A cross party committee of MPs has urged the Government to consider what lessons can be learned from the building of new towns following the Second World War when building three million new homes and a series of eco-towns.
The Chairman of the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, Phyllis Starkey, said, “The experience of the new towns can teach us a lot about how we should approach the long-term planning of current and future large-scale urban development, such as the ‘eco-town’ programme and the growth areas” and the Liberal Democrat local government spokesman Julia Goldsworthy chipped in that, “By ignoring the lessons of the past, eco-towns run the risk of becoming the broken communities of the future.”
The Government is planning to build 5 eco-towns by 2016 and a further 5 by 2020. Eco-towns should have good links to surrounding towns and cities in terms of jobs, transport and services and be a zero-carbon development where the town would put back as much or more energy than it uses to the national grid. It should also excel in at least one area of environmental technology.
A final shortlist of proposed eco-towns will be published in the autumn. However, current conditions in the housing market are already threatening this timetable. Leading developer Persimmon, who axed 1,100 jobs on Wednesday, have already pulled out of an eco-town scheme in Rossington, South Yorkshire and on Monday another developer pulled out of a scheme to build a 5,000 home scheme in Staffordshire.
And it doesn’t appear that local councils like the idea much either. The Leader of Essex County Council, Lord Hanningfield, expressed support for anti-eco town campaigners by saying that the whole concept of eco-towns was “flawed environmentally and democratically.”
“It would also take over seven hundred so-called ‘Eco-towns’ to absorb the CO2 produced by the government’s proposed extra runway at Stansted”, he continued.
The Government remains unmoved, however, with Deptury PM Harriet Harman MP again urging MPs to back eco-towns during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. In April, 57 potential locations were shortlisted to 15, now only 10 are planned to be built by 2020. Should we expect to see a casino style U-turn from the Government sometime between now and August?