Friday, May 28, 2010

Eco Towns - Green Light or Red Light?

I wonder what the future will be for the planned 'Eco Town' near Yeovil. This report from the Independent suggests that the 'Eco Towns' planned under Labour will be shelved as part of the savings plans under the new government.

Here's the relevant snippet:
Gordon Brown's flagship scheme for eco-towns across the UK is set to be scrapped by the coalition. Cash for the second wave of developments, announced earlier this year, has been frozen and the scheme is under review, The IoS has learnt.

The first wave of four eco-towns was announced last year and will go ahead.
But the housing minister, Grant Shapps, said last night: "We will back new eco-developments with broad-based local support that are genuinely sustainable. We will not impose eco-town developments on communities that do not want them." (comment - that means nobody will get any, as I've yet to hear of a community that was happy to lose large chunks of countryside to new housing)

Mr Shapps's Labour predecessor, John Healey, said: "The shelving of the eco-town programme is a clear signal of what we can expect from Cameron's government. Having feigned concern for the environment and gestured about empowering councils, the Tories' true colours are coming through – and what they said before the election bears little resemblance to decisions they're now taking."

The move is set to anger councils – many Tory-run – that requested eco-town developments and have already spent money on plans.

At present there's nothing new on the Communities department website, though the banner at the top says "we are reviewing all content on this website". I'll bet. New eco town proposals are still being submitted, though with the scrapping of regional planning, it will be up to local councils to push them, rather than respond to the regional plans. The Yeovil proposal was in response to the South-Wests 'Regional Spatial Strategy' which called for a 5000 home 'urban extension' to the town.

A group representing house builders has warned of a 'dangerous void' in planning policy, with the new government clearer on what it's scrapping than what it's going to replace it with. If the regional planning system isn't there to translate population projections into local provision of housing, services and infrastructure for new businesses, then will 'the market' simply sort it all out? I thought we'd worked out that faith in 'the market' was vanity?

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