A Government Panel set up by the Department of Communities and Local Government has given the thumbs down to the Curborough eco-town proposals. Michael Fabricant says: "The Government Panel has slammed the Curborough consortium application for being a re-hash of previous planning applications. It correctly identifies transport and other infrastructure problems with the planning application and casts huge doubt on the ‘eco’ credentials and sustainability of this unwelcome scheme. The panel is right to say ‘The proposal lacks innovative transport solutions. The proposed Park and Ride combined with rail and the widening of the A38 risks residents continuing to rely on cars and adding to existing congestion.’ I am delighted that they have identified just some of the issues which mitigate against the building of such a large development near Lichfield.
"And I agree with FACT campaigners who say ‘If one car parking space per household was not permitted, what would happen when a resident became too old or disabled to walk to his/her car or to a bus stop? Cars are a lifeline for such people, and even fit residents are going to start to deeply resent not having ready access to their cars and to chafe against the restrictions. The ‘anaerobic digestion of waste’ would presumably take place at the proposed ‘Renewable Energy Park’, which would be a blot on the landscape for Fradley residents and further clog up the A38.’
"I shall now raise this directly with Government Ministers and ask that they now reject this proposal outright" adds Michael.
The Panel will meet again in July to consider responses from the developers.
An extract from the Eco-town Challenge Panel report published on the 23rd June follows below:-
Notes and recommendations from session 1 of Eco-town Challenge
The Eco-town Challenge Panel has now met with every eco-town promoter (and local authority representatives for the majority of locations). This document is a record of the first session of the Eco-town Challenge and includes a series of recommendations from the Challenge Panel to promoters of eco-towns. Some of these recommendations apply to all the eco-town schemes; others relate to specific schemes.
The Panel’s observations and recommendations are an independent view. They are based on the Panel’s interpretation of the Government’s vision for eco-towns and panel members’ own views on how the proposed schemes could deliver this.
The Panel’s recommendations are not binding and promoters are free to decide how they respond. However, any subsequent improvement in promoters’ development proposals would be viewed positively in the assessment process.
The Challenge Panel has no responsibility for assessing proposals or judging the relative merits of proposals. This will be for Government and Ministers will make the final decision on locations and schemes with potential to go forward as eco-towns later this year.
The focus of the Eco-town Challenge Panel is to help raise the standard of every proposal, in order to maximise the potential for eco-town development in every location. This supports the Government’s ambition for eco-towns to demonstrate exemplary standards.
The Panel will convene for a second time in July. This will be an opportunity for the eco-town promoters to explain how they are responding to the Panel’s recommendations and for the Panel to provide further encouragement and expert advice.
The proposal needs to be more ambitious, as it may be a good development by normal standards but it is not yet an eco-town. The bid is based on a current planning application where housing is wrapped around an existing business park. This means at the moment the ‘eco’ element feels like an ‘add-on’ to an existing application rather than embedded in the concept.
While the bid expects a significant proportion of the workforce from the business park, Fradley Park, to live in the development, the proposal should not rely too heavily on this existing high carbon employment.
Define the proposal’s relationship to Lichfield and existing development at Curborough. The creation of sustainable transport options and additional employment opportunities are fundamental to the success of the site as an eco-town. The proposal lacks innovative transport solutions. The proposed Park and Ride combined with rail and the widening of the A38 risks residents continuing to rely on cars and adding to existing congestion. The proposal should do without one car parking space per household and look towards a car-free development. Investigate using a tram-train giving direct access to Birmingham via Lichfield and maximising the freight rail potential on the site.
Due to the history of the site, the proposal is too zoned, with employment and housing in distinct locations. Examine the potential for more mixed use. Explore whether the proposal would still be viable without Fradley Park. Filtered permeability, as described in the TCPA worksheets, would have a positive impact on the design of the development and also be effective in restraining car use, as practiced in successful European towns and cities.
Develop how the proposal will achieve zero carbon in all sectors. Ascertain how much carbon will be created by the community and explain how the buildings created would be different from what is built now. Use lessons learnt as part of a Carbon Challenge consortium to inform the proposal.
The development should tie in horticulture from the wider area, as a move away from the reliance on Fradley Park. Create an identity for Curborough through links with the surrounding woodland and develop a greater connection with Lichfield. Capitalise on existing ecological assets and develop the proposed forested green corridor.
Expand the development’s waste minimisation strategies and power generation from the anaerobic digestion of waste, potentially collected from breweries in the area.
Illustrate the measures that will be put in place to ensure that the long term vision for the community will be delivered and develop the ideas about the town council. Think about who will be living at Curborough, their occupation and why they will stay.