Four proposed new towns of 15,000 homes or more are on a shortlist of 15 sites for the eco-town programme published by the government yesterday.
The list will be cut to 10 successful bids in the next six months, each of which will have to be zero-carbon as a whole and an “exemplar” in at least one area of environmental sustainability.
The programme, which aims to have towns of between 5,000 and 20,000 homes under development by 2020, is expected to provoke strong local opposition.
Many of the most controversial bids among the 57 submitted have survived the first round of competition for the first new towns in England since the 1960s.
They include Pennbury, south-east of Leicester, in which the Co-op is a leading partner, and Rossington, South Yorkshire.
A proposed 5,000-home development near Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire, where Tim Henman’s father has been a leading objector, is also on the shortlist.
Anthony Henman said: “This will destroy our village community as we know and enjoy it … If we wanted to live in a town, we would, but we love village life.”
Ministers have promised that no new homes will be built on protected green belt land and have turned down proposals which they believe are recycled schemes already spurned by planners.
Despite government hopes that each new town would have 30-50% of their homes classed “affordable” for social rent or schemes that help low-income families, some of those backed so far do not reach that level. Instead, the government claimed that more than 30% of new homes altogether would be affordable.
The housing minister, Caroline Flint, said: “We have a shortfall of housing and with so many buyers struggling to find suitable homes, more affordable homes are a huge priority.
“To face up to the threat of climate change, we must also cut the carbon emissions from our housing.”
Reaction was swift. Campaigners against a 6,000-home proposal for Middle Quinton, near Stratford-on-Avon, said its former Royal Engineers depot site had poor transport links and would put unsustainable pressure on Stratford’s transport, infrastructure and local services.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England criticised many proposals on the shortlist. Kate Gordon said: “There are a number of locations that involve the loss of greenfield land, agricultural land and would damage attractive landscapes.”
Two proposals on the shortlist do not have specific locations: Kingston-on-Soar, Nottinghamshire, and a development in the Leeds area.
Sir Simon Milton, of the Local Government Association, said: “It’s no use building carbon-neutral houses if they are in the middle of nowhere with no facilities, so that people have to drive miles to buy a loaf of bread or take their kids to school.”
James Meikle and Kat Slowe
4 April 2008
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