Minister invites industry to come up with low-carbon concepts to be judged by the public

The government has revealed that it will hold a two-stage design competition for the five eco-towns to be built by 2016.

Architects, urban designers and planners have been invited to contribute to an “ideas competition” ahead of a more specific design competition to develop the towns themselves.

It is understood that the first phase will call for general ideas that could be adapted to the towns, including low-carbon technologies.

Launching the competition, Yvette Cooper, the housing minister, said juries made up of members of the public in the areas concerned would help judge the entries from a shortlist of 10 drawn up by Cabe, the RIBA and the Prince’s Foundation.

Cooper said: “We don’t want each town to be the same, but instead to reflect the history and character of each local area. This is why it is crucial we involve local people.”

More than 30 councils are understood to have expressed an interest in the eco-town programme, although so far only Trafford and Wirral have publicly confirmed this.

Meanwhile, Cooper has told Cambridgeshire council that a plan to build an eco-town at Northstowe, announced by prime minister Gordon Brown in May, will not be eligible for the scheme as it is already in planning.

Cooper has also made a pronouncement on the Merton Rule initiative, which allows councils to impose their own sustainability requirements. In a letter to Merton council, the housing minister said a proposal to require new commercial buildings to reduce carbon emissions by 10% through on-site renewable energy, had acted as a “real incentive”.

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