"Robust" scrutiny needed for eco-towns plan
Published by Jane Gething-Lewis for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Environment, Local Government
Plans for a series of new eco-towns will be subject to "robust and transparent" scrutiny, Housing Minister Caroline Flint insisted today.
The eco-towns scheme, in which up to 10 zero-carbon settlements will be built to high environmental standards, has come under criticism with some fearing they will damage existing communities who won't be properly consulted.
Others have raised concerns that some of the proposed sites are previous failed development bids which have been resubmitted.
But Ms Flint said only the best proposals of the more than 50 received by the Government would survive onto a long shortlist expected to be announced in the next few weeks.
They will have to fully involve local communities in planning, and people will benefit from better transport, education and health services, she said. She insisted that contrary to some reports eco-towns would be subject to rigorous planning scrutiny.
And she insisted: "A weak bid where the greenest element is the recycling of failed proposals won't go through."
Speaking at the Ecobuild exhibition at Earls Court today Ms Flint said:
"Eco-towns have the potential to revolutionise the way people live and work, not just in individual developments but across the country."
Some of the bids currently being considered include plans to design towns around pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.
She said others aimed to emulate the "most ambitious European models"
where only 50% of households have a car by ensuring schools and health services are within 10 minutes walk of all homes.
Some plan for greater use of green space and allotments to cut down on food miles.
After the long list is announced in the coming weeks there will be a full public consultation after which a shortlist will be drawn up and published later this year.
And she said: "People who are against these schemes have to talk about why that is.
"If we are meeting standards and exploring what is sustainable and possible and reassure through these schemes that there will be benefits for communities in the wider area, then we can continue to debate but we have to come down to what's the hardest question is - those who are against more homes."
She said meeting the housing shortage by building more and better homes was her priority.
And she said she was open to suggestions, in her new role, about how to green the existing housing stock to reduce emissions from homes that were already built.
She also said she will be looking at measures to bring non-domestic buildings such as businesses, shops and pubs down to zero carbon.