Today’s Observer says, Ministers are to launch a vigorous defence this week of controversial plans for 10 ‘eco-towns’ by releasing a poll showing that, despite high-profile celebrity opposition to the project, it has widespread public support.
The poll findings follow two major blows to the eco-town project last week: the panel vetting the plans reported that most of the 15 shortlisted schemes fell well short of expectations and were mostly ‘housing estates in the countryside with a green label’. A report to be published tomorrow by the Optimum Population Trust, an environmental think-tank, will add to the criticisms, claiming that the new towns would make a derisory contribution to housing needs and were an irrelevance to environmental problems.’
Ten eco-towns would provide an estimated 100,000 flats and houses, on top of 370,000 new homes announced under other government schemes and proposals to encourage developers to build more properties. Between 30 and 50 per cent of homes in eco-towns have to be affordable.
The YouGov poll of 1,693 people found that nearly six in 10 felt that there was little or no affordable housing within five miles of where they lived; 46 per cent strongly support, or tend to support, the development of eco-towns; 9 per cent strongly oppose or tend to oppose them, and 45 per cent were neutral or did not know. Opponents will point to the 45% with no opinion, blaming a lack of information and publicity of the plans for these eco-towns.
Dame Judi and Nettles opposed a development at Middle Quinton, near Stratford-upon-Avon, while TV adventurer Ben Fogle and swimmer Duncan Goodhew backed a protest against a proposal near Arundel in West Sussex. Lord Rogers labelled eco-towns ‘a big mistake’. Of course these people are wealthy enough not to care for more housing.