SCALE BACK ECO-TOWNS PROGRAMME, URGE COUNTRYSIDE CAMPAIGNERS
The eco-towns programme should be scaled back, with a focus on one or two truly exemplary schemes, and tired, failed proposals dropped.  This was the reaction of countryside campaigners, CPRE, to the publication by the Government today (Tuesday) of a draft policy statement and impact assessment. 
Kate Gordon, CPRE’s  senior planner said:
‘There are welcome signs that Ministers are starting to listen to our concerns about the need for the environmental implications of eco-towns to be thoroughly tested through local and regional plans.
‘Fundamental questions need to be asked about the overall scale of the Government’s original ambitions and whether these remain realistic given current economic conditions. It is vital that the Government does not sacrifice high environmental standards in order to deliver housing numbers.’
Kate Gordon continued:
‘The continuing insistence that eco-towns must be new settlements is worrying. Many of the schemes are in locations where development would entail building on greenfield land, including high quality agricultural land, or in areas at risk from flooding. The combination of poor locations and the cost of providing high quality public transport there means that shortlisted schemes will inevitably be car dependent.’
CPRE will be examining the proposed policy and schemes carefully in the light of the following principles:
· all schemes should be thoroughly tested for their effects on the environment and communities through regional and local plans;
· the planning policy statement should not create a ‘presumption’ in favour of new towns or greenfield development over more sustainable forms of development, eg. urban regeneration;
· there should be a clear sequential approach in planning policy favouring urban brownfield development over development on green fields; 
· there should be no requirement for an eco-town to be a new settlement or contain a minimum of 5,000 homes, as this will stifle innovation and good practice in redevelopment and with smaller schemes;
· the policy should address ways in which existing places can become ‘eco-towns’, including through the development of ‘eco-extensions’ or ‘eco-quarters’ – we welcome the possibility of an urban quarter in Leeds;
· eco-towns should be agreed with, not imposed on, local communities, with public consultation following best practice models of public consultation.
Kate Gordon concluded:
‘We set out our case for eco-towns to meet ten tests back in February this year. It is vital that final schemes met these tests if they are to leave a positive legacy for the future.’