Labour – Support Garden Cities Yes – But Don’t Repeat the Big Mistake with Ecotowns

From am Emma Reynolds MP press release of the 11th

Propose legislation, in line with the Armitt recommendations, to put New Town Development under the nationally significant infrastructure planning regime (where planning decisions are made by ministers) to ensure co-ordinated and fast tracked decision-making.

The Treasury considered such a change last year but it was rejected.  This is similar to the great mistake with Ecotowns, how would their locations be decided.  This was to be decided by a national planning policy statement with a strategic environmental assessment that (unlawfully) did nit consider alternative locations.  The process ground to a halt and of course the conservatives scrapped it.

The whole purpose of New Town/Garden Cities is that they are an alternative to sporadic growth and/or unacceptable loss of teh Green Belt.  Unless you study these alternatives there will never be a proper public debate on what needs to go where informing hard choices.  Like the centralised Ecotown process it would be creating an own goal for the Nimbys.  How would a national government decide what are the best locations, or would like Ecotowns it be left to the private sector to propose really really bad sites that have repeatedly been rejected over many years for good reasons.  The only way to plan for new Garden Cities is to do studies of where growth should go where there is no doubt that there is overspill from Major Cities.  From current evidence studies would be needed around London, Birmingham, Bristol, the Brighton/Gatwick corridor and Manchester/Cheshire.    Involve the local authorities and make them decide the final choice by majority voting with the SoS holding the ring.  If they cant decide the SoS can arbitrate as a last resort.

The 2008 planning act is also a really bad fit.  Once their has been an SEA a simple short hearing can be held by the planning inspectorate and make a recommendation to teh SOS, who can then designate a development Corporation under the New Towns Act.    Inlike the 2008 regime their is not a single big decision but 1,000s of them from big to sm,all, this should be left to the development corporation which should have a strong local democratic involvement, as long as local politicians agree to support the final decision on the location once made..

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