Eco-village will cut household bills

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Planners in south London are set to unveil a pioneering housing scheme which could slash heating bills to about pounds 1 a week for residents.

A former chemical works on Mill Lane in Sutton is earmarked to become an eco-village, recycling all household rubbish and water.

Flats and houses will use up-to-the minute energy-saving methods, harnessing solar power, and residents can grow their own vegetables on communal allotments. Two-car families are out of favour, with the emphasis on public transport and vehicle sharing.

As well as helping to save the planet, the eco-lifestyle is cheaper than conventional throw-away society, say planners in Sutton, which has been dubbed London's greenest borough.

Heating bills will be pounds 1 a week and water consumption - in the new age of metering - will be kept to a minimum. Water used for bathing and washing will be recycled on site and used for flushing toilets - one of the biggest drains on any household water bill.

If all goes according to plan the Sutton eco-estate could become the self-sustaining home of more than 400 people within two years.

The project, in conjunction with the South London Housing Association, is pioneering and, Sutton planner Brian Madge admits, ambitious. 'We really want to get this right. It is very important.'

Designer Ron Ellis, of the South London Housing Association, said the green approach has two benefits. 'Firstly, it is cheaper for the tenants, and secondly, as a nation we need to conserve our resources.'

The scheme, still at an early planning stage, will cost up to 20 per cent more than conventional housing, but running costs will be low.

Houses and flats - of no more than three storeys - will have solar panels on south facing walls and a plant to burn household rubbish on site to augment power taken from the national grid.

'We are still working on the detail,' said Mr Madge, 'For example, of low car ownership and communal food growing. You have to be realistic.

'We have a shopping list of objectives and we may not achieve most of them but as many as possible.'

The borough's ideal is to lead the way in green town planning, winning another feather in its cap along the way. It has earned the accolade of London's greenest borough thanks to active eco-policies and the highest number of trees per acre.

All its 170,000 residents are already recycling waste at home, saving valuable cash and resources spent transporting it to traditional dumps.

The Mill Lane scheme was to have been part of this year's bid for government cash under the Single Regeneration Budget for urban areas. But the detailed planning necessary means the borough has missed this year's deadline.

'With something as innovative we need to work at our own pace,' Mr Madge added.

Outline planning permission has been given and building should begin next summer.

'It is very easy to be idealistic and we want this to work.'