Developers of first wave of eco-towns told to have closer ties with existing communities

Eco-towns must make plans to help existing communities the government has said this week.

The new guidance, which comes as the government begins a consultation with the developers of the first wave of eco-towns, is seen as an attempt to forestall further local criticism of the troubled initiative.

Environmental critics have previously accused the eco-towns, which are intended to be zero-carbon, of being unconnected to transport and therefore unsustainable while political opponents have said the process of choosing them is centrist and undemocratic.

The Communities Department will be hoping that its insistence on eco-towns having closer ties with nearby towns will address some of local residents’ concerns.

According to the guidance notes, any programme of development (PoD) prepared by each successful eco-town should include: “consideration of projects which would enable the existing community to better prepare for eco-town development.”

These could include: “environmental innovation shared with the new development or enhancement of existing community facilities to help prepare for the new facility.”

Developers must prepare a PoD in order to bid for a slice of £60m from the government’s growth fund.

The consultation with developers closes early on 25 September.

Meanwhile, there were further worries that eco-towns had bypassed the planning system as a government-commissioned report was published.

Scott Wilson surveyed 1,200 people and organisations and has as one of its findings.

The report said: “There was also concern that eco-town developments might detract from local planning and regeneration objectives.”

Others were concerned that appropriate sites had not been chosen for eco-towns and that further criteria, such as housing need, waste management and environmental issues had not bee considered.

First wave of eco-towns

Last month the first four eco-town sites passed the government’s environmental and planning standards and will go on to the next planning phase:

  • Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire
  • St Austell (China Clay) in Cornwall
  • Rackheath in Norfolk
  • North West Bicester in Oxfordshire