Headlines: November 5th, 2008

The leader of the Local Government Association will meet the Housing Minister, Margaret Beckett, today to press for changes to the Government’s draft policy on eco-towns. Margaret Eaton, who chairs the LGA, will stress that the developments should not be forced through where they are not wanted and it has warned the Government its approach may be illegal.

The meeting follows the publication of a draft Planning Policy Statement on eco-towns, which also led to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England to call for the eco-towns programme to be scaled down.

In an immediate response to the policy, the LGA said everyone recognised the need for more housing and for a reduction of the country’s carbon footprint. The LGA said it supported any eco town scheme which had the backing of local councils and people but forcing through an unwanted development would be totally unacceptable.

Councillor Eaton said, “Using a national planning policy statement to create bias towards a particular government scheme isn’t just ill-advised, according to our lawyers it may be unlawful. Leading lawyers have said that the approach is open to legal challenge under both domestic and European law and is in conflict with the basic principles of the planning system.”

She added that she would urge Margaret Beckett to make changes and said, “Ministers should talk to council leaders about adopting a new approach that will deliver development in places where councils and local people agree that eco towns can work.”

In its response to the draft policy, the CPRE said there were signs that Ministers were beginning to listen to concerns about the need for the environmental implications of eco-towns to be thoroughly tested through local and regional plans. Kate Gordon, CPRE’s senior planner said, “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.”