Housing minister Caroline Flint last week announced that her Eco-town Challenge panel will advise on the development of 15 sites.
These are vying to be national showcases for new ways of designing and building zero carbon, sustainable conurbations (News last week).
The panel is chaired by John Walker, former chief executive of the British Urban Regeneration Association. It also includes Town & Country Planning Association president Sir Peter Hall, Campaign for Better Transport director Stephen Joseph, Waste and Resource Action Programme chief executive Liz Goodwin, Green Alliance director Stephen Hale, and energy expert Nick Mabey. Other panel members include two TV presenters – Kris Murrin who presents BBC1’s Honey We’re Killing the Kids and Joanna Yarrow from BBC3 eco-makeover programme Outrageous Wasters – plus clothes designer Wayne Hemmingway.
Royal Academy of Engineering vice president Scott Steedman welcomed the eco-towns initiative, but was very disappointed at the lack of engineers on the panel.
"The role of engineers is clearly vital to ensuring that appropriate and informed decisions are taken with regard to the technology being deployed to further the sustainability agenda," said Steedman, who is also ICE vice president.
ICE president David Orr echoed Steedman’s dismay.
"When it comes down to it, the delivery of eco-towns will require the expertise and creative problem-solving skills of civil
engineers," said Orr.
An Association for Consultancy & Engineering spokesman questioned the panel’s ability to meet its main aim of challenging developers
to meet the highest standards for sustainability and design in their final proposals.
The make-up of the panel was defended by the Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman. It said that civil engineers would be involved as advisors to the local authorities developing the ideas.