Protesters' fury as ecotown shortlist targets 'unsustainable' locations

Fifteen locations across England earmarked as potential "ecotowns" were unveiled by the Government yesterday to a decidedly mixed reception.

The proposals for new settlements built to the highest environmental standards were welcomed by some as valuable steps towards easing the housing crisis. But critics complained that many of the sites were inappropriate – especially those in unspoilt countryside – and protest campaigns are likely.

The locations, announced by the Housing minister, Caroline Flint, have been whittled down from a total of 57 proposals submitted by developers after the Government announced its ecotowns competition last year.

The 15 locations, which range from Imerys China Clay Community in Cornwall to the Leeds area in West Yorkshire, will be further reduced to a total of 10 by a public consultation exercise which will end in the autumn. The final new settlements, of between 5,000 and 20,000 homes each, will be the first new towns built in Britain for 40 years, and be will constructed over the next decade as part of the Government's plans for three million new houses by 2020. The first five will be built by 2016.

Ms Flint said the ecotown schemes would help tackle the twin challenges of climate change and affordable housing, with the successful proposals having to supply between 30 per cent and 50 per cent affordable homes. The settlements will have to be zero-carbon as a whole and be an "exemplar" in at least one area of environmental sustainability, such as energy production or waste disposal.

None of them, Ms Flint said, would be sited on green-belt land. However, some are "greenfield" sites in open countryside, even if they do not have green-belt protection, and it is these which are likely to prove the focus of dissent from local residents and countryside campaigners.

There is already active opposition to plans for an ecotown of up to 15,000 homes at Weston Otmoor in Oxfordshire, where longtime local residents include the parents of the tennis player Tim Henman. Henman has backed protests against siting the new development on his parents' doorstep and yesterday his father, Anthony Henman, 67, said he would continue to fight government plans for the "horrendous" site, which he feared would destroy their village.

Other controversial sites which have angered local communities have made it on to the shortlist, including Pennbury in Lincolnshire, Middle Quinton, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, and Marston Vale and New Marston, Bedfordshire.

Many of the protests stem from fears that the new developments, which will have to go through a full planning process, will damage existing communities and put pressure on services and infrastructure.

The most vociferous critic of the schemes yesterday was the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which published detailed comments on each site and said: "The majority of proposals ... appear to be in unsuitable, unsustainable locations and conflict with established plans and strategies."

The Royal Town Planning Institute warned the Government that it risked creating "soulless Stepford Wives suburbia" if it did not ensure the new settlements were well-linked to existing developments, while the Local Government Association said they could become "the eco-slums" of the future if they were built without regard to where residents could get to jobs or training.

The Town and Country Planning Association welcomed the proposals. Its chief executive, Gideon Amos, said: "With a potential to deliver around 200,000 new homes, ecotowns are an essential part of the solution to the problem of delivering affordable homes at the highest environmental standards to families and households crying out for decent homes."

Among the 42 rejected locations were controversial sites in Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Derbyshire. Most were on green-belt land, threatened wildlife or were similar to projects that were previously denied planning permission.

They included Micheldever Station in Hampshire (as reported in yesterday's Independent), Grovewood in Derbyshire national forest, and Shipton Quarry in Oxfordshire, which is partly in the constituency of the Tory leader, David Cameron.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)