UK's new eco-towns not green enough
Senior civil servants have warned that most of the proposed eco-town schemes are not green enough, and have advised ministers to cut the number from 10 to only two or three.
The civil servants from the Department of Communities and Local Government said that most of the proposals could damage the eco-town "brand" and so should not be allowed to go ahead.
However despite these concerns, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown is understood to be pushing ahead with the policy in its entirety, potentially leading to conflict between Downing Street and Whitehall.
Apparently officials from the Department for Transport have also expressed concerns about infrastructure issues, while civil servants from DEFRA are alarmed that some proposed towns, including at Ford, West Sussex, would be built on flood plains.
Eco-towns are designed to be low-energy, carbon-neutral developments constructed from "eco-friendly" materials. Each town will contain between 5,000 and 20,000 homes and will be the first new towns built in Britain since the Sixties. Five will be built by 2016, with another five completed by 2020.
A government announcement on the policy is expected imminently. It will give an update on the remaining bids and show that three developers have now officially withdrawn their schemes and that a further proposal, for a town in the Leeds area, is still without a site or developer.
Another source involved with the selection process said that civil servants were now going back to developers who originally submitted bids but did not make it on to the final shortlist, in order to boost numbers, in case Gordon Brown refuses to back down.
Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, said: "Ministers have taken a good concept of building new green housing and have managed to destroy their own project by trampling over local democracy and systematically downgrading the green credentials of eco-towns to the point where they'll be less environmentally friendly than all other housing built at the same time."
The government believes the new towns will combat the growing housing crisis in an environmentally friendly way. But the policy has come up against many high profile critics, including Lord Rogers, the Labour peer and former government adviser on cities, who branded eco-towns as "one of the biggest mistakes government can make".
Article Date: 20 July 2008
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