Former minister condemns cut in eco-town funds

The Government's decision to halve funding for eco-towns and their landscape has been condemned by a former housing minister.

John Healey, who allocated grants to schemes as housing minister earlier this year, said the cut was short-sighted and backward. "Eco-town plans are being led by local councils and will set new international standards for designing and building green homes and neighbourhoods," he added.

Healey spoke out after current housing minister Grant Shapps told councils that the budget for eco-towns was being slashed by 50 per cent for 2010 to 2011. Shapps also insisted that promoters of eco-town developments must provide evidence of local support before funding would be released.

The four sites chosen to pilot the eco-towns scheme were allocated £60m earlier this year (HW, 19 February). This followed last year's go-ahead by Healey for the first wave of towns in Hampshire, Cornwall, Norfolk and Oxfordshire.

The cash allocation coincided with a Landscape Institute position statement on housing that highlighted the role of landscape in eco-towns. Policy committee member Ian Phillips said: "We agree with the minister that eco-towns should be supported locally and achieve improvements in sustainability.

"But a reduction in Government funding may make it harder to establish the large-scale infrastructure development needed to make eco-towns attractive and viable."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities & Local Government said there was good a level of start-up funding for the projects.

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