The credit crunch is an opportunity to re-think how we can deliver eco-towns, by adopting Continental-style delivery methods that let both the public and private sectors do what they do best, argues a new report published last month.

In Beyond Eco-Towns: Applying the Lessons From Europe, architect PRP, consultant Urbed and lobby group Design for Homes looked at six residential developments in Ireland, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.

In study visits, the report’s authors found public-private partnerships where the private developer accepts returns over a longer time frame in exchange for less risk, partnering with public agencies that are led by individuals who understand the local area.

‘Eco-towns are facing difficulties, and the current model depends on land values that have fallen away, as has confidence,’ said Chris Wilford, an associate director of PRP and a co-author. ‘The government’s brief was quite open, so there are ways of adapting the model – for instance, through the local housing company route.’

The authors hope to discuss the report with the Homes and Communities Agency and English Partnerships, which is delivering the Hanham Hall Carbon Challenge project near Bristol with housebuilder Barratt.

‘Eco-towns have baggage. It could be time to champion schemes under a different label,’ Wilford added.