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‘Eco town’ – test for ‘Men from the Ministry’

Saturday, July 18 2009

The site of ‘North West Bicester’

Last Thursday, the Government announced the go-ahead for four ‘eco-towns‘ – Rackheath in Norfolk, Whitehill Bordon in East Hampshire, North West Bicester and the China Clay Community scheme near St Austell, Cornwall. The project will severely test the ability of the Government to make sure that the new towns deliver all their promised environmental benefits .

In addition to the four locations given the go-ahead, a further two – Rossington in South Yorkshire and North-East Elsenham in Essex – still have potential to be eco-towns but need more work to address certain issues.

The government-lead scheme was derided as ‘greenwash’ by environmental campaigners and generated fierce opposition from many local residents. The proposals currently being put forward have had the benefit of consultation and feedback from the local communities.

In the case of Weston Otmoor – a proposed ‘eco town’ between Bicester and Oxford – the original location was rejected and the Government is proceeding with an alternative location – abutting Bicester to the North West – put forward by Cherwell District Council.

The four ‘eco towns’ given the green light will be able to bid for a share of £60 million in Government support for local infrastructure. If the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department for Transport all manage to work together they just could make the ‘eco town’ concept work. The new communities will need to be supported by quality public transport services. Good rail services, decent feeder services to the nearest station and ‘cyclist friendly’ cycle routes could mean that the new homes, and the life style of their residents, would have a minimum impact on the environment.

But if the ‘Men from the Ministry’ do not connect all the dots then the ‘eco towns’ will simply generate more car journeys, and all those who shouted “Greenwash!” will have been proved right.

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