath in Norfolk and North West Bicester in Oxfordshire. The government wants to develop 10 sites by 2020.

Housing minister John Healey has now earmarked a total of £10 million to councils in Taunton, Yeovil, Leeds, South Yorkshire, Dearne Valley, Cornwall, and Cambridge to develop plans. Some are developments that are already designed and these would need to be re-designed, leading to criticism that the original vision has been watered down.

In the second wave the proposals for sustainable developments need to include 5,000 properties and demonstrate innovative ideas for how jobs, schools and services are delivered in low carbon ways that will help in the UK respond to climate change, Healey said. This is indeed much smaller than the self standing towns of up to 15,000 homes originally envisaged by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The policy is also controversial with campaigners against the idea voicing concerns that the new developments will not be as sustainable as the government claims and have questioned the impact on the planning system, transport links, jobs provision and the environment.

‘Ministers have already conceded that eco towns will create homes which are less green than ordinary houses built at the same time. This latest desperate announcement is the government simply trying to save face by throwing in existing planned developments and calling them eco-towns,’ said Shadow Housing Minister, Grant Shapps.

Healey though has said that the proposals signalled ‘real and radical momentum to change and to re-think how we design our towns and homes for the future’, ahead of the climate change talks in Copenhagen this week.

He also announced that a new Eco Town Network would be set up in conjunction with the Town and Country Planning Association, acting as an eco workshop for councils to come together and share ideas.

Possible second wave bids are still at an early stage and will be subject to further, widespread consultation on proposals, before public consultation, he explained. ‘The further nine areas are looking at proposals to design and develop to the tough new eco-town standards. This signals real and radical momentum to change and to re-think how we design our towns and homes for the future,’ he said.

‘We are leading the world with these developments which combine affordable housing with new green infrastructures and an exceptional quality of life,’ he added.

 

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