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Ministers give green light to four eco-town projects

Ministers last week gave four sites the green light to build controversial eco-towns, in a move which drew a mixed response from industry and politicians.

Housing minister John Healey said Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire, St Austell in Cornwall, Rackheath in Norfolk and North West Bicester in Oxfordshire would now go through to the next planning phase.

This will involve holding a full public consultation and seeking local planning approval.

Healey said these first ecotowns − the government’s shortlist includes a further six − could become a reality for up to 30,000 people in five years.

Developers in each of the four sites will be able to bid for a share of £60M for local infrastructure.

Healey also said he wanted at least six other towns to be developed and is making up to £5M available for councils to conduct further planning work.

Dogged by criticism

The eco-town programme has been dogged by criticism from residents close to the proposed sites, politicians and lobby groups.

Last week, Conservative shadow housing minister Grant Shapps described the announcement as an “eco-con”, while Liberal Democrat housing minister warned the programme would be “doomed to failure”.

Green motoring lobby group Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) backed the plans but said that public transport had needed play an integral part so that construction of new roads leading to the new towns was avoided.

“If built around major new roads and without good public transport, local services, car-free areas and convenient cycling routes at their heart, these schemes will not deserve the eco-towns brand,” said CBT executive director Stephen Joseph.

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