Eco-towns wildlife warning

A Government policy to create flagship green towns fails to make room for ecology, wildlife campaigners have warned.

The Wildlife Trusts said the proposals for eco-towns, announced by ministers last year, were a missed opportunity, but the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) rejected the claims and accused the organisation of scaremongering.

Five new eco-towns are set to be built by 2016 and five by 2020, and a shortlist of proposed sites is expected to be revealed in the coming weeks.

The Wildlife Trusts urged Government only to include eco-town proposals which fulfil a set of ecologically-sound criteria it drew up.

This includes:

  • Sensitive location to avoid destroying existing wildlife habitat areas
  • Planning the development to include wildlife-rich areas, such as ponds
  • Assessing proposals on their true ecological impact, not just carbon footprint
  • Using developers’ contribution to fund green infrastructure, such as parks
  • Ensuring the eco-town has access to environmentally-sustainable transport
  • Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Government’s current proposals make a mockery of the term eco-town.

    “What we need to see is the planning system being used to avoid insensitive development and restore and create new wildlife habitats.

    “The Wildlife Trusts welcome the idea of eco-towns but, to be truly sustainable they need to be about much more than simply building zero-carbon homes.”

    The CLG said there will be extensive consultation with green groups and residents before any decisions are made about eco-towns, adding the initiative would “revolutionise” the planning of new homes.

    A spokesperson said: “There is a rigorous process in place to ensure we balance the need to protect the environment and cut carbon emissions with providing the homes that our families and first-time buyers desperately need.

    “Bids will not succeed unless they meet tough tests proving they make best use of brownfield land, safeguard local wildlife and habitat areas and provide cutting edge low and zero-carbon technologies and good public transport systems.”

    Kate Martin

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