Government plans for eco-towns could seriously increase pressure on overstretched transport infrastructure and utilities making the towns unsustainable, the South East England Regional Assembly (SERA) claimed today.
Last week housing and planning minister Caroline Flint confirmed a shortlist of 15 locations for proposed new sustainable communities that would aim to be zero carbon.
Three of the proposed eco-towns are located in the South East and could see 28,000 extra homes being built, on top of housebuilding plans already established in the region.
SERA argues that eco-town proposals must now be tested through the regional planning process to check their viability and cost - a system they have bypassed so far.
There is concern that eco-towns would not be self sufficient and residents would need to travel to neighbouring towns to work and shop, increasing their environmental impact and putting a strain on already over-stretched and under funded infrastructure.
The Assembly, which is responsible for the South East's planning strategy, claims it has so far been marginalised in the eco-town process. A consultation on the eco-towns soon to be launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government will represent the first time that the Assembly has been invited to give its views on the proposals.
SERA chairman Keith Mitchell said: "There is a great concern among local authorities that the selection of eco-towns has so far been independent of the usual planning process. These proposals could see new towns being built in the South East with no regard to the impact on neighbouring towns and villages. They will put a strain on infrastructure that is already overstretched and in desperate need of Government investment. Efforts should instead be focused on making existing communities more sustainable."
The Assembly's objections follow similar concerns raised by town planners, local authorities and environmental groups last week.