Opposition grows to 'eco-town' plan

PLANS to build an eco-town of at least 5,000 homes near an Essex village have been met with suspicion by politicians and campaigners who believe they could be connected to the Government's support for a second runway at Stansted Airport.

Roddy Ashworth

PLANS to build an eco-town of at least 5,000 homes near an Essex village have been met with suspicion by politicians and campaigners who believe they could be connected to the Government's support for a second runway at Stansted Airport.

And yesterday John Jowers, a cabinet member for Essex County Council (ECC), said that “rigorous and thorough” planning work was needed before the rural site proposed for the new town - situated near Elsenham in the north-west of the county - could be considered as a truly viable option.

Housing minister Caroline Flint announced last week that the controversial development was among 15 potential sites for eco-towns across the country, whittled down from an original list of 57.

The Essex development, dubbed “Helsenham” by its opponents, could see as many as 20,000 low-carbon homes being built in the area as part of the Government's plan to create a number of environmentally-friendly and sustainable communities.

However Carol Barbone, a spokeswoman for the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign group, said: “No-one should be surprised by this announcement.

Most Read

“This is only the start of what would happen if a second runway were ever to be approved at Stansted.

“Stop Stansted Expansion's focus is therefore on tackling the second runway application for Stansted as the root cause as a means of overturning plans for the 'symptoms' of proposed development at Elsenham and elsewhere.”

Mr Jowers, portfolio holder for planning at ECC, said: “We do need to take into consideration that the Government fully supports the idea of a second runway at Stansted, and I would not be happy if Westminster was seeing this large development as a dormitory town for workers there.

“The second runway has not got planning permission, the consultation period on it is not over and it has yet to go to a public inquiry.

“We need to find out exactly what the Government wants from this eco-town and why it is being proposed for this location - which does appear, at the very least, to be highly conveniently positioned close to the airport.”

Mr Jowers also expressed concerns about infrastructure for the proposed site, which currently is not served by schools, hospitals or a viable transport network.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the Elsenham proposal would make “good use” of existing transport links and provide much-needed affordable housing for the area.

He said: “An eco-town proposal in this location would make good use of existing transport infrastructure and build on existing local eco initiatives.

“The development could provide 1,800 affordable houses in an area of extreme affordability pressure - almost 4,000 households in the area are currently on a waiting list for affordable housing.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter