Monday, 28 May 2007


Brown revamps eco town proposals

Gordon Brown's attempt to steal a march on David Cameron with a pledge to build five new eco-towns has received a mixed reception. In his determination to undermine Cameron's reputation as the greenest leader, and bolster his own reputation, the Chancellor has re-vamped a plan previously publicised by Housing Minister Yvette Cooper.

The proposals for five new 'eco-towns', built on brownfield land, have been in circulation for several months, and ownership of the site for the first green development, Northstowe, in Cambridgeshire, currently the former Oakington Barracks, was transferred to English Partnerships last year.In March 2006, on concluding the transfer of the land to the regeneration agency, Defence Estates Chief Executive, Vice Admiral Peter Dunt, said, “Government is committed to using more brownfield land to create sustainable communities with affordable housing.

The sale of Oakington is yet another example of the strong working relationship between two government agencies in devising strategies to make best use of surplus public sector land". "Since 2003 English Partnerships has acquired more than 2,000 ha of surplus public sector land, which is expected to provide around 20,000 homes nationally over the next 10 years as part of a comprehensive regeneration programme". Nevertheless, despite the blatant spin, the Combined Heat and Power Association welcomed Brown's statement that... "We can combine the building of new houses with low carbon and carbon free homes. Indeed, we can combine the building of homes with building communities with combined heat and power and a whole range of eco measures, including better public transport and cycle lanes which makes it possible for us to have a much higher quality of life in our new buildings and towns"Phillip Piddington, Director of the CHPA stated: "There is huge potential for CHP to be integrated more fully into the UK's Energy mix. Mr Brown's comments are broadly welcome. He has clearly identified that CHP is a technique that can deliver sustainability and affordability to local communities."Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth were rather less enthusiastic. Director, Tony Juniper said: "The Chancellor must make climate change a priority and set the UK on a path to becoming a low-carbon economy. IF new homes are needed, they must all have a minimal impact on the environment and be built to the highest eco-standards.

ALL new homes should be carbon-zero".Juniper emphasised the lack of attention to cutting emissions from the existing housing stock, and continued - "But the Government must also do much more to make it easier and cheaper for householders to cut emissions from existing homes. Housing accounts for over a quarter of UK carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately last week's Government decision to slash the maximum grants available to people for installing micro-generation systems, like solar panels and wind turbines, will do little to cut UK carbon dioxide emissions, which have risen under Labour."And the Green party strongly attacked the new town plans, citing the "devastating" environmental consequences of building so many homes across the UK. Derek Wall, the party's principle speaker, urged the government to concentrate on using empty existing properties instead. "In England alone, there are almost 700,000 empty homes.

We desperately need to see better use of empty privately owned property - through empowering local authorities to use empty property use orders, in appropriate cases and with proper safeguards and rights of appeal," he said.

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