Sunday, 8 June 2008

Neil Champion - writes...

Dear Mrs Flint

It is with disappointment that I am writing today to express my strong opposition to the proposed so called ‘eco-town’ at Ford and request that it be removed from the possible short list of proposed towns.

I am writing, I feel with some authority on the subject of eco development as I am one of only a few hundred CIBSE registered Low Carbon Consultants and as such have undertaken the design of many sustainable, low carbon buildings, which have achieved the highest ratings for both BREEAM assessment and the code for sustainable housing.

As I said it is with disappointment that I am writing, the concept and brief of eco-towns set out in your document Eco-towns: living a greener future are excellent, unfortunately in the case of Ford it appears that the proposals barely fit the brief and far from being an exemplar of modern sustainable living would be a new traffic dominated dormitory town.

Your document states that all new eco-towns will be carbon neutral, using the code for sustainable housing’s definition, this requires all buildings, (houses, schools, workplaces etc,) will have their heating, hot water, ventilation and all electrical services including users energy use provided by zero carbon technology.

In the case of Ford the proposals for this zero-carbon technology appears to be two fold. Firstly the use of the river Arun for tidal power generation and secondly the use of household refuse to generate CHP (Combined heat and power). I say appears, as the exact proposals are either not fully developed or being kept secret, even the vision groups web site does not offer any details.

Starting with tidal power, this is at present an emerging technology with only a small number of trial sites in operation and to my knowledge none of which are on small fast flowing rivers like the Arun. Using tidal power, electricity can only be generated when the tide is flowing about 10 hours per day, therefore for the other 14 hours other means of generation will be required. Furthermore the drastic changes to the currents within the river could have huge effects on the rivers existing ecosystem.

The second option refuse fuelled CHP is a slightly more established process, although still only a handful of sites are currently in operation. Although refuse use is a very carbon efficient method of CHP generation it is certainly not zero-carbon, the refuse has a large quantity of embedded carbon, plastic etc which is released during the process and huge amounts of transportation will be required to deliver the vast amount of refuse especially to a fairly remote location like Ford.

I therefore do not see how this development could achieve zero carbon as required by your policy document and ask as both these systems are still far from reliable proven technologies, what will happen if either fail? Will the eco-town have to revert to the high carbon gas ‘back up’ being proposed by the vision group?

Finally I would also bring to your attention item 9.2.1 The need for regional and sub-regional planning rather than national specification. taken from your departments document ‘Best towns Practice in Urban Extensions and New Settlements produced by your department in 2007 which reads ‘The first lesson from our modern history and from this study is that the choice of new town or major urban extension is one that should be made through strategic design at the regional or sub-regional level, not by application of fixed theory or sequence set at national level.’ and ask why you feel it necessary to ignore this and impose eco-towns upon local communities without local consultation or local approval?

I look forward to your response to my questions.

Yours faithfully

Neil Champion BEng (Hons), C.Eng, MCIBSE, LCC


Eco Towns Team
Gordon Brown – Prime minister
David Cameron – MP
Eric Pickles – MP
Nick Herbert – MP
Nick Gibb – MP

1 comment:

Terry said...

Well said Neil,
I have forwarded your open letter to C Flint, to Westminster Hour, which is Radio 4 tonite.
Terry Knott
Co-chairman CAFE