You can call a new commuter village an eco-community as much as you like but the sad truth is that it remains a new commuter village built on perfectly good agricultural land.
Eco-towns were the brainchild of the Labour Government (specifically Gordon Brown) and have more than a whiff of the idea on the back of a fag packet about them. They were convenient. The perfect cover for Labour’s plans to build a lot more houses in rural areas to accommodate a rapidly growing population. And they fitted Labour’s bias towards big construction firms who could deliver ‘big’ schemes.
The only trouble was that as eco-towns were to spring up in open countryside they would also destroy large chunks of landscape and biodiversity. And every time an eco-town was proposed it triggered howls of protest from local people.
The number of proposed eco-towns was whittled down to a handful. Typically, one of them was foisted on Cornwall – the St Austell eco-town of 5,000 houses (or 10,000+ people). Although it wasn’t actually a town but a series of villages. And it included a marina for the eco-rich to moor their eco-yachts.
Even though London soon lost interest in Gordon Brown’s cunning wheeze, Cornwall Council, never slow to welcome any daft idea as long as it encourages more in-migration, invited landlords across Cornwall to suggest more sites for eco-communities. “Let a thousand eco-communities bloom” was the cry ringing through the corridors of County Hall.
Eleven possible sites make their way into the current Core Strategy document. The majority of these are actually existing urban extensions dressed up in new eco-community clothes but four are new proposals in rural areas outside the towns.
However, a brief glance at the location of these rural ‘eco-communities’ gives the game away. They’re all within easy commuting distance of Truro, at Shortlanesend, Mitchell, St Allen and St Columb. The only exception is Coldstyle Road, Liskeard. But that’s a rebranded existing development project and anyway is within the Plymouth commuter range.
|The shape of eco-communities to come?|
The other seven are right next to Truro, Camborne and Falmouth. Take Maiden Green at Truro. This is being proposed by Walker Developments. Odd that their website doesn’t actually call it an ‘eco-community. All I can find there is an ‘eco-pilot’ involving 27 houses, which will be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Levels 5/6 (only Level 6 is carbon neutral though). In fact their website is unchanged from pre-eco community days. Surely this can’t just be a cynical act of re-branding in order to make planning permission even more likely, can it?
|No, more like this actually|
The first detailed plans from Eco-Bos (involving Imerys, Orascom and the Eden project) for the St Austell eco-
So not only do eco-communities destroy biodiversity and act as a flimsy excuse for attracting more in-migration, they increase car-dependence! More people, more houses, more cars. Presumably this is the attraction for Cornwall Council’s policy-makers. Add plenty of greenwash and they can fool most of the people most of the time.
Or can they?