Eco-town campaigners lobby Parliament
Campaigners against the proposed ‘eco-town’ at Ford took their fight to Westminster on Monday (30 June).
A delegation from Communities Against Ford Eco-Town (CAFE) joined forces with other campaigns against eco-towns from across England to lobby Parliament.
They were met by West Sussex MPs Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs) and Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis & Littlehampton).
Developers, who originally claimed that the site was brownfield land, have been allowed to bypass local councils and normal planning procedures under the Government's controversial eco-town plans.
Ford, one of 15 sites shortlisted by the Government, would be a new town of at least 5,000 houses built on greenfield land.
Campaigners protested outside the House of Commons and delegates then attended a meeting chaired by Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps. A panel of MPs representing several constituencies affected by eco-town proposals aired their views at the meeting and responded to questions from an audience of around 300 eco-town campaigners, including representatives from CAFE.
Housing Minister Caroline Flint declined an invitation to attend the meeting, but met with CAFE campaigners Terry Knott and Vicky Newman later that afternoon, along with representatives from other eco-town campaigns. At the meeting, the Minister indicated that she may delay her decision on the final shortlist of eco-towns to the end of 2008 or beginning of 2009.
CAFE took the opportunity to present a formal submission to the Minister, who received it on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government. Monday marked the final day of the Government's three-month public consultation on eco-towns.
Yapton resident and CAFE vice-chairman Vicky Newman, a local surveyor, said: "It was an amazingly positive day where so many communities came together to express their deep concern on the eco-town process. All echoing similar issues on lack of process, lack of true public consultation, a policy initiative where a government is actively encouraging private developers to consider development on a scale which contradicts key local planning policies and the fabric of existing local communities.
"The Minister made it very clear that eco-towns would protect existing villages and must ensure there are genuine benefits to all communities beyond the new eco-town in terms of improved transport infrastructure, energy initiatives and employment opportunities - Ford Airfield Vision Group are yet to demonstrate any protection or benefit to the existing rural villages of Ford, Yapton and Climping or for the District as a whole."
Bognor Regis & Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb said: "Yesterday's lobby of Parliament was a huge success. Bringing together the campaigns from around the country was a highly effective way to maximise the nation's attention at the appalling way the Government is foisting eco-towns on local communities.
"It was clear that the CAFE campaign had the largest contingent, the best posters and the media coverage was spectacular. Congratulations to the whole team for organising such a successful day. It will have demonstrated to Caroline Flint and officials at her department that CAFE is an effective lobby group with a very strong case to make on behalf of local residents."
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert said: "It was great to see campaigns against eco-towns from around the country join forces. Their protest got a lot of attention and I think will have left the Government in no doubt about the strength of feeling against these plans.
"Well done to the CAFE campaigners who travelled up from West Sussex for the day. They were speaking for the thousands of residents who have already made their views about the eco-town at Ford clear. I only hope that the Government will listen."
Notes for Editors
1. For the website of CAFE, visit http://www.nofordecotown.com/
2. CAFE's formal submission to the consultation can be viewed at: http://www.nofordecotown.com/CAFE-submission16-CAFEconsultationresponse.pdf