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UK eco towns won’t be ‘green’ if mass commuting is needed, planners claim

Earlier this month the UK housing minister Caroline Flint announced a list of 15 possible locations for 10 eco-towns, which are meant to alleviate the housing shortage and pioneer green building techniques.

A final shortlist will be announced later this year but they are highly controversial with protest groups already springing up.

Now the Planning Officers Society is adding to the storm of protest. It fears that the environmental benefits of green building techniques could be offset by unsustainable patterns of commuting that will ensue if the towns are built on the wrong sites.

John Silvester, spokesman for society said that the shortlist had been 'promoted by the property industry' and the selection process has avoided the normal procedure by which sites for new settlements are chosen.

Because of this, the society believes that normal sustainability criteria, such as access to jobs, schools and services, plus the impact on natural habitats, may not be fully applied.

A panel of 12 experts will advise the government on the final selection. 'We don't know what criteria the panel has been asked to consider or whether their deliberations are subject to any consultation,' added Silvester.

The Royal Town Planning Institute has similar concerns. It is calling for eco-towns to have strong public transport links to other metropolitan centres and provide enough local jobs to support most of the town's population.

Among those opposed to the eco-towns are the parents of former international tennis star Tim Henman.