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Last Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007, 17:50 GMT
Carbon challenge
Paul Barltrop
Paul Barltrop
The Politics Show West

Great Bow Yard development in Langport
Great Bow Yard - an idyll for the future

How can we get rid of the carbon that threatens our climate? That is a question preoccupying politicians.

Our homes are responsible for a quarter of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions.

So the government has announced a "Carbon Challenge": to build entire new communities that do not damage the planet.

One of the first sites will be in Bristol - for the West is already leading the way in eco-friendly housing.

Hanham Hall
From ruins to leading the ecological drive

Hanham Hall, a former psychiatric hospital, should in the next few years become a trailblazer for the way we will live in the future.

And there are plenty of smaller examples of what can be done, like Great Bow Yard in the Somerset town of Langport.

Twelve futuristic homes were built on a derelict site, using the highest environmental standards. It was the idea of the Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development.

David Gordon of the Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development
It's what people want now: a building which doesn't wreck the planet, and a building that costs less to run
David Gordon

Reach for the sun

"It teaches us that it is perfectly possible now to build houses that are virtually zero carbon in their fuel consumption, and in fact don't use a great deal of carbon in their construction," says its chairman, David Gordon.

Solar panels and photo-voltaic tiles on the roofs capture the sun's energy.

Rainwater is used for flushing toilets.

Walls are thickly insulated, and windows fully double-glazed.

Flora Alwen, with her partner and two-year-old daughter, came here in 2006.

"It's been our first winter here, and the heating has hardly come on at all," she smiles. "It comes on perhaps a little bit in the morning, and the warmth stays the whole day, which is fantastic."

The houses cost slightly more to build - about 5%. But residents like Margaret Huzzey are happy - heating bills are lower and the earth's climate benefits.

"It should be an essential part - and if houses are fractionally more expensive, so be it," she states. "We can't get back what we're losing - it's a no-brainer really."

Onward and upward...

Solar panels
The harnessing of natural power does the soul and the world good

David Gordon believes we must go further and faster; a former councillor himself, he wishes others would be more bold:

"It's what people want now: a building which doesn't wreck the planet, and a building that costs less to run," he says.

"As a politician you're used to your ideas being argued over, and what blew me away, becoming chairman of the trust and producing houses like this, is that nobody says it's a bad idea, there isn't a B-side!"

They are now working on two further developments.

It is still for the green-minded minority - but with government support they hope one day all homes will meet the carbon challenge.

Tune into the Politics Show, to find out. And we would like to know what you think - e-mail us here!

The Politics Show on Sunday 11 February 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

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