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England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| THE BARD CAMPAIGN
|- and -
|SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Mr Timothy Mould QC and Mr James Maurici (instructed by Treasury Solicitors) for the Defendant and
Mr Anthony Crean QC and Mr Tim Shepperd (instructed by Morris Orman and Hearle) for the Interested Party
Hearing dates: 22, 23, 26 & 27 January 2009
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Walker :
Eco-towns exemplar "green developments". They will meet the highest standards of sustainability, including low and zero carbon technologies and quality public transport systems. They will make use of brownfield land and surplus public sector land where practical and lead the way in design, facilities and services, and community involvement.
i) Did the government properly consult on the principle of, and the key criteria for, Eco-towns? My answer is that it did. The approach taken by the government to consultation on principle and key criteria was sufficient to comply with relevant procedural requirements.
ii) Was there proper consultation in relation to ELGF? My answer is yes. ELGF was limited to certain preliminary aspects of shortlisting. The government was entitled to limit ELGF in this way, and it complied with relevant procedural requirements in relation to ELGF.
B. Events prior to ELGF
There is a good case for reusing large brownfield sites where they can be brought into use sustainably, alongside town centre schemes and urban extensions. Some of these may be sites previously used by the armed forces, by the health sector and by statutory undertakers and other utilities, such as former railway land. With the right design, good infrastructure and high quality links to neighbouring communities, these sites have considerable potential.
However, recent experience indicates significant delay and problems in delivering homes on many of these large sites, particularly in relation to infrastructure and local delivery capacity. Great care needs to be taken that sites are sustainable. Some may be too far from existing settlements to be viable, or have no prospect in the near future of securing the necessary public and private infrastructure. There may be other environmental factors which make such sites unviable.
In support of its objective of creating mixed and sustainable communities, the Government's policy is to ensure that housing is developed in suitable locations which offer a range of community facilities and with good access to jobs, key services and infrastructure. This should be achieved by making effective use of land, existing infrastructure and available public and private investment, and include consideration of the opportunity for housing provision on surplus public sector land (including land owned by Central Government and its bodies or Local Authorities) to create mixed use developments. The priority for development should be previously developed land, in particular vacant and derelict sites and buildings.
2. Good planning is a positive and proactive process, operating in the public interest through a system of plan preparation and control over the development and use of land.
7. the country needs a transparent, flexible, predictable, efficient and effective planning system that will produce the quality development needed to deliver sustainable development and secure sustainable communities. National policies and regional and local development plans (regional spatial strategies and local development frameworks) provide the framework for planning for sustainable development and for that development to be managed effectively. Plans should be drawn up with community involvement and present a shared vision and strategy of how the area should develop to achieve more sustainable patterns of development.
8. This plan-led system, and the certainty and predictability it aims to provide, is central to planning and plays the key role in integrating sustainable development objectives. Where the development plan contains relevant policies, applications for planning permission should be determined in line with the plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
9. Local communities, businesses, the voluntary sector and individuals have a right to a high quality service that is fast, fair, open, transparent and consistent and respects the cost, effort and commitment that has gone into engagement in plan making and in preparing and submitting applications.
13. The following key principles should be applied to ensure that development plans and decisions taken on planning applications contribute to the delivery of sustainable development:
(vi) Community involvement is an essential element in delivering sustainable development and creating sustainable and safe communities. In developing the vision for their areas, planning authorities should ensure that communities are able to contribute to ideas about how that vision can be achieved, have the opportunity to participate in the process of drawing up the vision, strategy and specific plan policies, and to be involved in development proposals. (See also paragraphs 40-44 below).
21. The prudent use of resources means ensuring that we use them wisely and efficiently, in a way that respects the needs of future generations. This means enabling more sustainable consumption and production and using non-renewable resources in ways that do not endanger the resource or cause serious damage or pollution. The broad aim should be to ensure that outputs are maximised whilst resources used are minimised (for example, by building housing at higher densities on previously developed land, rather than at lower densities on greenfield sites).
22. Development plan policies should seek to minimise the need to consume new resources over the lifetime of the development by making more efficient use or reuse of existing resources, rather than making new demands on the environment; and should seek to promote and encourage, rather than restrict, the use of renewable resources (for example, by the development of renewable energy). Regional planning authorities and local authorities should promote resource and energy efficient buildings; community heating schemes, the use of combined heat and power, small scale renewable and low carbon energy schemes in developments; the sustainable use of water resources; and the use of sustainable drainage systems in the management of run-off.
27. In preparing development plans, planning authorities should seek to:
(viii) Promote the more efficient use of land through higher density, mixed use development and the use of suitably located previously developed land and buildings. Planning should seek actively to bring vacant and underused previously developed land and buildings back into beneficial use to achieve the targets the Government has set for development on previously developed land.
(x) Address, on the basis of sound science, the causes and impacts of climate change, the management of pollution and natural hazards, the safeguarding of natural resources, and the minimisation of impacts from the management and use of resources.
40. Planning shapes the places where people work and live. The planning system operates in the public interest to ensure the development and use of land results in better places for people to live, the delivery of development where communities need it, as well as the protection and enhancement of the natural and historic environment and the countryside. The outcomes from planning affect everyone, and everyone must therefore have the opportunity to play a role in delivering effective and inclusive planning. Community involvement is vitally important to planning and the achievement of sustainable development.
We need a new national drive to support more affordable housing and we need to act now. That's why the Prime Minister recently announced plans for three million new homes by 2020. Homes that reflect the diverse needs of all our communities.
This Housing Green Paper outlines our plans for delivering these homes. More homes backed by more ambitious building targets, increased investment, and new ways of identifying and using land for development. More social housing ensuring `that a decent home at an affordable price is for the many, not the few. Building homes more quickly by unblocking the planning system and releasing land for development. More affordable homes by increasing the options for low cost home ownership and more long term and affordable mortgage products. And greener homes with high environmental standards and flagship developments leading the way.
But we cannot do it alone. It is only by working in partnership and harnessing the energy of local government, developers and house-builders, housing associations, as well as communities and tenant and resident groups that we will truly make progress building affordable, sustainable homes for the future, in communities where people are proud to live.
This is your opportunity to consider our proposals and help us shape the future of housing in England. I look forward to your contribution. [emphasis added]
We want everyone to have access to a decent home at a price they can afford, in a place where they want to live and work. Good quality, affordable housing enables stable and secure family lives: we are all healthier, happier and wealthier when we have decent homes close to schools, healthcare and transport links.
But this is not just an issue for families. Good housing can improve our social, environmental and economic well-being. It helps create better communities that can attract investment and skilled workers. And getting the design right can also improve the environment and reduce our carbon footprint.
Therefore, the strategic housing decisions we take collectively over the next few years are critical to the life chances of the next generation.
Section I: What's happened since 1997
Since 1997, housing has improved for many people. Homeowners have seen the value of their properties increase. Social tenants have seen massive improvements in the quality of their homes. And concerted action has slashed homelessness and directly helped 77,000 households to buy their first homes.
All of this has been achieved in a climate of economic growth and stability far removed from the boom and bust of previous decades. Low inflation and low interest rates have led to over 1 million more home owners over the last ten years.
We have achieved a great deal through our investment in housing over the past ten years. That investment means social housing now has over 1 million fewer non-decent homes and the number of private sector vulnerable households living in non-decent homes has been reduced by over 300,000. We have also cut the number of rough sleepers by over two thirds and ended the long-term use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children. Our investment has also helped improve demand for homes in some previously blighted urban areas.
The challenges we face
But we face new challenges today. Demand for homes to buy or rent is growing faster than supply. And as house prices have grown faster than wages, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to get a step on the housing ladder. And the challenges of climate change mean we need to provide greener, better-designed housing for the future.
This Green Paper sets out our proposals to improve the housing fabric of our society. We will work with our partners to provide:
More homes to meet growing demand;
Well-designed and greener homes, linked to good schools, transport and healthcare;
More affordable homes to buy or rent.
Section II: More homes to meet growing demand
Our first challenge is to provide more homes. Housing supply has increased substantially in the last few years and is now at its highest level since the 1980s, but supply is still not keeping up with rising demand from our ageing, growing population.
Why we need more homes: While the housing stock is growing by 185,000 a year, the number of households is projected to grow at 223,000 a year, many of them people living alone.
New targets: That is why the Government is now setting a new housing target for 2016 of 240,000 additional homes a year to meet the growing demand and address affordability issues. The level of housing supply needs to increase over time towards this target and we believe that a total of three million new homes are needed by 2020, two million of them by 2016.
Delivering 2 million homes by 2016 and 3 million homes by 2020: Our proposals assume that housing supply will rise over time towards the 240,000 per year target in 2016, delivering approximately two million new homes by 2016 and continuing at around 240,000 homes per annum over the next four years to deliver an extra million new homes by 2020.
