Azara Blog: There are lots of proposals for "eco-towns" in Cambridgeshire

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Date published: 2008/03/01

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Proposed eco-towns in Cambridgeshire have been branded dormitory communities by councillors.

There are now five bids for new zero carbon developments of up to 20,000 in Cambridgeshire, as well as one possible eco village, but the developments have been criticised locally and regionally.

Villagers in Waterbeach recently turned out to campaign against plans for Denny St Francis, a new town of up to 10,000 homes which could be built nearby, and Cambridge City Council's ruling Liberal Democrats have now also voiced their opposition to the scheme.

Councillors fear people will have to commute out of any new town to work, and that schemes could be imposed on areas by the Government if local authorities are not in favour.
...
Councillor Sian Reid, executive councillor for climate change and growth, said the Government was making "cynical use" of the concept of the sustainable community.

She said: "How can eco-towns, far away from places of employment, possibly deserve the title eco-town?"
...
[ Caroline Flint, housing minister, ] said some of the bids currently being considered included plans to design towns around pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, while others aimed to emulate the "most ambitious European models" where only 50 per cent of households have a car by ensuring schools and health services are within 10 minutes' walk of all homes.

This "eco-town" concept is indeed just being used as an excuse by developers to try and push through plans that might otherwise not get through. On the other hand, we do need more housing (not flats, but houses).

And most people who live in any smallish town anywhere and who work at all don't work in that town but commute to another town or city. Indeed, Cambridge is not a smallish town but there are still thousands of people who commute to work in London from Cambridge. So if a requirement to be an "eco-town" is that most people don't commute to work, then there will never be an eco-town unless it is full of unemployed people.

So Reid can perfectly well complain that the government is "cynical" (which it is). But so are all political parties, including the Lib Dems. So what is a "sustainable" community? The ruling elite, in particular the Lib Dems, seem to equate "sustainable" with meaning that nobody has cars (except the ruling elite, of course). So the word "sustainable" has already been discredited, as will "eco-town" soon enough.

And Flint is taking the piss. So if she lived in one of these smallish towns and was within 10 minutes walk of schools and health services, would she have a car? Of course she would. Not only to get to work but to shop. It's only the peasants who shouldn't be allowed to have cars.

Is is unfortunate that in the 21st century pretty much the entire British ruling elite is spending all its time and effort trying to make the lives of ordinary people worse, not better, by moving the country back to the 19th century in terms of mobility. And in the same way that everybody today condemns the awful urban planning of the 1960s because it was top down and ignored the wishes of the people, in fifty years people will condemn the urban planning of today for exactly the same reason.

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