THE MIDDLE QUINTON "BLUNDER"
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In a speech to a Burns night supper tonight (Friday) held at Pebworth village hall, Peter Luff, MP for Mid Worcestershire, will set out his opposition to an eco-town at Long Marston.

Robbie Burns famously wrote:

"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us, To see oursels as others see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, And foolish notion. (To a Louse)

The latest blunder from which I hope to free you is eco-towns.

Eco-towns: sound great don't they - particularly when you give them names like Middle Quinton? In a few weeks the government will announce its preferred sites for ten of these new model towns and Worcestershire could have not one, but two.

If the word "eco" is put in front of anything, it makes it unassailable, of course. And it gets better. The ambition is to ensure that half of the houses in these brand new eco-towns are affordable. We would have ten shining new eco-towns with affordable houses. A good environmentalist (and we are all environmentalists now) and someone who wants his constituents decently housed, can't possibly oppose such a magnificent combination. It would be like being against apple pie or motherhood.

Well, I'm against them. I'm against them at Throckmorton, I'm against them at Long Marston and I'm against them anywhere.

I am in favour of the objectives set for these towns - but not this way of achieving them - and I have three key reasons:

They won't work
They will reduce the quality of life for existing people
They are undemocratic.

They won't work:

For this community, the plans to build such an eco-town at Long Marston will be of particular concern. About two-thirds in Warwickshire and on-third in my Mid Worcestershire constituency, such a move would have serious local implications, which the Government appears not be acknowledging, probably because it doesn't understand.

If a new town is to be a genuine eco-town, if it is to be sustainable and not to put a burden on the wider infrastructure of its area, and if half the houses are to be affordable, then half the jobs provided in the town must be "affordable" too, for all the people living in those affordable homes.

No, they will get in their cars and drive to where the jobs actually are, putting a significant strain on local roads which in many Vale villages are already at breaking point thanks to HGV activity. Not much "eco" about that!

Some people say that eco-towns are a way to provide affordable housing - not true. The planning process, the regional spatial strategy and the joint core strategy are the way to do that.

They will reduce the quality of life for existing people:

We know and understand that these towns will have their own local infrastructure, but they will also put huge demands on the wider infrastructure of their area — not just the roads, but also the railways, the hospitals, the waste disposal systems, water and sewage systems and even power supplies.

Precisely because eco-towns can't exist in a vacuum, they will have a big impact on the current residents of an area. Even if they are "sustainable" in their own right, what impact will they have on the quality of life of other people already living locally as the services they use are pushed to breaking point?

They are undemocratic:

How can the government decide on the location of these towns without using the planning system properly to establish where they ought to go? Local people feel powerless enough as it is, but this is another attempt to silence their voice over matters of vital local concern.

If a new eco-town is built at Long Marston, what impact would it have on the surrounding villages of Pebworth and Honeybourne, and the wider rural community? How can the Government decide that it is right to go ahead with that eco-town when they do not understand the dynamics of south Worcestershire or west Warwickshire?

I particularly oppose the fact that any new houses built will not be counted within the numbers allocated by the Regional Spatial Strategy - that is to say they will be built in addition to the many thousands of new homes already being ear-marked for the area.

We need environmentally sustainable communities and environmentally sustainable homes, but this is not the way to achieve that vital goal.

Conclusion

That is why I have expressed my opposition to eco-towns in principle and to the towns proposed in my constituency. Working with my friend John Maples, the MP for most of the Long Marston site, I will do all I can to build truly environmental solutions that provide the houses we need in the places they should while protecting the rights of the current population of these wonderful local communities


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