Eco towns could 'seriously increase pressure' on overstretched infrastructure in the south east, says SEERA

Government plans for ‘environmentally friendly’ eco-towns could seriously increase pressure on overstretched transport infrastructure and utilities making the towns unsustainable, says the South East England Regional Assembly.

A consultation launched by Government asks for comments on 15 eco-town proposals across the country, three of them in the South East. The three new towns could see 28,000 extra homes being built, on top of housebuilding plans already established in the region.

The Assembly argues that eco-town proposals must now be tested through the regional planning process to check their viability and cost - a system they have bypassed so far.

There is concern that eco-towns would not be self sufficient and residents would need to travel to neighbouring towns to work and shop, increasing their environmental impact and putting a strain on already over-stretched and under funded infrastructure.

The Assembly, which is responsible for the South East's planning strategy, has so far been marginalised in the eco-town process. This consultation is the first time that the Assembly has been invited to give its views on the proposals.

Assembly Chairman Cllr Keith Mitchell CBE said: 'There is a great concern among local authorities that the selection of eco-towns has so far been independent of the usual planning process. These proposals could see new towns being built in the South East with no regard to the impact on neighbouring towns and villages. They will put a strain on infrastructure that is already overstretched and in desperate need of Government investment. Efforts should instead be focused on making existing communities more sustainable.'

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