Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Thursday, 3 April 2008 16:32 UK

East's 'eco-towns' make shortlist

An eco-town planned for the former RAF Coltishall
An eco-town has been planned for a former airfield in Norfolk

A government shortlist of 15 proposed eco-towns features four which would be built in the East of England.

Sites in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk and Essex have been earmarked for environmentally-friendly towns.

The government's shortlist is to be reduced to a final 10 settlements over the next six months.

The eco-towns will have between 5,000 and 20,000 homes - all built to zero-carbon standards and between 30% and 50% should be affordable housing.

Marston Vale, with plans for more than 15,000 homes on brown and greenfield land near Bedford, has made the shortlist.

'Poor road network'

These would be built along the east-west rail line to Stewartby and Millbrook.

In Essex, a new settlement of 5,400 homes would be created north of Elsenham village, near the M11 and the London to Cambridge rail line.

The shortlist announcement was greeted with caution by Essex County Council.

"Elsenham is a beautiful, rural part of the Essex countryside which is being threatened by the Stansted expansion and the widening of the M11," said a council spokesman.

"The town is only served by a tiny rural railway station and poor road network. In order to create a truly sustainable new community in the area full infrastructure is of utmost importance."

The former RAF Coltishall airfield in Norfolk would house 5,000 homes if chosen and at Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire, 8,000 homes would be built near to the A11.

'Rural idyll destroyed'

Plans for RAF Coltishall show the old runway turned into an island with luxury waterside homes, a lake containing a wind farm, a wetlands centre, nature boardwalks and a boatyard in a 15-year project.

Developer Richard Davies said: "We would like it to be an exemplary eco-settlement with a zero-carbon footprint because it has to be economically and socially sustainable with renewable energy."

Tim Stone, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Duxford and the surrounding area, which includes the proposed site for Hanley Grange, said the government seemed to be changing plans.

"Initially the idea that we had heard was that it was going to be carbon-neutral buildings but since then they've developed the scheme a bit, so now they're talking about 15mph limits within eco-towns and improved use of water and improved waste disposal, but exactly what we need I'm still not sure."

But Daniel Zeichner, the Labour parliamentary candidate for Cambridge, dismissed additional claims that an eco-town would destroy an area many consider to be a rural idyll and said the 8,000 homes were a boom.

video and audio news
Northstowe in Cambridgeshire provides a template for how eco-towns will operate

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11 Sep 07 |  Norfolk

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