The two million new homes that will be delivered by 2016 will include the following:
1.6 million homes are already in existing Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) and plans now in place including around 650,000 homes in Growth Areas with support from the 2003 Sustainable Communities Plan (e.g. Thames Gateway and Milton Keynes/South Midlands);
150,000-200,000 additional homes in the new round of RSS and plans now under consideration, including many smaller sites and urban area schemes, together with further, partial RSS reviews where they are needed;
100,000 extra homes in 45 towns and cities that make up the 29 New Growth Points which have already come forward in 2006 proposing high growth schemes. Those towns will be eligible for additional support and growth funding comparable to support which Growth Areas receive, including access to a £300 million Community Infrastructure Fund for Growth Areas, New Growth Points and eco-towns;
An additional round of New Growth Points including for the first time the North. Our ambition would be to deliver around 50,000 new homes. The final number will depend on the strength, costs and sustainability of bids coming forward;
We are launching today an invitation for local authorities and developers to propose
5 new eco-town schemes, with the entire community designed to be able to reach zero carbon standards. Each scheme could provide between 5,000 and 20,000 new homes giving a total of some 25-100,000 homes. Final decisions will depend on the strength, costs and sustainability of the bids received.
Delivering homes where they are needed: Young families face problems finding affordable homes in every region, in urban and in rural areas. New housing is therefore needed throughout the country delivered in a way that is sensitive to local needs. We are extending the New Growth Points programmes to northern cities and towns.
Rural homes: We recognise that rural communities face particular pressures. We will set out measures to ensure more social and shared ownership homes are delivered in villages, as the Affordable Rual Housing Commission proposed. The Housing Corporation is investing £230 million to deliver around 6,300 homes in small towns and villages through its 200608 affordable housing programme. We will set a target for delivery of affordable housing in rural areas over the period 2008-11. We are also supporting seven new potential pilot Community Land Trusts in rural areas, giving local communities access to land for affordable house building.
Planning reviews: We will set up partial reviews of regional plans to increase regional and local targets and ensure the new eco-towns and additional Growth Points are properly handled in the planning system. Reviews of Regional Spatial Strategies will be carried out by 2011 to reflect plans for 240,000 homes a year by 2016.
Local planning incentives and enforcement: A new Housing and Planning Delivery Grant will direct extra resources to those councils who are delivering high levels of housing and to those councils who have identified at least 5 years worth of sites ready for development. Local councils will have to identify enough land to deliver the homes needed in their area over the next 15 years by rapidly implementing new planning policy for housing (PPS3). We are publishing new guidance showing how councils can find the land they need. Where councils have not identified enough land and do not grant sufficient planning permissions, planning inspectors will be more likely to overturn their decisions and give housing applications the go ahead at the appeal stage. We will also consult on ways to strengthen the requirement on developers to commence development or lose planning permission, and what more can be done to develop a consistent approach to the disclosure of land holdings.
Public sector land: We have raised our target to 200,000 new homes to be delivered on surplus public sector land by 2016, a significant increase from the previous target of 130,000 announced in the Pre-Budget Report. English Partnerships will set out new standards for housing on surplus Government land, which will increase the number of affordable homes developed, bring forward sites more quickly and ensure that design and environmental performance standards are raised to meet housing policy objectives.
Recycling homes and land: We also need to make the most of existing homes and buildings and disused land. We believe brownfield land should be the priority for development. The Government will continue with the national target that over 60% of homes should be built on brownfield land and every region and local authority will be expected to set their own target for brownfield land use. The new homes agency will work with local authorities to support them in their place-shaping role, including on how local authority and other disused land can be used to lever in private investment and transform communities. Councils, as part of their strategic housing role, need to reduce the number of homes that are left empty for long periods of time. We will explore a range of measures including the new Housing and Planning Delivery Grant."
12. Eco-towns will build on the UK's rich historic experience of creating planned new settlements. The garden cities are rightly highly regarded across the world. Ebenezer Howard's vision of garden cities was of places to combine 'the health of the country with the comforts of the town'. Green Belts have kept places separate and distinct and many of the new towns of the second half of the twentieth century have been highly successful. Modern schemes need to be more flexible in design and make more use of different models of financing but many of the lessons of the new towns still apply.
13. Eco-towns will be entirely new towns which are exemplar "green developments" of between 5,000 to 20,000 homes. They will be designed to meet the highest standards of sustainability, including low and zero carbon technologies and good public transport. They should incorporate renewable energy systems such that, overall, the whole development in Eco-towns is capable of achieving zero-carbon. The entire community will be designed to have zero or low carbon use, including new schools, community and health facilities. Environmental infrastructure will be a key component of ecotowns including effective flood management, sustainable urban drainage systems, waste water management together with greenspace and enhanced biodiversity.
14. Eco-towns will complement town and city centre renewal, urban extensions and the redevelopment of major sites in existing urban areas. Two prototype schemes, Northstowe in Cambridgeshire and Cranbrook outside Exeter in Devon, are already at an advanced stage of planning and will provide a test bed for informing plans for Eco-towns. Construction will start next year.
