Housing

Public consultation opens on toughest ever green standards for eco-towns

Published 4 November 2008

Local communities will get their next chance to have their say on the eco-town proposals as Housing Minister Margaret Beckett today launches the Government's second round of formal consultation on the proposed locations and standards for eco-towns.

The draft Eco-towns Planning Policy Statement (PPS) published today for consultation sets out the UK's toughest ever green standards for new development, including achieving zero carbon status across all the buildings in the eco-town and allocating 40 per cent of the area within the town to be green space. The PPS also pledges that individual eco-towns will need to submit planning applications in the same way as any other major development proposal.

A detailed Sustainability Appraisal on each location is also published today. This identifies and evaluates the likely impact of the proposals on the local economy, community and environment, and considers reasonable alternatives. The consultation starting today will be on 12 shortlisted locations, as a result of the Sustainability Appraisals and the previous decision of some promoters to withdraw from this process.

Mrs Beckett said:

"The threat of climate change is a challenge we must tackle at every level and housing is no exception. Developing a greener approach to our housing need is crucial and eco-towns are a vital part of this programme. As well as providing additional homes they represent an opportunity to trial the kind of green technology that I hope will become commonplace in all new development. The Government must be at the forefront of the green agenda and that is why today's proposed standards mean eco-towns face the UK's toughest ever green standards for new development.

"I believe it is vital we get the locations for these eco-towns right, and the shortlist has been refined to reflect the results of the most detailed assessment to date on these potential locations. But I do not expect all of these locations to go forward - the eco-town standards are tough and I think some of these shortlisted schemes could struggle to meet them. Everyone has the opportunity to have their say on these proposals, both now and in the future when planning applications are received."

The shortlist includes two schemes proposed as reasonable alternatives in the course of the Sustainability Appraisal, by local authorities, at Rackheath (Norwich) and North West Bicester (Cherwell).  In the case of the two areas of further review identified in April's initial shortlist, at Rushcliffe, the Newton/ Bingham scheme has been included for consultation and assessment. In the Leeds City Region we have agreed to pursue separately the local authorities' proposal for an urban eco-community of similar scale which would pilot eco-town standards.

The Sustainability Appraisal has assessed the majority of the shortlisted locations as Grade B sites, which would be suitable for eco-towns subject to meeting specific planning and design objectives. One location has been rated as Grade A, which is generally suitable for an eco-town, and one location as Grade C, which is only likely to be suitable for an eco-town with substantial and exceptional innovation.

The second round of consultation on eco-towns now runs until 19 February 2009 (extended to 6 March 2009). As part of this consultation a new website has been launched at www.direct.gov.uk/ecotownshaveyoursay to both explain the eco-towns concept and standards, and to invite comments and ideas. Over the next month Communities and Local Government will also be running roadshow events in local areas close to the proposed eco-town locations to encourage awareness and responses to the consultation.

Notes to editors

The current shortlist of 12 potential locations for eco-towns has been clarified as:

  • Rackheath, Greater Norwich: Grade A
  • Middle Quinton, Warwickshire: Grade B
  • Newton-Bingham (Rushcliffe), Nottinghamshire: Grade B
  • Ford, West Sussex: Grade B
  • Bordon-Whitehill, Hampshire: Grade B
  • St Austell (China Clay Community), Cornwall: Grade B
  • Rossington, South Yorkshire: Grade B
  • North East Elsenham, Essex: Grade B
  • Pennbury, Leicestershire: Grade B
  • Marston Vale, Bedfordshire: Grade B
  • Weston Otmoor, Oxfordshire: Grade C
  • North West Bicester (Cherwell) - alternative to Weston Otmoor: Grade B

Grade A: generally suitable for an eco-town

Grade B: Might be a suitable location subject to meeting specific planning and design objectives

Grade C: Location only likely to be suitable as an eco-town with substantial and exceptional innovation

The Sustainability Appraisal assessed three categories of location:

  • The 12 sites on the shortlist outlined above
  • Previously shortlisted locations which are no longer being taken forward through the eco-towns programme
  • Other locations considered which were considered as alternatives to the shortlisted sites but which the Government does not propose including on the shortlist

The individual Sustainability Appraisals are available from: www.communities.gov.uk/ecotowns

The sustainability standards proposed in the Planning Policy Statement include:

  • Achieving zero carbon status across all the town's buildings, including commercial and public buildings as well as homes - a significantly tougher threshold than any existing or agreed targets
  • Allocating 40 per cent of the area within the town to be green space, at least half of which should be open to the public as parks or recreation areas
  • Requiring individual homes to reach the Building for Life silver standard and also achieve 70% carbon savings above current building regulations in terms of heating, hot water and lighting
  • Providing a minimum of 30 per cent affordable housing to provide more homes for social rent and assist those struggling to get on the housing ladder
  • Creating more options for travel so that residents are able to make the majority of their journeys without a car, such as by public transport, walking and cycling
  • Ensuring a minimum of one job per house can be reached by walking, cycling or public transport to reduce dependence on the car
  • Locating homes within 10 minutes walk of frequent public transport and everyday neighbourhood services
  • Raising the threshold for individual homes so that they must all achieve at least level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which includes standards for household waste recycling, construction waste, water efficiency measures and reduced pollution

The full Planning Policy Statement can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/ppsecotowns

  • Following the end of this consultation, the Government will announce a final shortlist of locations with the potential to site an eco-town. Schemes in these locations will then need to apply for planning permission and go through the local planning process. Eco-towns should be considered in the same way as any other major development proposal and the Government remains committed to the plan-led system. The eco-town standards set out in the PPS, and the assessment work on locations, will be a material consideration for decision makers.
  • A summary of the first round of consultation on eco-towns, which has helped inform the draft Planning Policy Statement and Sustainability Appraisal, has also been published today. This can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/eco-townsconsultationresponses

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