Campaigners vow to continue eco-town fight

Campaigners have lost a High Court challenge to block the Government's flagship eco-towns scheme but are planning to continue the protest after an independent expert published a damning report on the towns.

The challenge, spearheaded by the Better Accessible Responsible Development (BARD) campaign, argued that there had been a failure to consult the public properly over the controversial policy to build the environmentally friendly towns.

Mr Justice Walker rejected the challenge and the campaigners’ accusations that Government had followed unlawful procedures.

But BARD, which was set up to oppose the 6,000-home eco-town planned on former-MOD land near Long Marston, in Warwickshire, has vowed to fight on and says it may have new grounds for another legal challenge.

The original legal challenge covered the consultation documents published by Government last April after the shortlist of 15 locations, including the Long Marston site, was revealed (see related story).

BARD is now investigating the possibility of challenging another set of documents – the Sustainability Appraisals on the shortlisted sites published by Government in November.

They appointed an independent expert on environmental impact assessments, European Commission and governmental advisor William Sheate, from Imperial College London, to examine the appraisals.

His damning report, published in January, concluded that the appraisals were “exceptionally poor” and he raised concerns that they failed to comply with the European SEA Directive, and may therefore be open to a legal challenge in the European Courts.

Melanie Riley, a spokesperson for BARD, told edie: “Obviously we continue on in our campaign and we will be looking at all the options available to us.”

Housing Minister Margaret Beckett welcomed the High Court’s ruling and said that when a final shortlist of potential locations had been draw up, developers would have to go through the local planning process which would give local residents another opportunity to have their say.

Kate Martin

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