Eco towns ‘undemocratic’ claim councils

Local councils opposed to eco town proposals put forward by the Government say the developments should be subject to the usual planning process.

Government has tabled a list of possible sites for the eco towns which aim to address the need for more housing while providing models for sustainable development.

The initiative has come under fire from many sectors, with opponents ranging from green building groups to NGOs.

Most opposition has been based on the argument that refurbishment of existing housing stock and regeneration of current communities is more sustainable than building new, stand-alone towns in the greenbelt.

Now the Local Government Association has joined the list of those wanting to see a revision of the project, saying the eco towns should not be able to circumvent the authority of their local planning departments.

The LGA has south legal advice on the issue, asking John Steel QC to refresh opinion he gave in July 2008 on the eco town proposals, in which he concluded that ‘the government is bypassing local democracy and planning processes to impose the schemes on the public’ and that the plans remain ‘unfair, illogical and unreasonable’.

Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Eco towns can help the country tackle the twin challenges of the housing shortage and climate change.

“We need to build more homes that are environmentally sound, in areas with good transport links and alongside the public services which are needed to create places where people want to live.

“It is not the concept of eco towns that other local authorities object to – it is the way the government is going about deciding where they will be built.

“Eco town schemes should be led locally and not imposed on people by central government.”

Sam Bond

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