Schapps cuts eco-town funding by half

13 July 2010

Funding for the first four of Gordon Brown's eco-towns was quietly slashed by 50% last week while plans for a further six developments have also been dropped, Building Design reported.

News of the funding cuts was broken to the local authorities overseeing the four eco-towns in an email from housing minister Grant Shapps last week.

The four had hoped to share £60m in 2010/11 to build 600 initial homes on each site. But Shapps, who has previously scorned eco-towns as an expensive distraction from the task of greening the entire country, said the cuts were necessary as part of the wider deficit reduction.

Plans for the eco-towns were first unveiled in 2007 by Gordon Brown, who doubled the projected number from 5 to 10 when he became Prime Minister, vowing to see 100,000 carbon neutral homes built on old industrial sites.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed there will be no announcement of a “second wave” of eco towns, because to do so would be to conflict with the government’s “localism” agenda of devolved decision-making. “You will not see a minister standing up and saying we will have eco towns here, here and here,” said a source.

The 50% cut in funding for the four live projects coincided with the emergence of the first detailed designs for “show homes” at one of the sites.

Six schemes, by architects including Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Panter Hudspith, have been chosen for the Mid-Cornwall Clay Country eco-town.

John Hodkin, project director at Eco-Bos – the consortium developing the Mid-Cornwall project –said that the reduction in government funding would delay, but not kill off, the eco town.

“We recognise the constraints on public spending in the current climate but it is important to emphasise that this is a long-term project and it was always expected that it would span economic cycles,” he said, adding that delivery plans might have to be “adjusted”.

The UK’s three other remaining eco towns are Whitehall Bordon in Hampshire, Rackheath in Norfolk and North West Bicester in Oxfordshire. 

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