Four ‘eco-towns’ have now been given the go-ahead and will be in line for a share of £60 million of Government infrastructure funding
All are supported or proposed by local authorities and meet the standards for housing needs and climate-change technologies laid down by Whitehall.
They are Rackheath in Norfolk, Whitehill Bordon in East Hampshire, north west Bicester, and the China Clay Community scheme near St Austell in Cornwall. All must still go through the planning process.
The Government originally intended that as many as 10 environmentally-friendly settlements would be built by 2020, but they have been dogged by controversy and opposition from local communities.
A further two towns - Rossington in South Yorkshire and North-East Elsenham in Essex - still have potential to be included after addressing issues connected with the bids. More may also come through future regional and local plans.
Gordon Brown wanted to unveil plans for 10 carbon-neutral communities that would deliver 200,000 new homes on cheap government-owned land in the greenbelt by 2020. The idea was that eco-towns would be so enthusiastically received that they could simply be parachuted into existing local authority development plans and fast-tracked through the system. Developers flocked to get involved in what they saw as a great commercial opportunity.
RTPI policy director Rynd Smith described the announcment as a victory for common sense. He said: ‘When the eco-towns programme was first announced, it rightly caused consternationamongst communities, who saw new towns being parachuted in to local areas with little community involvement in their location, and littledemonstration that they would be innovatively green.
‘Today’s announcement puts much of that concern to rest and demonstrates that the government has listened.’
While the approved schemes were expected to get the go-ahead, sources close to the programme say that the remaining six towns are now ‘dead in the water’.
Shadow housing minister Grant Schapps previously said: ‘The government’s own assessments admitted that only three of the proposals will be viable without public subsidy, thus requiring the taxpayer to bail out private developers.’