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Volume 474: debated on Thursday 3 April 2008

In July last year, the Government published a prospectus outlining its intention to build up to ten “eco-towns”.

Eco-towns are a response to the twin challenges of an acute housing shortage and climate change. They will test out new ways of designing and building towns to achieve zero carbon standards and promote more sustainable living.

The eco-towns prospectus outlined the criteria for a successful eco-town:

(i) That they should be new settlements of between 5,000 and 20,000 homes, separate and distinct from existing towns, but well linked to them;

(ii) The development as a whole should reach zero carbon standards, and each town should be an exemplar in at least one area of environmental sustainability;

(iii) It should include a good range of facilities—a secondary school, a medium scale retail centre, good quality business space and leisure facilities;

(iv) Between 35 per cent. of the housing should be affordable, with a particular emphasis on larger family homes;

(v) There should be a management body to help develop the town, support people and businesses moving to the new community, and to co-ordinate service delivery.

In response to our invitation, we received 57 proposals for eco-towns. There has been a rigorous cross-Government assessment of these bids, particularly focusing on the existing transport infrastructure and local environment. We have also looked at the likely benefits to existing communities, the contribution the eco-town would make to local housing needs, and the likelihood of the proposal being successfully delivered.

We are today publishing a short-list of 15 locations which will go through to the next stage of consultation. These are:

Pennbury, Leicestershire: 12,000 to 15,000 homes on a development incorporating brownfield, greenfield and surplus public sector land four miles south east of Leicester.

Manby and Strubby, Lincolnshire: 5,000 homes, largely on brownfield land including a former RAF base. The nearest town is Mablethorpe.

Curborough, Staffordshire: 5,000 homes on the brownfield site of the former Fradley airfield, 10 miles from Burton.

Middle Quinton, Warwickshire: 6,000 homes on a former Royal Engineers depot, six miles south west of Stratford upon Avon.

Bordon-Whitehill, Hampshire: 5,000 to 8,000 homes on a site owned by the Ministry of Defence. The nearest town is Guildford.

Weston Otmoor, Oxfordshire: 10,000 to 15,000 homes on brownfield land. Three miles south west of Bicester.

Ford, West Sussex: 5,000 homes on a site which includes the former Ford airfield. The nearest town is Littlehampton.

Imerys China Clay Community, Cornwall: Around 5,000 homes to be built on former china clay workings, industrial land and disused mining pits. Close to St. Austell.

Rossington, South Yorkshire: Up to 15,000 homes regenerating the former colliery village of Rossington, three miles south of Doncaster

Coltishall, Norfolk: 5,000 homes on a former RAF airfield, eight miles north of Norwich.

Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire: 8,000 homes, incorporating a former science park.

Marston Vale and New Marston, Bedfordshire: Up to 15,400 homes, on both brown and greenfield land south of Bedford.

Elsenham, Essex: At least 5,000 homes north east of the existing Elsenham village.

Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire: An eco-town proposal was submitted for Kingston-on-Soar, to the south of Nottingham. In response to representations from Rushcliffe Borough Council (RBC), this site is not to be pursued. However, the Government are proposing to carry out a further review in partnership with RBC to consider whether there is a suitable alternative location with the potential to be viable within the Rushcliffe local authority area.

Leeds City Region, Yorkshire: A number of eco-town proposals were submitted for locations within the area of Leeds City Region partnership of 11 authorities and principally between Leeds and Selby. The Leeds City Region Partnership has indicated support in principle for an eco-town within the sub-region. The Partnership has proposed a further study to compare the best alternative locations across the Leeds City Region partnership area. The Government have agreed to support this approach, on the basis that it will allow a further announcement to be made shortly of one or more sites for consultation.

These potential locations have been published as part of a consultation document “Eco-towns—Living A Greener Future”, inviting views on both the broader objectives and benefits of eco-towns, and on those locations which we regard as the most promising.

We will also be looking at the proposed schemes from promoters and we expect each proposal to be further refined and improved over the coming months. We will be looking for clear evidence that each scheme:

achieves the highest possible environmental standards, not only mitigating the impact of development, but positively enhancing the site, as well as reducing the need for residents to rely on cars;

is clearly deliverable, with funding identified and proper management arrangements set out;

is affordable, with a clearly agreed basis for contributions from private investors and public sector agencies.

A panel of experts will advise and challenge those leading the proposals to improve the environmental credentials of each project. Government will also be providing support to the relevant local authorities, comparable to the support on offer to local authorities designated as growth points or growth areas. We will continue to work in partnership with local government and the LGA as we move forward.

This consultation is the first of four key stages in the planning process for eco-towns.

Stage One: Three month consultation on preliminary views on eco-town benefits and these shortlisted locations;

Stage Two: Further consultation this summer on a sustainability appraisal, which provides a more detailed assessment of these locations, and a draft planning policy statement;

Stage Three: A decision on the list of locations with the potential to be an eco-town as part of the final planning policy statement, later this year;

Stage Four: Like any other proposed development, individual schemes will need to submit planning applications which will be decided on the merits of the proposal.

Our objective is for five eco-towns to be completed by 2016, and up to ten by 2020. We expect work to begin on some sites by 2010.