UK government’s ecotowns poised for battle

The parents of Britain's former No 1 tennis star Tim Henman are just some of those who have decided to battle against plans by the UK government to build up to 10 ecotowns by 2020.

Campaigners against the ambitious plans are also concerned about the motives behind some of the developers. In particular there is much unease about the revelation that supermarket giant Tesco is the secret bidder behind one of the new ecotowns.

Britain's biggest retailer plans to build a large 'environmentally friendly' store in the centre of the proposed ecotown in Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire, amid fears that it will further increase its high-street dominance.

Meanwhile in Oxfordshire, the Henmans are leading the fight against plans to build a 15,000-home eco-town near their village. Tony and Jane Henman and neighbours in Weston-on-the-Green said they were outraged by a Government decision to shortlist the site for a potentially massive housing development.

They said the proposed town – called Weston Otmoor by developers Parkridge Holdings – would change their village beyond recognition. Plans include up to 15,000 zero-carbon homes, a new railway station, tram service, park and ride, new schools and libraries.

Eco-towns are intended to be a three-pronged response to climate change, the need for sustainable living and the need to increase housing supply. Each of the new towns will use recycled materials in order to minimise waste during construction and balance development with green spaces.

Households may find their waste food or wood is used to fuel a combined heat and power plant. Walking and cycling will be encouraged by the provision of free public transport, bus priority schemes and car clubs.

Each will have 5,000 to 20,000 homes built using timber, solar thermal panels, double glazing, insulation and biomass boilers that do not use fossil fuels. In contrast to the high-density apartments and small units expected in other areas of the country, the new towns will have gardens, green spaces and good quality family houses rather than apartments.

They are also expected to have between 30 and 50 per cent affordable housing with a mix of private, social and rented accommodation. Within the towns, shops, primary and secondary schools will all be in walking distance in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

But property developers have warned that zero-carbon homes will be up to £40,000 more expensive to build than traditional homes and expect land prices to be cheaper where they are built.

The short listed sites are; Pennbury, Leicestershire, Manby and Strubby, Lincolnshire, Curborough, Staffordshire, Middle Quinton, Warwickshire, Bordon-Whitehill, Hampshire, Weston Otmoor, Oxfordshire, Ford, West Sussex, Imerys China Clay Community, Cornwall, Rossington, South Yorkshire, Coltishall, Norfolk, Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire, Marston Vale and New Marston, Bedfordshire,Elsenham, Essex, Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire and Leeds City Region, Yorkshire.