Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Campaigners lose eco-towns appeal

Protest
Plans for eco-towns have created large-scale opposition

Campaigners have lost a High Court challenge to the government's plans to build as many as 10 "eco-towns".

Campaigners from Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire applied for a judicial review of the scheme, arguing it was legally flawed.

But the government said it had "acted properly" throughout the process.

Twelve sites in England are on the shortlist to be eco-towns. These - the first new towns since the 1960s - are due to be built over the next decade.

Planning process

The legal challenge was brought by the Better Accessible Responsible Development (Bard) campaign, which is opposed to 6,000 new homes being built at Middle Quinton near Long Marston on the Worcestershire/Warwickshire borders.

It was backed by the Weston Front Protest Group, which opposes plans for 15,000 homes at the Weston Otmoor site, near Bicester in Oxfordshire.

Ministers seem intent on ignoring the voice of local people
Grant Shapps, Conservative

Housing minister Margaret Beckett said: "Eco-towns are a unique opportunity to deliver much needed affordable housing, built in a way which, by incorporating the very latest energy saving techniques, benefits both residents and the wider community.

"I am pleased the judge has recognised the government has acted properly and dismissed the review on all grounds.

"Several local authorities are working with us on potential eco-towns and our second consultation, on both the shortlist of locations and our proposed standards, remains open.

"Once we have identified a final shortlist of potential locations, developers will need to go through the local planning process - giving people a third opportunity to have their say."

'Lazy response'

But David Bliss, chairman of the Bard campaign, said: "We are disappointed but this is by no means the end of the road for Bard's challenges to the Middle Quinton proposal.

"Labelling objectors Nimbies (Not in My Back Yard) is a lazy government response to a well thought-out opposition to the current eco-town programme.

"No less than 47 national, regional and local representative bodies agree that poorly sited new towns will neither meet their promised eco-agenda nor provide affordable housing in places where people want to live."

Eco-towns, expected to sustain between 5,000 and 20,000 homes each, will be required to go through the same planning processes as other major developments, the government says.

They are expected to achieve "zero-carbon status" across all buildings, and 40% of each area left as green space.

The government needs three million more homes to be built by 2020.

'Vigorously'

Last November, it emerged only one of the 12 sites identified as having eco-town development potential - Rackheath near Norwich - was regarded as "generally suitable".

The others all had question marks over them and the Weston Otmoor site was deemed least likely to proceed.

For the Conservatives, shadow housing minister Grant Shapps said: "In principle eco-towns started off as a good idea but have become a disaster as Labour pushed them through using misguided political means.

"Ministers seem intent on ignoring the voice of local people. It is vital that if any eco town gets the go-ahead it has the support of the local community."

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SEE ALSO
'Eco-town' plans: Site-by-site
26 Jan 09 |  UK Politics
'Ghastly shadow' of eco-town idea
22 Jan 09 |  Oxfordshire
Eco-town fight reaches High Court
22 Jan 09 |  Oxfordshire
New question marks over eco-towns
04 Nov 08 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Eco-towns
30 Jun 08 |  UK



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