Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Thursday, 3 April 2008 13:27 UK

Locals oppose airfield 'eco-town'

Existing eco-homes built on The Wintles estate in Bishop's Castle
The shortlist of 15 sites will be trimmed down to 10 locations

Two MPs have vowed to challenge the government's plans for a new 5,000-home "eco-town" in West Sussex.

Conservative MPs Nick Herbert and Nick Gibb said the development at Ford airfield was "universally opposed" by locals and would be "unsustainable".

The site near Littlehampton is one of 15 shortlisted for 10 new towns - the first in England in 40 years.

The developers said it was a "fantastic opportunity" for the area, offering much-needed new homes and jobs.

Mr Herbert, who represents Arundel and South Downs, said: "We simply don't have the infrastructure to support additional housing on this scale.

"When the A27 is congested, our hospitals are being downgraded and there are shortages of water, further development is simply unsustainable."

Council 'dismayed'

The county already has a target to provide 58,000 new homes by 2026.

Members of Arun District Council said they were dismayed by the announcement and feared their local planning policies would be overruled by the government.

Council leader Gillian Brown said: "A development like this cannot possibly achieve the principles of sustainability, delivering local employment, developing on brown field land and adequate provision of affordable housing.

"Nor does Ford have the necessary infrastructure to support an eco-town - we believe that is a simple and irrefutable argument."

'Sustainability credentials'

Mr Gibb, who represents Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, added: "This proposal is universally opposed by local people, by the parish councils and by Arun District Council and we need to fight it every step of the way."

An emergency meeting for councillors, MPs and the public will be held at Arun Civic Centre on 14 April.

Plans for 10 sites, from the shortlist of 15, will be finalised in the next six months and building completed by 2020.

The developers, Ford Airfield Vision Group, welcomed the government's decision.

The group - which consists of landowners, Wates, and Redrow Homes - said the new town would help fund an Arundel bypass.

Rod Hague, Ford Airfield Vision Group, said: "The successful short listing of Arun reflects the strength of our bid's environmental and sustainability credentials which met all the criteria set down by the government."

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