Ministers push through ten new eco-towns
By Robert Winnett and Rosa Prince
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 03/04/2008
Ministers have drawn up plans to force through the development of 10 eco-towns despite widespread local opposition.
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Local council leaders said they were furious that Caroline Flint, the Housing Minister, was preparing to bypass the normal planning process to ensure the towns were built.
Miss Flint will today reveal a shortlist of 15 sites to be eco-towns – the most ambitious national house-building programme since the new towns of the Sixties, including Milton Keynes.
The eco-town sites are expected to include Middle Quinton, Warwicks, Bordon, Hants, Carrington, Greater Manchester, Throckmorton, Worcs and St Austell, Cornwall.
Five new towns of up to 20,000 homes each will be built by 2016 with up to a further five completed by 2020. About five of the sites short-listed today are expected to be eventually abandoned.
In total, the plan could see up to 200,000 homes being built within the next 12 years.
However, the announcement will be overshadowed by a row with local authorities and protest groups who may be blocked from formally opposing the schemes.
A source close to Miss Flint said: “Because speed is of the essence, there will be some unique circumstances relating to the planning process for eco-towns. But there is no intention for circumlocution or circumvention.”
The plan has triggered a fierce backlash from local councils. The Local Government Association will today write to council leaders urging them “campaign against the proposals”.
Sir Simon Milton, the head of the LGA, said the association would campaign against the notion that such large development applications could be considered outside the proper planning process.
Local groups across the country have been established to campaign against the new towns.
Well-known figures including Tim Henman's family and the publisher Felix Dennis have reportedly opposed developments close to their homes.
Izzi Seccombe, of Warwick-shire county council, said: “We would be proud to have one of the country's first eco-towns in Warwickshire, but not here. We think it would strangle Stratford-upon-Avon.”
Gillian Ivery, of North Yorks county council, said: “We oppose these ideas because the Government hasn't involved democratically elected people at all.”
More than 50 developments are understood to have applied to the Government to become eco-towns, sparking fears that a rash of unsuitable schemes would be approved.
A source said: ” Not all of the 15 on the shortlist will make it to the final stage, and part of that process may be the rejection of planning applications.”
Under the plans, between 30 and 50 per cent of the properties in the eco-towns will be affordable homes.
Eco-towns – sites that applied
A shortlist of 15 towns will be announced today of which five will be completed by 2016 and a further five by 2020.
Cambois – Northumberland
Marley Hill – Gateshead
Mersey Heartlands – Birkenhead
Carrington – Manchester
Nantwich – Cheshire
Clifton Gate – York
Micklefield – West Yorks
Willow Green – North Yorks
Darringfield – near Selby
Rossington – near Doncaster
Waverley – near Rotherham
New Kingston – Nottingham
Grovewood – south of Burton upon Trent
Pennbury – Leics
Strubby – Lincolnshire
Fradley – Staffordshire
Rugby Masts – Warwicks
Throckmorton Airfield – Worcs
Middle Quinton / Long Marston – Warwicks
RAF Alconbury – Cambs
RAF Wyton – Cambs
Mereham – near Milton Keynes
Waterbeach – near Cambridge
RAF Coltishall – Norfolk
Cambridge Heath – Cambridge
The Wixams – Bedfordshire
Hanley Grange – south of Cambridge
Elsenham – north of Stansted
Thamesgate – West Tilsbury, Thurrock
Little Horwood Airfield – Bucks
Weston-on-the-Green – Oxon
Shipton-on-Cherwell – Oxon
Micheldever Station Market Town – Hants
Bordon – Hants
Dunsfold Park – Surrey
Ford Airfield – West Sussex
Sherford – South Hams Sherford – Devon
St Austell – Cornwall
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