Headlines: October 25th, 2006

CAMPAIGN CRITICISES GROWTH POINT PLANS AS THEY ARE UNVEILED

 

Forty-five towns and cities around the country have been confirmed as New Growth Points with the collective potential to deliver up to 100,000 extra new homes and hundreds more new jobs than previously planned. The proposals include a substantial number of properties priced to help first time buyers but they have run into immediate criticism from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

The successful bids, announced by Housing Minister Yvette Cooper, were submitted by more than 70 local authorities in areas of high housing demand. They represent a wide geographical spread and as well as being from big cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, they have come from larger towns such as Swindon, Reading and Ipswich and smaller places including Grantham, Thetford and Maidstone.

The Government claims the authorities’ proposals will not just deliver new homes but will enable the places involved to grow their economies by creating new jobs and encouraging business development. The plans for Norwich, for example, are for 36,000 new jobs and more than 130,000 newjobs are planned in the East and South

These successful areas will get a share of 40 million pounds of start up funding for infrastructure and to unlock sites for new housing as well as enabling them to assess and ease the environmental impacts of their plans. The hope is that this will make the town and cities more attractive for business investment and will help young people who want to stay in their home areas to find a place to live.

But the Planning Officer for CPRE, Kate Gordon said, “Ministers say that proposals will be subject to testing and public consultation, however, this initiative risks making a mockery of our planning system. It appears to pre-empt the normal process whereby communities have a say on how their area should develop in the light of knowledge about   environmental factors.”

The initiative is seen as a crucial part of the response to economist Kate Barker’s review of housing supply by boosting home building across the country. Her study found that during the last 30 years house building rates had halved while demand for new homes had risen by more than 30 per cent.

Confirming the successful bids, Yvette Cooper said, “If we don’t build more homes less than a third of today’s ten year olds will be able to afford a place of their own in twenty years time. Helping our towns and cities that want to grow can make substantial difference in delivering the new homes we need. This gives local areas the chance to provide more jobs and homes with higher design and environmental standards too.”

The New Growth Points are intended to concentrate future growth at existing urban centres and to give new communities a chance to become exemplars of sustainability by pioneering eco-development as well as high design standards. The successful Three Cities bid from Derby Leicester and Nottingham for instance includes an exemplar low environmental impact settlement at Ashton Green in Leicester, which will use its own renewable energy, minimise water use and waste generation as well as reducing the need to travel. There will also be a new park connecting Derby city centre to the Derwent Valley. The way in which the initiative will be the catalyst for improving existing areas is exemplified by plans for Taunton which include the redevelopment of Somerset County Cricket Ground and an extension to the Brewhouse Theatre so it can stage larger productions as well as for improvements to the museum and central library.

The CPRE said it accepted that more homes were needed but it would be looking for the new buildings to achieve high environmental standards, and to end up being much, much better than low density car-dependent sprawl.