The Green Myth of Eco Towns

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Eco Towns, initially proposed in 2007 as zero carbon, energy efficient settlements, intended to cut emissions and allow a sustainable lifestyle. This in theory works, however, to allow development a vast amount of Greenfield land needs to be made available.

It would perhaps be wiser to instead concentrate development on existing urban settlements, which have infrastructure in place. This would be a much cheaper alternative, avoiding the possibility of creating an adverse 'Truman Effect' whilst minimizing the amount of green spaces consumed.

Concentrating our development to existing settlements has many benefits, not least because:

The majority of our towns and cities have been in existence for a long and substantial time, e.g. Durham, consequently they have since evolved to provide efficient and practical places in which to live. A luxury ill afforded to new settlements.

New Eco Town development, is highly dependent on the skill of the planning consultants involved, and as such may be prone to problems commonly encountered during the rapid building phase of the 1970s, with many residential tower blocks still in disrepair and or being demolished to date.



Focusing efforts on existing towns/cities will have initial direct CO2 savings through the reduced building load required, as a vast amount of infrastructure and facilities are already currently in place, including schools, hospitals to rail networks and tram systems. Lower building requirements will also achieve further environmental benefits through the avoidance and or reduction in use of concrete, which is a major contributor to CO2 emissions.

Increasing densities of urban areas will in part reduce our carbon footprint in the long term, if planned and implemented in the right manner, due to closer proximity of services etc; an example of this is New York, which collectively operate to have a low CO2 output.

Shifting our focus of development firstly to Brownfield sites should be encouraged, achieved through government initiatives and financial incentives to commercial organizations. This will endeavor to maximize the efficiency of our current urban landscapes.

Where these sites are not available, attempts should be made to identify suitable sites, which may warrant higher densities, (e.g. those in city center locations can achieve higher yields, making building of skyscrapers and multiple floored accommodation commercially viable). Only once these avenues have been fully explored, should we consider building on Greenfield sites, and where this occurs, this should be in an Urban Sprawl pattern, continuing the traditional expansion of following major transport routes and in familiar Ribbon development patterns.


Therefore, as this article emphasizes, there is great cause for concern with the planned new Eco Towns, and although theoretically plausible, it would require a significant amount of resources to implement, with adverse environmental side effects to boot.

It is likely, that without undue pressures from housing developers and attempts by politicians to appear forward thinking, the case for Eco Towns would have been dropped a long time ago, however as the debate rumbles on, the possibility for their inclusion gets ever closer.

This article was produced by Joseph Knight at energy measures. Please visit for more information on Solar Panels And Wind Turbines and other related topics.

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