David Lock rounds on ‘plotters’ and ‘government screw-up’ for imminent demise of schemes

One of the cheerleaders of Gordon Brown’s eco-towns programme has admitted that it is likely to fail because the government had “made such a screw-up it will disappear”.

David Lock is chairman of masterplanner David Lock Associates, which is involved in two of the schemes, and a former chairman of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), which has been advising the government on the programme. He said it was hard to see how any schemes could get planning permission before the next election, and that if the Conservatives win, they would scrap the schemes.

In a seminar on eco-towns at a TCPA conference last week, Lock rounded on critics of the selection process. He said: “You can sit back in your armchairs, content, when this programme stops because of the inertia, blocking and plotting against it. You’re stopping plans to house the people.”

He added that without the eco-town programme, roughly the same developments would be proposed but would have lower environmental standards.

Peter Studdert, director of joint planning for the Cambridgeshire housing growth area, had earlier called the programme to identify sites not in the planning system, “undemocratic”.

Gordon Brown announced his intention to build 10 eco-towns in September last year. However, the government now accepts that fewer than that may be selected from the 57 that applied. The shortlisting of many sites triggered protests from residents.

The news came as Andrew Lansley, a Cambridgeshire MP, wrote to housing minister Margaret Beckett to ask for the city’s Northstowe development to be given formal eco-town status.

Lansley is thought to have said the scheme, by Gallagher Estates and the Homes and Communities Agency, which was delayed last month, needed a large amount of public funding to go ahead.