ASA rules that developers' ad for Middle Quinton made unsupported claims about housing, jobs and infrastructure
Birmingham-based St Modwen and the Stratford-based Bird Group of companies misled consumers about potential benefits of the Middle Quinton eco-town, near Stratford-upon-Avon, according to industry watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The advert said that the “zero-carbon sustainable community” would create more than 4,700 jobs and 6,000 homes that would contribute towards Stratford's housing provision. In addition, the ad claimed that Middle Quinton's £100m investment in infrastructure would deliver Stratford's Western bypass.
Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff complained to the ASA and challenged the facts of the advert.
In response, St Modwen and The Bird Group claimed they thought the language was “standard” and thought that it would be understood that the claims did not factual certainties. They would be changed as a result of a government response, they said.
But the ASA upheld Luff's position. “The claims must not be repeated unless St Modwen and the Bird Group have evidence that supports them,” it said in its ruling.
It said the “brownfield” description was “likely to mislead” because the land included elements other than industrial, such as woodland, water and agricultural, which a planning application would not see as brownfield.
It said that the developers could not be sure that precisely 4,700 jobs would be created. “Because the evidence did not show that was the case, we considered the ad was likely to mislead on this point,” the ruling found.
It also found that there was lack of evidence to support the claim that the 6,000 homes proposed for the eco-town would count towards Stratford's housing provision and said that a decision on the bypass had yet to be taken by the local council.
St Modwen, based in Quinton, Birmingham, and Stratford-based Bird Group said the points made in the advertisement were based on and supported by “high quality reports” commissioned from reputable expert consultants to communicate the developers' commitments truthfully.
The Middle Quinton eco-town has attracted opposition by local residents, backed by celebrities including author Jilly Cooper, actors Dame Judi Dench and John Nettles and racing driver Johnny Herbert.