Eco-Town have your say… or have your click, at least

I recently went back to researching something that I haven’t really looked into in a while.  That is the proposed eco-town developments in the UK.  There are 14 sites that have been identified as potential locations for new eco-towns and they are currently at the stage of a communities consultation.  However, I’m largley disappointed by their running of it, part of the reason why I have neglected to push much further into the subject recently.  Have a look at their “Have Your Say” site.  Here’s the feedback that I gave them:

“Firstly, I am very disappointed with this website.  1. It is flashy and confusing, looking like its made for 5 year old kids rather than adults who actually care about this stuff. 2. In the what would your eco-town look like section, it is ridiculous that you can only choose 5 from the list.  To be a really good eco-town, all of those should be satisfied and no one is any more important than another. Results are also going to be skewed by the fact that people start at the top, and ones further down the list will tend to get neglected more often. 3. General feedback is mixed up with this silly questionnaire where the questions are again stupid.  I mean, the topics depend on so much that the answers are meaningless.  For example, I am very willing to reduce energy consumption, but not if it greatly affects my costs to the point that it becomes out of proportion with the environmental saving.  I would rather use the same energy, but from a sustainable source.

“I am an architectural engineering student with particular interest in the social and environmental impacts of architecture. For this reason, I particularly care about HOW these issues are resolved, as opposed to what I would prioritise.  A good architectural designer should be able to balance the benefits and consequences of designing an eco-town rather than go by public priorities, which aren’t necessarily taking everything into consideration.

“For example, it may be that most public want “affordable” family detached homes that are reasonably spaced out.  However, for the interest of environmental concerns, it may be better to encourage a more communal living style, where car driving is discouraged by having mixed-use developments rather than zoning. Since the largest car-use is for a daily commute, the people who live in the houses should work within walking distance.  Thus, it should be calculated how many jobs would be created in any given area and enough housing created within easy walking distance of these to easily cover those jobs, also taking into consideration those who don’t work, work from home or whose business involves travelling around.  The same thing for entertainment.  Perhaps the research that should be conducted at this stage should be asking potential residents what they like to do in their spare time and making sure that those facilities are provided within walking distance, rather than having to travel to the nearest city for every need.

“Studies should also be conducted on whether the common practice of communities disintegrating because easy commuting to cities means that residents only socialise with friends in the city rather than their local area can be discouraged by the design of the town itself.

“I know I have only covered transportation here, but there are other advantages to having very close-knit communities, such as that heating and energy systems can be shared and therefore made more efficient by economy of scale.  It may be that having more compact living may also open up more space for cultivation by small-time farmers who could then sell back to the community they live in.  This type of farming, run under some kind of cooperative scheme would probably be much more efficient than expecting residents all to grow their own food, where it is unlikely that many of them would have the time or will to run an allotment or vegetable garden.

“It may also be an advantageous to make spaces flexible.  For example, several buildings could be initially zoned as residential, but designed with enough flexibility that they could be easily changed to commercial if demand required it, rather than buildings having to be demolished if such changes need to be made, or that outdoor spaces may initially be a car parking space, but that it could be easily converted into a pleasant patio space for a resident who doesn’t own a car.  Most car parking spaces wouldn’t currently fit this criteria and are thus wide empty ugly voids to those who do not own cars.

“In short, I’m very much into the idea of eco-towns.  It needs to happen, and I want to be at the forefront of supporters for this cause.  However, I think that the way that this has been conducted so far, in true Labour Government fashion, has been disastrously top-down heavy with no real substance. “

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2 Comments

  1. Posted 4 February, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Hello Simeon-

    I agree with most of your analysis, too bad the “Have Your Say” site is now discontinued.

    Tracy Gayton

  2. Posted 5 February, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I’m not really surprised. It was a while ago! I haven’t really heard what came out of their “consultation”, but it seems that the area is now in the very early masterplanning stage and at least one of the developers (Beyond Green) is taking a good approach – they want to build a walkable town with a vibrant high street and active community. I wish them the best of luck with it, because it sounds much better than the kind of thing that was being proposed before!

    Simeon

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