What is an eco-town?

Cyclists in BicesterEco-towns began as a government initiative in 2007 to provide more environmentally friendly places. The Eco-towns Prospectus 2007 (.pdf format, 603Kb) defines eco-towns in the following way:

‘Eco-towns will be small new towns of at least 5-20,000 homes. They are intended to exploit the potential to create a complete new settlement to achieve zero carbon development and more sustainable living using the best new design and architecture. The key features are:

  • places with a separate and distinct identity but good links to surrounding towns and cities in terms of jobs, transport and services;
  • the development as a whole to achieve zero carbon and to be an exemplar in at least one area of environment technology;
  • a good range of facilities within the town including a secondary school, shopping, business space and leisure
  • between 30 and 50 per cent affordable housing with a good mix of tenures and size of homes in mixed communities;
  • a delivery organisation to manage the town and its development and provide support for people, businesses and community services.’

Eco-towns Prospectus (2007)

At the heart of eco-town development are standards for sustainable design. These standards were set out in the Planning Policy Standards, which have been set by government.

Developments under the coalition government

The coalition government has continued to support large scale development including eco-town developments.

Why we need eco-towns

Scientists fear that the UK is already being affected by climate change caused by the greenhouse effect. The past decade has been the warmest since records began in 1850, and the average temperature of British seas has risen by 0.7 degrees Celsius, and the sea has a great influence on our climate. England and Wales have also seen more instances of extreme rainfall in recent years.

These changes cause damage to the balance of ecosystems in the country. They also have a potentially grave financial and emotional impact on us humans, as we are at greater risk of flooding and drought, particularly in low-lying areas.

It is crucial that we act to prevent climate change now, and the eco-town developments will demonstrate how new development can reduce the impact on the environment and limit carbon.