On 24 July 2008, Caroline Flint published a progress report on eco-towns, aimed at clarifying how the planning process for the developments will work. The report is titled ‘Eco towns, living a greener future: progress report’.
The report emphasises amongst other things that eco-towns should be exemplars in terms of water efficiency, particularly in water-stressed areas. It goes on to state that the Government also continues to be interested in the potential to promote water neutrality in these locations. Eco-towns should have sustainable drainage systems (known as SUDS) and, except where this is not a viable option, avoid connection of surface water run-off into foul or combined sewers. There is a strong expectation that all of the built-up areas (including housing, other public buildings and critical infrastructure) will be fully within Flood Zone 1 – the lowest risk. Flood Zone 2 (medium risk) should, as far as possible, be used for open spaces and informal recreational areas that can serve as multi-functional spaces, for example to be used for flood storages. There should be no built-up development in Flood Zone 3.
Since the shortlist of 15 locations was published in April, certain schemes have been withdrawn from the process. The Government is currently assessing proposals for 13 locations.
It is planned that following changes made to the shortlisted schemes, including two new proposals for an eco-town in Rushcliffe and major changes made to the proposal at Rossington, a formal consultation on both these changes and a detailed sustainability appraisal of each location be published in September 2008, alongside a programme of road shows. A final decision on up to ten potential locations will be made in early 2009, after which the individual schemes will each have to submit planning applications.
In a separate development, in a joint opinion commissioned by the LGA and published on the 23 July 2008, John Steel QC and James Strachan have examined the legal issues surrounding eco-town proposals. They conclude that there are ‘sound grounds’ for seeking judicial review of the Government’s approach to delivering eco-towns.