Turn our cities into eco-towns – CIWEM

A leading environmental institute has hit out a Government plans to build new eco-towns from scratch, arguing that it would be more sustainable to address the impact of our existing urban centres.

In a response to the Government’s Draft Planning Policy Statement on Eco-towns the Chartered Institute of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM) has questioned whether the planned settlements will really forward the sustainability agenda.

The eco-towns programme aims to address the twin concerns of climate change and the growing demand for housing.

The solution it puts forward is, in essence, to build new settlements that have environmental measures built in from the outset.

CIWEM is among the growing number of organisations to question the wisdom of this strategy, however, arguing that while building new low-impact towns might seem an easy win, the impact from the built environmental could be more effectively tackled by making better use of what we already have in place.

“From the outset, eco-towns will involve the construction of new homes, transport infrastructure and other basic services,” said a statement published by the institute.

“But the UK already has potential eco-towns, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, which have the fundamentals of settled and sustainable communities such as schools, hospitals and transport.

“CIWEM recognises that re-developing existing urban centres in a more sustainable form raises major challenges but, if challenging targets on carbon emissions reduction are to be met, the Government must focus on this front.

“CIWEM believes that a commitment of funding and retro-fitting would make these cities carbon-neutral.

“In the context of the UK, new housing provision as discussed by the Barker Report is simply unsustainable and wider policies relating to population growth, consumption and lifestyle must be discussed by Government as a matter of urgency.

“What is faced in modern times is not a housing crisis per se, but an unsustainably large population living on a small island, using resources at a far greater rate than can be replenished.”

Sam Bond

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