15.We are looking for at least five new schemes to start within two years, each with 5,00020,000 homes. As new developments, they provide an excellent opportunity to show how homes can be built to higher environmental standards with potential for lower cost. This will include zero-carbon development and integrated services and transport. Final decisions will depend on the strength, costs and sustainability of the bids received.
16. In line with support provided to Growth Areas and New Growth Points, Government will invest in Eco-towns to provide support for delivery capacity, early site infrastructure projects, essential studies and master-planning. Eco-towns will be eligible for support from the Community Infrastructure Fund. £2m has already been made available for preparatory work. A large proportion of future investment in Eco-towns will be made by the private sector.
Selecting Eco-town developments
17.Alongside this Green Paper we are publishing a prospectus setting out the vision and outline criteria for Eco-towns. We are inviting proposals from local authorities and other interested groups as to how Eco-towns could contribute to additional growth. Ecotowns will be judged against the following criteria:
zero carbon and environmental standards;
design quality, including through design competitions;
community involvement; and
use of land.
18. We are committed to preserving green spaces. So, where possible we will use brownfield and public sector land to deliver these new developments.
19. On identifying promising Eco-town proposals, we will:
review them with other Departments and Agencies;
commit resources where appropriate to enable Eco-towns proposals to be dealt with quickly through the planning system using mini RSS reviews and use of the new town powers where necessary to secure implementation;
provide guidance for developers, prepared by David Lock and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA);
establish a wider reference group to provide input and expert advice into their development; and
sponsor an architectural competition to stimulate new thinking on design for new settlements
 Continue to support delivery in the Growth Areas and New Growth Points
 Identify at least 5 new eco-town schemes by inviting responses to the eco-towns prospectus from local authorities and other interested groups
[3[ Commit resources where appropriate to enable eco-towns proposals to be dealt with quickly through the planning system
 Launch a guide for developers
 Invite bids from individual local authorities and partnerships for New Growth Point status
 Develop a target over the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR07) period for affordable housing in rural areas
 Continued investing in Housing Market Renewal over the Comprehensive Spending Review period with greater targeting of funding to areas facing deep seated structural challenges
(1) Section 1 was a general introduction under the heading "Progress and Challenges."
(2) Section II was headed "More Homes to Meet Growing Demand". Chapter 1 of this section was entitled "Delivering Homes Where They Are Needed." This chapter dealt with growth areas and growth points. It then turned to deal with Eco-towns as set out above. After that it proceeded to describe the government's approach to what was called "meeting the rural challenge" before ending with the passage on "Next Steps" quoted above. Thereafter in Section II chapters 2, 3 & 4 dealt with "Delivery without needless delay continuing planning reform," "Public sector land use," and "Recycling homes and land."
(3) Section III was entitled "How We Create Places and Homes That People Want To Live In." Here Chapters 5, 6 & 7 dealt with "Infrastructure," "Well designed homes and places," and "Greener homes."
(4) Section IV was entitled: "Making Housing More Affordable." Here Chapters 8, 9 &10 dealt with "More social housing," "Helping first time buyers," and "Improving the way the mortgage market works."
(5) Section V was entitled: "Delivery: How We Make It Happen." In this section Chapters 11 & 12 were headed "Skills and construction," and "Implementation: a shared endeavour."
Purpose of consultation.
This consultation seeks views on a range of proposals relating to housing supply in England.
We welcome responses to the specific questions posed in this document as well as any general comments that you may have. A summary of these questions is set out below.
Summary of Consultation Questions
We invite your views on the range of ideas and proposals contained in this Green Paper.
We particularly welcome your views on the following questions.
Chapter 6: Well designed homes and places
5. Do you consider that any additional tools and/or mechanisms are now needed to deliver the design policies in order to achieve our aspirations for an up-lift in quality and to improve inclusive design?
6. Do you agree that further work to explore and evaluate quality assurance approaches would be worthwhile?
Chapter 8: More social housing
7. What are your views on our proposals to allow councils to retain the full rental income from, and capital receipts on disposal of, additional new properties financed from local resources and consult on detailed options?
8. What are your views on our proposals to change the pooling regime for receipts from share equity schemes that local authorities develop and consult further on any details proposals?
9. What are your views on the strengths of the models for delivering new supply set out in chapter 12?
10. Are there other models you know of which could effectively secure the outcomes sought?
We have seen strong support across the private sector, local government and local communities for building more affordable homes alongside higher environmental standards. Now we want local areas to come forward with ideas on how to put these principles and ambitions into practice with a new generation of eco-towns.
