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Government announces new wave of eco-towns

Despite on-going controversy over the initial wave of eco-town plans, nine authorities have applied for funding to help develop further green town proposals

The emerging green building sector received a major boost yesterday after the government pledged to provide an extra £5m to help support the development of a new wave of eco-towns.

In July four eco-towns received official go-ahead from the government and £5m was pledged to support any further authorities who wanted to develop similar proposals. Now the fund is to double to £10m after nine local authorities expressed an interest in lodging applications for new eco-town developments.

The news will breathe fresh life into the government's plans to build ten eco-towns by 2020. The first wave of proposals faced significant local opposition and the number of planned developments shrunk from 10 to four. In addition, those four sites that have received the green light from government are still fighting to get local planning approval.

Housing and Planning Minister, John Healey, welcomed the second wave of applications for funding as evidence that there is still an appetite for eco-town developments.

"The further nine areas are looking at proposals to design and develop to the tough new eco-town standards," he said. "This signals real and radical momentum to change and to re-think how we design our towns and homes for the future."

The new towns must each include around 5,000 homes, 30 per cent of which must meet standards on affordability.

In addition, all the homes must reach at least level four of the code for sustainable homes, while meeting higher standards for energy and water efficiency. Each residence must also be located within 10 minutes walk of public transport links and the government said that the use of community power generation would be encouraged.

The second wave of plans will include two existing proposals in West Sussex and Cambridgeshire which failed to be included in the first wave of official plans.

Five authorities in Devon, Somerset, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the West Midlands who have developed concepts, and two councils in Cornwall and West Yorkshire who want to use the eco-towns concept to carry out a broader survey of potential new housing stock have also appplied for new funding.

All the bids are still at an early stage and will be subject to local and national consultation.

In related news, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson yesterday attended the first meeting of a new government-backed construction industry taskforce designed to identify how the sector can best deliver against the UK's carbon emission reduction targets by 2020.

The new group is to undertake a Low Carbon Construction Review, intial findings from which will be released next Spring. "The Construction Industry is a vital part of Britain's economy, employing 2.5 million workers and contributing around 10% of GDP," said Mandelson. "The sector will play a crucial part as the UK tackles climate change, as emissions from buildings account for around 44% of Britain's total end use carbon emissions."

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