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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Eco-towns: an introduction

Eco-towns are locally-led developments designed to achieve improvements in sustainable, affordable and high-quality housing while protecting the environment and tackling climate change. Find out how eco-towns can benefit residents and get information on the proposed environmental standards for eco-towns and where they might be built.

Developing eco-towns

Eco-towns will be designed to have energy-efficient homes, good public transport and facilities like schools, health centres, parks and allotments.

Eco-towns will also provide affordable housing for first-time buyers and young families and offer businesses space to grow. There are potential benefits for existing communities too, like higher quality jobs, new green infrastructure and regeneration - for example, redeveloping land.

Eco-town development will be led by local communities interested in having higher standards of sustainability and design including zero carbon homes and green space.

These locally-led sustainable communities will make the best use of natural resources and plan to offer residents:

  • ‘real-time’ public transport information in every home – for example, live timetables and departures
  • ‘smart’ meters to keep an eye on how much energy you’re using
  • renewable energy from the sun, wind and earth to power homes and businesses
  • public transport and services - for example, shops and schools - within a short walking distance of every home
  • parks, playgrounds and gardens (at least 40 per cent of the town’s area will be green space)

Eco-town standards

Tough standards mean that eco-town homes and other buildings are more environmentally friendly and should be cheaper to run in the long term.

Standards for eco-towns cover things like carbon emissions, employment, transport, local services, green infrastructure, biodiversity, water, flood risk, waste, healthy living and landscapes.

The aim of eco-towns is to create sustainable developments that have:

  • smart meters to track energy use, community heat sources and charging points for electric cars
  • smart, efficient homes that get energy from the sun, wind and earth
  • resident-controlled heat and ventilation, and the ability to sell surplus energy into the grid
  • homes located within a 10-minute walk of frequent public transport and everyday neighbourhood services
  • parks, playgrounds and gardens that will make up 40 per cent of the developments
  • paths and cycle ways
  • car trips will make up less than half of all journeys
  • low and zero carbon buildings, including shops, schools, restaurants and public buildings

Potential eco-town sites

There are 15 local authorities and partnerships leading eco-development and eco-town projects. These projects are at different stages and are subject to local planning decisions and community discussions on whether they are the right locations for eco-developments.

The first potential locations for eco-towns are:

  • North West Bicester
  • St Austell
  • Whitehill-Bordon
  • Rackheath

The second wave of potential eco-town locations are:

  • Shoreham Harbour
  • Northstowe (Cambridgeshire)
  • Taunton (Monkton Heathfield)
  • Yeovil
  • Leeds City Region (Aire Valley, York North West, North Kirklees and Bradford-Shipley Canal Corridor)
  • Lincoln (Lincoln area and Gainsborough)
  • Cornwall
  • Sheffield City Region (Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire)
  • Cranbrook
  • Fareham
  • Haven Gateway

There are also some developments already in England that have been designed for eco-living. For example, Upton (in Northampton) and the zero-carbon BedZED community in Surrey have been developed to be more sustainable and allow greener living.

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