In his keynote address at Civils 2008 in London, Terry Farrell & Partners principal Sir Terry Farrell said: "Ecotowns are a contradiction in terms. Government's plan to build 300M new homes is not ecological once you lay tarmac for the roads and provide heating for each one.
"There has to be a holistic approach to design and civil engineering is the foundation in getting this right from the outset."
Other experts at Civils claimed that aside from principal of whether eco-towns were a good idea, the current plans to build five new ecotowns were simply over ambitious.
University of West England professor Hugh Barton said any plans to create ecotowns from many brownfield sites would only create more need for car ownership because inhabitants would still need to travel out of the town to work.
"An airfield in the middle of nowhere is nonsense," he said.
De Montfort University professor of forecasting and innovation James Woudhuysen argued that the traditional methods of building new to replace the old had been unfairly dismissed.
"We need more, we need bigger, centralised energy and housebuilding," he said.
"And we need a lot more mass-manufactured homes."
Arup ecocity specialist Roger Wood argued that focus should be turned to city planning rather than on ecocities. "We need to allow people to live together and meet each other. The way we design our cities – whether eco or sustainable – it’s about the community and how people work and play there."