Eco-town plans are "falling apart"

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has said the proposals for an ‘eco-town’ at Ford are “falling apart” following a report published on Monday (23 June) by the Government’s Eco-Town Challenge Panel.

 

The report, which describes the site at Ford as ‘challenging', highlights serious flaws in the proposals put forward by developers.  The panel has also thrown a spanner in the works for developers by calling on them to abandon their plans to contribute towards the cost of a new bypass on the A27 at Arundel.

Developers have long acknowledged that the A27 bypass is an essential prerequisite to an eco-town of 5,000 houses, although they recently argued that they should be allowed to build up to 1,000 homes without it.  They have claimed that an eco-town would bring forward plans for the bypass, from the current timescale of 2020.  Developers have now been told to think again.

The Challenge Panel was set up by the Department for Communities and Local Government to test the ‘green' credentials of eco-town proposals.  The panel includes experts on the environment, housing and transport.

The panel, which includes fashion designer Wayne Hemingway, recommends that funding for the Arundel bypass should be abandoned because ‘it is not consistent with sustainable principles'.  It suggests that the developers should ‘examine how to create travel behaviour change'. 

The panel have backed the idea of a ‘personal rapid transit' system, similar to the scheme for Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport.  They suggest that people should be ferried around Ford in small electric-powered ‘pods', operated by computers and running on pre-determined tracks around the site.

Mr Herbert has slammed the proposal to withdraw funding for the A27 bypass at Arundel.  He said: "It is out of the question that we could have another 10,000 to 15,000 people without a bypass which is already desperately needed.

"The case for an eco-town is falling apart.  What happens when the pods reach the town boundary?  How would people get around West Sussex from there?  And how much will it all cost?"

Mr Herbert added: "I think some of these people live in cloud cuckoo land."

The panel also suggest that developers ‘explore further the potential for local food production', without mentioning that the new town would be built on prime agricultural land; explore ‘why businesses would be attracted to the area'; and describe how they will manage ‘possible future growth', a clear indication that the eco-town is likely to expand beyond the 5,000 houses envisaged. 

The Challenge Panel also suggest that ‘evidence of local support for the scheme is needed', something the developers are unlikely to obtain in the face of overwhelming opposition from local residents, businesses, councils and MPs.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. The report of the Eco-Town Challenge Panel, entitled ‘Notes and recommendations from session 1 of Eco-Town Challenge', can be viewed at http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/eco-townschallengenotes

2. The Government have indicated that they will reduce the shortlist of ‘eco-towns' from 15 to 10 sites in October.

Joe CoombesPlanning