An eco towns judge and a leading councillor give their views on the new planning guidance and grades for the schemes
Cllr Margaret Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association:"Everyone recognises the need for more housing and to reduce our carbon footprint. The LGA fully supports any eco town scheme which has the backing of councils and local people. However, it would be totally unacceptable for the government to force through eco towns where they're not wanted.
"Using a national planning policy statement to create bias towards a particular government scheme isn't just ill-advised, according to our lawyers it may be unlawful. Leading lawyers have said that the approach is open to legal challenge under both domestic and European law and is in conflict with the basic principles of the planning system.
"The approach the government is adopting is deeply flawed. The housing crisis must be tackled by building more homes with high environmental standards, but this isn't the right way to do it. Eco-towns must be delivered without bypassing the planning processes and ensure that new developments have good transport connections alongside the schools, health and leisure facilities which are needed to create places where people would want to live.
"I will be meeting Margaret Beckett on Wednesday and urging her to make changes to the draft policy. Ministers should talk to council leaders about adopting a new approach that will deliver development in places where councils and local people agree that eco towns can work."
Sue Riddlestone, executive director of Bioregional Development Group and eco towns challenge panel member:“I do think generally the whole thing has improved by leaps and bounds. Some of the first proposals had not got a clue where as now people are getting serious about it and also getting the involvement of local authorities.
“But it is hard to see how they decided which bids were an a, b or c. I cannot see if they had a scoring system. How you can consider employment in Stratford to have equal weight to employment in Leicester? I would think there would be more jobs in Leicester. In Ford there is a lot of unemployment so people will get on a train to London. I think these are the sort of things that should some how be accounted for.
“I think there are some good ones: Pennbury is four miles from Leicester – you can cycle that. Marston is on a railway line and there are lots of jobs there. They have a chance from the point of view of jobs and public transport.There are quite a lot of others that have lots to recommended them.
“I am encouraged that the planning policy statement said eco towns should enable residents to reduce carbon emissions to a low level but I thought why not reduce them by 80 per cent? This guidance falls short of showing how eco-town residents can meet the 80% C02 reduction target [by 2050] that the Climate Change Bill requires. We already have zero carbon homes in the pipeline so we want something better than that. We need something that shows us what it would be like in 2050.
I think it [the PPS] is weak on transport: 50% of trips by car is not really good enough. I do not think eco towns should go ahead if they are not going to be really good.”