Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Announced Today: Yeovil & Taunton on 'Eco-Town' shortlist

Thanks to Tim for alerting me to this announcement today by the Department for Communities.

Today, the Housing Minister announced that a further nine local authorities are considering plans to develop new communities to eco-town standards.

These major new developments will need to meet the pioneering green standards set out in the eco-towns planning policy statement published in July. Proposals for sustainable developments need to include 5,000 homes 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.

Yeovil and Taunton are among the new sites.

1. These aren't strictly eco-towns. Yeovil has already been earmarked by the Regional Spatial Strategy (the regional planning document, covering the period to 2026, which looks at housing demand, transport, employment etc.) for an 'urban extension' of 5,000 houses. So the announcement means that the local District Council are looking for this development to meet the eco-towns standard. It's not new housing, just a change of emphasis for what's already planned.

2. Conservative policy is to scrap the Regional Spatial Strategies, so it's a question of watch this space. We have no idea whether these proposals will still be on the agenda in 6 months time. Given the need for new housing, it may be difficult for the Tories to say either a) we don't need the houses or b) they shouldn't be up to high environmental standards. But we'll see.

3. One of the things which will help these things work is co-operation: e.g. car pools, so a proper eco town will only work with a certain level of community spirit. That will need not just attention to the built environment, but attention to community building. That might be an opportunity for the churches, or indeed anyone else with a passion for community, to be part of the picture.

Here are the details of the Somerset sites:

Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council are proposing detailed studies of potential eco-town development at Monkton Heathfield, a development area with capacity for 5,000 homes to the NE of Taunton. This is a proposal in the emerging local core strategy and the draft Regional Spatial Strategy driven by high levels of need and demand for housing. It will be a self-contained community, including employment, services and community facilities, well linked to Taunton by public transport and sustainable travel option.

The local authorities are committed to achieving the UK carbon reduction targets and funding from this programme could support more detailed feasibility and development work to prepare detailed proposals in areas such as sustainable transport, renewable energy, green infrastructure and masterplanning of development areas.Looking further ahead, lessons learned from these studies will be applied to the strategic urban extension at Taunton-Corneytrowe (SW of Taunton) which has capacity for 6-8,000 homes.

South Somerset District council is interested in assessing the potential of achieving eco-town standard in a possible eco-extension on the edge of Yeovil, consistent with the draft Regional Spatial Strategy and the Council's work on a draft core strategy which is due for public consultation next year. Funding from this programme would support more detailed studies of this option and potentially a masterplanning exercise.

Reports: BBC, Times online.

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