Eco towns- re-inventing the wheel – badly

 Are the proposed eco towns just an eco gimmick or an eco con to cover up the Government’s failings on the environment? That is the claim of both of the major opposition parties, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and there is plenty of eco opposition to many of these new eco towns.

The government short list of likely sites for eco towns is shortening to levels where the concept of building ten incredibly environmentally friendly towns is going to remain no more than a pipe dream. So far only one, near Norwich seems to fit the government’s parameters of what an eco town should have and where it should be; the other remaining ten sites all fail when measured against the parameters.

I never really understood why the government is always trying to reinvent the eco wheel. We have had zero carbon homes (a policy which the government is strenuously trying to find out what they mean by the concept of a zero carbon home), and eco towns.

A great deal of taxpayers resources have been spent on these developing these concepts of an ideology; they have the feel of motherhood and apple pie, without their substance. They involve concepts frequently impossible under the laws of physics and great assumptions about what is supposedly zero carbon (for example the assumptions they make about biomass) rather than practical science and technology.

It seems that the policy is created by the need to build more homes for people rather than the need to reduce carbon emissions. The government have decided that the new homes should be built in new towns, although there seems to be plenty of land in our existing towns upon which the new homes can be built. That would inevitably have a smaller carbon footprint because

·         There will be less soil disturbance and less removal of trees and growing things

·         There is already good infrastructure – water, power, gas, sewers etc within our existing towns

·         If coupled with a more eco friendly transport system even if the new eco towns would have the lowest possible emissions, there would be a big saving in emissions from transport.

Quite how we have got to this policy escapes me. There is no reason why new buildings in old towns cannot be built to the highest known environmental standards; solar panels and photovoltaics work just as well in cities as they do in the countryside. Large wind turbines can be sited nearby, on industrial estates or similar land.

Building a new town on a Greenfield site always creates problems; local people usually do not want a new town built on green belt land. There are many places – old military installations, for example, where building a new town or village will not mean destroying the countryside and will provide a welcome local economic stimulus. New towns on the green belt will cause many more environmental problems than they solve.

In the United Kingdom we have one of the most densely populated countries. We have to manage those dense conurbations much more successfully than we do now, in terms of their environmental impact. We have so many environmental problems to solve, most importantly that of climate change caused by human emissions. Finding a location for, designing and building eco towns are an unwelcome and expensive distraction, given the existing state of our knowledge. For example, if we designed and built eco towns just a few short years ago we would have made some fundamental errors – probably by incorporating the use of biofuels into the matrix.
To reduce our emissions we should do now what we know works now, and leave the experiments to the researchers in laboratories.



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