Government's own assessment highlights pitfalls of Ford eco-town

Local MPs have called on Ministers to drop their plans for an eco-town at Ford after the Government's own report raised serious questions about the suitability of Ford as the site for an eco-town.

 

Last week (Tuesday 4 November), the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published its long-awaited draft Planning Policy Statement for the national eco-towns programme and Sustainability Appraisals for each of the 12 sites being considered.

Housing Minister Margaret Beckett said it was "vital we get the locations for these eco-towns right" and insisted that eco-town proposals will have to meet the "toughest ever green standards for new development".

In its Sustainability Appraisal for Ford, the Government said that the proposal had some "key strengths", including the rail line and bus proposals and the "ambitious" energy, waste and water scheme proposals.

But the Government listed a number of "key weaknesses" in the plan:

  • Potentially severe congestion on the surrounding road network and a heightened need for an A27 bypass at Arundel;

  • It is almost entirely green field;
  • It is high grade agricultural land;
  • Although the area is not designated, there is still a potential to change the setting and character of local villages (e.g. Climping and Yapton), and;
  • Issues of flood risk - particularly ground water - accepting that, as a coastal area, Arun District ‘is likely to experience some of the most severe impacts due to climate change'.

Despite these major shortcomings, Ford has been given a ‘B' rating, the Government concluding that it "might be a suitable location [for an eco-town], subject to meeting specific planning and design objectives".

Of the 12 eco-town proposals remaining, only one was given an ‘A' rating, meaning that it is considered by the Government to be "generally suitable for an eco-town", while one was given a ‘C' rating, meaning that it is "only likely to be suitable as an eco-town with substantial and exceptional innovation".  10 sites were given a ‘B' rating and will go through to another formal round of consultation on the proposals.

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert commented: "The Government is admitting that there are major problems with the eco-town proposal at Ford, yet it is pressing on into another round of public consultation.  I think it's clear from all of the weaknesses which the Government itself lists that this isn't a viable plan.  I think that Ford should have been dropped from the shortlist.

"I'm also concerned that the Government describes the developers' waste proposals as a ‘key strength', when in fact West Sussex County Council has indicated that these plans are unrealistic.  The report also repeats the claim that 30 per cent of the site is brownfield land, which is simply wrong.

"I will be taking these matters up with the Minister.  Such flaws in the report add to my view that the Government should be calling an immediate halt to an eco-town at Ford."

Bognor Regis & Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb commented: "When the Government's own report highlights so many problems with an eco-town housing development at Ford, not least the fact that this beautiful coastal stretch is a flood risk area, it is time for the Government to drop its plans.

"Politically the steam has gone out of the whole centrally-driven eco-town projects and the sooner Margaret Beckett acknowledges this the better."

Communities Against Ford Eco-Town (CAFE) will be holding a public meeting at Yapton and Ford Village Hall on Friday evening (14 November), starting at 7pm, at which Mr Herbert and Mr Gibb will speak.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For the news release announcing the publication of the draft Planning Policy Statement and Sustainability Appraisal, visit http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/housing/1030523

2. For copies of the draft Planning Policy Statement and Sustainability Appraisal, published on 4 November 2008, visit http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/housingsupply/ecotowns/publicationsabouteco-towns/

3. The Government's second round of consultation on eco-towns ends on 19 February 2009. To submit comments, visit http://ecotownsyoursay.direct.gov.uk/

4. For the website of CAFE, visit http://www.nofordecotown.com/

5. For the campaign blog, visit http://www.nofordecotown.blogspot.com/

Joe CoombesPlanning