Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on April 11, 2008
It sounds like a good idea. Carbon-neutral “eco-towns” that address the dual issues of climate change and affordable housing. So, why is the British government receiving so much flak from celebrities like Judi Dench and er, Tim Henman’s parents? Well, as they say in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.
Whittled down from 57 sites, the fifteen short-listed locations include: Bordon, Coltishall, Curborough, Elsenham, Ford in West Sussex, Hanley Grange, Imerys, Leeds, Manby, Marston Vale and New Marston in Bedfordshire, Middle Quinton, Pennbury, Rossington, Rushcliffe and Weston Otmoor. The final 10 will be announced in the next six months. Five are scheduled to complete in 2016, the remaining five in 2020.
The towns, the largest of which will provide 15,000 to 20,000 new homes, will be the first built in England since the 1960s. Says housing minister Caroline Flint: “We have a housing shortage in this country and that’s why we need to build more homes, but we also need to think about sustainable homes in sustainable communities.” Built from recycled materials, the eco-towns will be energy efficient and have good waste management and other environmentally sound features.
However, all this eco hasn’t silenced the critics. The Campaign to Protect Rural England says: “the majority of proposals…appear to be in unsuitable, unsustainable locations and conflict with established plans and strategies”, while the Royal Town Planning Institute warned the Government not to create “soulless Stepford Wives suburbia”. Ouch.
Residents are also showing concern over the new developments, fearing that they will “damage existing communities and put pressure on services and infrastructure”. Dame Judi Dench took issue with the proposed eco-town to be built near the Bard’s birth place at Stratford-Upon-Avon (naturally) while tennis pro Tim Henman’s parents are protesting the “horrendous” Western Otmoor site.
You know what? This may have less to do with the environment and more to do with culture. As the Brits adore history and tradition, perhaps these “eco-towns” are a little too nouveau. For us, however, a chance to live in a ” soulless Stepford Wives suburbia” — well, isn’t that the American dream?