Think tank criticises eco-town proposals

A report by independent think tank ‘Reform’ has criticised the Government’s policy of building ‘eco-towns’.


On 3 April, Housing Minister Caroline Flint announced the 15 sites around the country that have been shortlisted for an eco-town, including Ford in West Sussex.

The report, produced by Professor Nick Bosanquet and Elizabeth Truss, "strongly recommends" that the Government provide full costings and examine alternatives to the eco-towns proposal.

Reform also says that there are "serious issues to be addressed", including the following:

  • The current plans focus on 0.4 per cent of the housing stock, rather than the 99 per cent of houses that are already built.

  • The true carbon neutrality of eco-towns, given that many proposed locations are a considerable distance from work and amenities.

  • The opportunity cost of further building in the countryside, for both the natural environment and agriculture.

  • Specific development problems at the proposed sites, many of which are former military installations, deliberately sited in remote and unsociable locations.

  • Lack of evidence on the total cost of these settlements, including infrastructure.

On the specific proposals for an eco-town at Ford, which could see at least 5,000 houses built on a greenfield site, the report remarks on the fact that road access would be through the A27 bottlenecks of Arundel and Chichester.  The report also states that much-needed investment will be diverted away from Bognor Regis.

Deputy Director of Reform Elizabeth Truss commented: "Eco-towns are a ‘green elephant'.  They are likely to create more carbon emissions with the additional transport and infrastructure they will require."

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert commented: "I welcome the intervention of Reform on this important issue of Government policy.  Their report reinforces many of the arguments that we in West Sussex recognise. The policy on eco-towns is badly flawed."

Mr Herbert added: "I will continue to fight the proposal for an eco-town at Ford and provide strong backing for the community campaign."

Reform is an independent, non-party think tank, co-founded in 2002 by Nick Herbert before he became a Member of Parliament.  It aims to set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity by liberalising the public sector, breaking monopoly and extending choice.  It has a cross-party Advisory Board which includes Labour MP Frank Field and Liberal Democrat MP Jeremy Browne.



Notes for Editors

1. For the report published by Reform, visit

2. For the website of Communities Against Ford Eco-Town (CAFE), visit

3. Members of the public wishing to take part in the consultation can write to: Eco-towns Team, Housing and Growth Programmes, Communities and Local Government, 2/H9 Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU (e-mail:

4. The DCLG public consultation ends on 30 June 2008.

5. For further details of the Ford eco-town proposal, visit