This entry was posted on Monday, February 4th, 2008 at 11:35 am and is filed under Bicycle advocacy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
PM Gordon Brown will shortly give the nod to ten so-called eco-towns, new build housing developments championing green electricity, planet-friendly heating systems and other sustainability buzz terms.
Critics says the description of the developments as “eco” is a smokescreen for planting small towns in rural areas. With houses come people, and people drive cars. Eco-towns may be designed to be carbon neutral because the houses have solar panels but they could turn out to be major generators of congestion.
About 50 proposed eco-town plans have been put forward across the country. The Government will produce a short-list of 10 preferred sites this month.
Three hundred protesters at one proposed eco-town site in Warwickshire claim local infrastructure will not be able to cope with 6000 new homes. Local residents say they are opposed to the scheme in Long Marston because of congestion and pollution caused by people driving to schools and workplaces.
The eco-towns need to show they will offer good public transport links. Now, Caroline Flint, the new Minister of State for Housing, says the eco-towns must be friendly to bikes, too:
“The eco-town as a whole—not just the homes—must be able to reach zero carbon through energy provision and use, the sensitive design of the town, and innovative methods of encouraging low-carbon living. Sustainable transport is essential to the new eco-towns. They must clearly demonstrate how they will encourage a reduction in people’s reliance on their cars and a shift towards other more sustainable transport options. We are looking for high-quality offers on accessible public transport and promotion of cycling and walking, and we expect transport plans to be drawn up for each scheme outlining how those can be achieved both within towns and, importantly, in their links to surrounding towns and villages.”
All well and good but if the eco-towns are provided with car parks and other car-friendly infrastructure, Brits will stay in their cars.
I’ve witnessed this first hand. At the champagne opening of the cycle pool facility at the Staiths South Bank in Gateshead in August, fashion designer Wayne Hemingway was bearded by an angry resident for not providing enough car parking spaces at this supposedly ‘one house, one car parking space’ development. Hemingway was the inspiration for the new housing development on NewcastleGateshead’s quayside. It’s the UK’s biggest homezone and so should be largely free of cars, but it’s not.
A Staiths resident posted a comment on the following YouTube video short of the cycle pool opening:
“What a load of crap [Hemingway] talks, one car per house! That failed on its arse. We have three cars, people next door have four cars and next door to them have two cars! You can’t get moved!”
In the Netherlands, housing developments which want to be squeaky green - and that’s most of them - make sure cycle routes are fast and door-to-door. If residents want to drive their cars to town they have to go an awfully long way round.
If the UK eco-towns want to be truly sustainable the same sort of anti-car approach needs to be taken. I’m not holding my breath.