Proposals for a major new town in the Warwickshire countryside are beginning to descend into farce, after the Government delayed a decision yet again.
The creation of so-called eco-towns was one of Gordon Brown’s first announcements. Although revealed in May 2007, before he became Prime Minister, they were portrayed as one of the first things he would do when he entered Number 10.
Naturally, they were controversial. But Ministers persevered, inviting developers to submit proposed locations, and a final list of projects receiving Ministerial approval was due late last year.
When the time came to reveal the names, however, the Government announced it needed longer to make up its mind.
Campaigners against the Warwickshire scheme may have forced further delays, thanks to their on-going legal battles against the proposal. And now, Ministers have announced that the planned “Middle Quinton” development near Stratford will be considered by a regional housing inquiry – which means no decision is expected until the end of the year.
Schemes in other parts of the country will receive the green light by the end of July, so it is perhaps no surprise that Middle Quinton developer St Modwen is considering its options.
The developer is returning to its original plans for the site, which was to create a holiday hideaway in the heart of Middle England, making the best possible use of the surrounding countryside, alongside a small number of permanent residential properties and business premises.
This appears to have general support among Stratford and neighbouring towns and villages, and one can see why. The site in question, a former Royal Engineers depot at Long Marston, near Stratford, clearly needs to be put to some sort of good use and Stratford is hardly opposed to tourism.
It’s possible that Government’s failure to come to a decision is partly a result of the recession but that doesn’t seem to be preventing other eco-towns from going ahead. In any case, it is likely that more housing will be needed, even if it takes some years for demand in the property market to pick up.
But eco-towns have always been a dubious concept.
Today’s regulations mean all new properties today need to be environmentally-friendly, making every house an eco-house. What the Government really offers is a revival of the post-war “new town” philosophy with a new name.
With the Conservatives threatening to kill off the scheme, St Modwen would be well-advised to concentrate on making its holiday park the success it no doubt deserves to be.