Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 16:05 UK

'Car free commute' eco-town plan

A Stewart Milne design of a possible eco-home
New eco-homes could have wind turbines and solar panels on their roofs

At least one person per household in England's planned eco-towns should be able to have a car-free journey to work, the government has said.

The average home should be within a 10-minute walk of "frequent" buses or trains plus shops and other services, housing minister Caroline Flint added.

Up to 10 zero-carbon towns are planned, each with 5,000 to 20,000 properties.

But the Local Government Association said it was not the government's role to draw up and approve such schemes.

It argued these powers should remain with local authorities to ensure the proposals were given "proper scrutiny".

However the government insisted applications would still go before councils as with "the normal planning process" and eco-towns would have to comply with existing planning rules.

'New approach needed'

Several "standards" have been set out which each eco-town would have to meet.

These include ensuring 40% of land is green space and placing at least 30% of homes in the "affordable" category.

Each home would also have to meet certain targets for waste recycling, water efficiency and pollution, which Ms Flint said would be "the toughest standards ever set out for new development".

'ECO-TOWNS' SHORTLIST
Bordon, Hampshire
Coltishall, Norfolk
Elsenham, Essex
Ford, West Sussex
Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire
Imerys, nr St Austell, Cornwall
Leeds city region, West Yorkshire
Middle Quinton, Warwickshire
New Marston, Bedfordshire
Pennbury, Leicestershire
Rossington, South Yorkshire
Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire
Weston Otmoor, Oxfordshire
Source: Department of Communities and Local Government

Fifteen sites across England were included on a shortlist announced by the government in April but two have now pulled out.

Up to 10 bids will be selected by the start of 2009, and must then go through the planning process.

The Local Government Association's chairman, Sir Simon Milton, said his organisation was not opposed to eco-towns as ways to meet housing needs and to tackle climate change.

But he argued "a new approach" was needed to ensure all proposals were properly assessed, and good transport links were established alongside high-quality facilities "where people would want to live".

Among the opponents of the scheme is the Bard campaign against a proposed development near Stratford upon Avon, which has applied for a judicial review of the process.

Lawyers for that campaign do not believe the eco-towns will necessarily provide enough suitable jobs in appropriate locations so at least one person per household can arrive at work on foot, bike or public transport.

They have said it was unclear if shortlisted developers would be rejected if they did not outline how they would meet the government's standards.


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