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Government 'retreats' on eco-town plans

The government has ‘retreated’ on many of its original eco-town aspirations according to Brian Waters, chair of the Eco-towns Delivery Consortium.

The government has ‘retreated’ on many of its original eco-town aspirations following the publication of its draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS).

That is the view of the chair of the Eco-towns Delivery Consortium and president of the Association of Consultant Architects Brian Waters.

According to Waters, the government has made an about-turn on its plans to utilise the New Towns Act and use the eco-towns to speed up its delivery of new housing.

Waters said: ‘There is now no mention of the New Towns Act in the draft, which is what had the whole world up in arms in the first place.

‘Instead, the eco-towns will have to go through the planning system like everything else.’

The government has also lowered its aspirations for the eco-towns’ green credentials, according to Waters.

‘The government originally said the eco-towns would be totally zero-carbon, including all the commuters and infrastructure, but now paragraph 4.3 of the draft PPS says only the net CO2 emissions of the buildings each year need to be “zero or below”,’ said Waters.

Despite this, RIBA president Sunand Prasad and UK Green Building Council chief executive Paul King came out in support of the draft policy.

Prasad said: ‘I have consistently promoted the eco-towns project with the fundamental caveat that the new settlements be truly sustainable, while allowing our industry to develop a confident, innovative approach through the development of new communities.

‘However, I would like to see first-class skills and standards initially being applied to three or four prime sites, to learn lessons [that are] of as much relevance to the huge task of making our existing towns and settlements sustainable as [they are] to the building of new ones.’

King added: ‘We cannot afford to compromise on quality; new homes and communities will have to stand the tests of time.

‘The latest shortlist needs to be interrogated to make sure the final eco-towns really can be sustainable – economically, socially and environmentally.

'But those that pass the test deserve our encouragement and the full support of government, which can and must play a critical role – through the new Homes and Communities Agency and at the local authority level, to help developers realise these ambitious plans cost-effectively.’

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