Eco-towns put under the microscope

The public are not being given their say on the Government's flagship eco-towns policy and it may not significantly reduce the carbon footprint of housing, countryside campaigners have said.

Speaking at the Ecobuild exhibition in London, Neil Sinden, policy director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said the organisation recognised the need for more housing in England, but did not think eco-towns, announced by ministers last year, were the right way to achieve this.

He questioned the need for 10 new free-standing towns allocated evenly to different regions of the UK, arguing more regeneration of brownfield was needed and ministers should select sites based on local needs.

During a live debate on eco-towns, Mr Sinden said: “There are some serious questions to be asked about eco-towns.”

Nick Raynsford, Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, defended the policy – but he too raised a number of issues which must be resolved.

He said: “I believe the policy is the right policy. It’s got an important contribution to make towards meeting our country’s housing needs in a sustainable way.

“But it’s got to be planned well and implemented well if we are to make the most of the opportunity.”

An audience vote following the debate found that opinion was divided right down the middle, with about half of the audience supporting the policy while the other half were unconvinced.

Earlier at the event, outspoken designer Wayne Hemmingway said building sustainable housing was about more than just installing solar panels.

He said: “Sustainability is about life. It’s about people being happy. Let’s not just tick boxes and think if we do, we have created a sustainable future for us all.”

He argued that the impetus for greener living should come from communities themselves, rather than dictated by Government building policies.

Mr Hemmingway said: “We should put no sustainable elements on [houses] whatsoever but ensure that we build something will last 200 years and we build a community there and it will become sustainable.”

Kate Martin

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