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The rise of the eco-town

 

Protesters at parliament

Unless you’ve been walking around with your head up your backside recently, you’re bound to have heard of the term “eco-town” and about the growing opposition towards them. The term refers to the government’s plans to meet housing demands in an environmentally friendly way.
In July the government set out its proposals of what an eco-town should be:

 

  • A small town of between 5,000 and 20,000 new dwellings
  • A place with its own separate identity but with good links to surrounding areas for jobs and other services
  • A zero-carbon development which should put back as much (or more) energy into the national grid than it actually uses
  • Each town should excel in at least one area of environmental technology
  • A place that is equipped with a secondary school, shopping and leisure facilities and business space
  • 30-50% of the housing should be affordable with a good mix of tenures and size of homes in mixed communities
  • Overseen by a delivery organization in charge of managing the town and its development, providing support for community services and businesses

  

Nationwide say that house prices went down 0.9% in June with the average house price now being £172,415. That’s a drop of £13,500 from its peak just over a year ago. Despite all the recent falls, property value is still 4% higher than two years ago and 9% higher than three years ago.

 

Although the Land Registry lags behind with its figures, it is widely regarded as being the most accurate, because it bases its figures on completions rather than asking prices.

 

In April, 57 potential locations, proposed by local government, developers and landowners, were shortlisted to 15. Some are ex-military sites, others former industrial areas. The locations are shown in the map below, although the disused airfield site at Manby in Lincolnshire has already been ruled out after a stormy meeting of the East Lindsey District Council. “We are no longer pursuing the eco-town,” stating a local authority spokesman. “This is a rural area and the people have said that they don’t want a 5,000 house council estate dumped on their back door.”

 

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Proposed locations for the new eco-towns

 

The government plans to build ten in total and the list is expected to be finalized later this year. The first eco-towns are to be built by 2016 and the remainder by 2020. Developers and politicians will look abroad for inspiration, to countries where similar projects are promoted such as Sweden and Germany. In these examples the developers have put the emphasis on green spaces, renewable energy sources and sustainable transport solutions.


Of course the argument is that this is just development with another name; an excuse to build on green belt land. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) was initially sympathetic to the idea but has now turned against it following a lack of evidence to suggest that these eco-towns will be any greener than regular developments. In fact, earlier this month, a panel set up by the government likened some of the proposed schemes to housing estates with green edges added. Many believe that these eco-towns will ruin the countryside, increase traffic, put a strain on already overstretched resources and that they will become soulless dormitory towns.

Another body that was initially supportive was the Conservative party but they too have withdrawn their support for the idea saying that current planned developments are so poor, the whole eco-town project is “dead in the water”. The government, however, are determined to press on, saying that the majority of the public support the idea. According to a YouGov survey, 46% supported the survey with only 9% against but this support waned somewhat when people were asked if they would support an eco-town built within five miles of their home.