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Planning: Eco-towns

Volume 715: debated on Tuesday 1 December 2009


My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

One of the key roles of local authorities in responding to climate change is to be innovative in how new development is planned. Today, I am announcing that we have had a very encouraging number of responses from local authorities which want to take forward major new development to the exemplar green standards which we set out in the Eco-towns PPS published in July of this year. This shows how the standards we set are influencing the thinking of local authorities across the country as they consider how to do new development. Possible second wave bids are still at an early stage and will be subject to further, widespread consultation on proposals, before public consultation and local planning approval.

The Eco-towns PPS sets the highest sustainability standards ever required for new development. One of the key components of the eco-towns concept is to exploit low- carbon innovation at community scale with a minimum development over time of around 5,000 homes. It is the scope for a new community or communities to create the opportunity of large-scale innovation in how jobs, schools and services are delivered in low-carbon ways that will help us pilot new approaches in responding to climate change.

I am today announcing that we are taking forward nine expressions of interest from local authorities and city regions, covering 14 locations, for support for the further planning and feasibility work which will test whether potential development in these areas could meet the concepts and standards set out in the Eco-towns PPS. They comprise:

existing schemes at Shoreham Harbour and Northstowe, where there is now an opportunity and desire to redesign elements of the project to see if it can meet even higher sustainability standards;

a total of five authorities and partnerships, covering 10 locations in Taunton (Monkton Heathfield and Corneytrowe), Yeovil, Leeds City Region (Aire Valley, York North West, North Kirklees and Bradford-Shipley canal corridor), Coventry and Lincoln (Lincoln Area and Gainsborough). In these locations the concepts are still at an early stage but development work under the Eco-towns PPS offers the possibility of creating an outstanding new community providing it is feasible and deliverable; and

Cornwall, which is already taking forward one of the first eco-towns, and Sheffield City Region (Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire) wish to use the eco-towns concept to carry out a broader survey of potential, test alternative options for development and then use the eco-town concept and standards to see if this can be successfully applied to their area.

The locations and places I am announcing today show how local authorities want to use the eco-town concept and standards in a variety of ways. Developing these projects will be a demanding process requiring good co-operation between central and local partners and the private sector. We will now be taking these proposals forward in more detailed discussion with each authority with a view to providing funding support for more detailed design and to test feasibility, drawing on the £5 million fund for studies which I announced in July. We will be working with partners across government and the agencies to ensure that infrastructure, environment and sustainability issues are suitably addressed. In all cases these proposals are or are intended to become part of the local plan work being led by the authority and will be subject to the full local planning process.

I am also keen that this is not just planning work but that we can help communities see some of the potential by funding demonstrator low and zero-carbon exemplar schemes as we currently envisage in the first four eco-towns. To this end I am making available £5 million capital funding to enable authorities to show the type of development that will be possible and my department will be issuing further advice on this in conjunction with the Homes and Communities Agency.