Eco-towns will be small new towns of at least 5-20,000 homes. They are intended to exploit the potential to create a complete new settlement to achieve zero carbon development and more sustainable living using the best new design and architecture. The key features we want to achieve are:
(i) places with a separate and distinct identity but good links to surrounding towns and cities in terms of jobs, transport and services;
(ii) the development as a whole to achieve zero carbon and to be an exemplar in at least one area of environment technology;
(iii) a good range of facilities within the town including a secondary school, shopping, business space and leisure;
(iv) between 30 and 50 per cent affordable housing with a good mix of tenures and size of homes in mixed communities; and
(v) a delivery organisation to manage the town and its development and provide support for people, businesses and community services.
Government is looking to encourage and support local authorities and the private sector to bring forward around five new schemes. This prospectus sets out the context for the programme and explains how the Government can support these projects. It outlines the criteria by which they will be assessed, subject to consultation and testing in the planning process. [emphasis added]
13. Eco-towns are a major opportunity for local authorities, house builders, developers and registered social landlords to come together to build small new towns. Eco-towns should be well designed, attractive places to live, with good services and facilities, and which connect well with the larger towns or cities close by. Uniquely, they offer an opportunity to design a whole town business and services as well as homes to achieve zero-carbon development, and to use this experience to help guide other developments across the country. The essential requirements we are looking for are:
(i) eco-towns must be new settlements, separate and distinct from existing towns but well linked to them. They need to be additional to existing plans, with a minimum target of 5,000 10,000 homes;"
(ii) the development as a whole should reach zero carbon standards, and each town should be an exemplar in at least one area of environmental sustainability;
(iii) eco-town proposals should provide for a good range of facilities within the town a secondary school, a medium scale retail centre, good quality business space and leisure facilities;
(iv) affordable housing should make up between 30 and 50 per cent of the total through a wide range and distribution of tenures in mixed communities, with a particular emphasis on larger family homes;
(v) a management body which will help develop the town, provide support for people moving to the new community, for businesses and to co-ordinate delivery of services and manage facilities.
17 . Surplus Public Sector Land. Where practicable we want to encourage the development of eco-towns on surplus public sector land. In terms of registered surplus public sector land there are about 4,600 hectares, which provides a potential opportunity for development. A recent exercise to identify additional surplus public sector sites owned by central Government Departments revealed a further 550, with nearly 300 within the wider South-East. These are being examined by English Partnerships for housing development and some of these sites could offer potential opportunities for eco-towns.
27. Just as housing markets are wider than individual local authority boundaries, so identifying and considering potential eco-town schemes will require local authorities to look at the wider area of which they form part, the pattern of clusters and networks of towns, the links between them and the best strategic options for growth for the larger area. These are issues for the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) or for a partial RSS review. These reviews will provide the strategic planning context for consideration of individual proposals and sustainability/environmental appraisal as necessary.
28. In some cases the planning content provided by the development plan as a whole is already sufficiently clear to enable a proposal for an eco-town to be handled directly by a planning application. The Government wants to minimise delay and enable proposals for eco-towns to be dealt with quickly through all aspects of the planning system. We will be committing resources where appropriate to help achieve this.
30 . Local authority views of potential We expect authorities and groups of authorities to give consideration to the case for higher growth in their areas over the next few months, and the extent to which new eco-towns proposals could contribute to increased housing supply, above that planned to 2016. This process should build on the work that has been undertaken to inform RSSs to date, and the requirements of Housing Planning Policy Statement (PPS3) to maintain a rolling supply of housing, and to undertake housing market assessments of their areas and across sub-regions more generally. We are therefore asking for views on the scope for eco-town proposals from the relevant authorities, individually and collectively, taking particular account of housing market benefits. It will be important for proposals for an eco-town to relate to housing market pressures in the wider area.
31. We will also welcome views from other stakeholders on these issues including joint assessments and proposals from private sector much as the work to prepare for RSS revisions has involved local authorities, Regional Development Agencies, and housebuilders in giving thought to, and providing evidence in support of, higher housing numbers, and broad strategic locations of higher growth. We will welcome views from other stakeholders including environmental, housing and business representatives.
32. It will also be valuable for Government to be informed of emerging major proposals and potential schemes with significant infrastructure implications, so that discussion with infrastructure providers and on sustainability can take place at a sufficiently early stage to inform future development of the scheme.
33. As with the recent process to identify New Growth Points, Government will assess schemes with potential in order to carry out a high level inter-Departmental strategic review of proposals. This will include DEFRA, DfT, the Environment Agency, Natural England, Highways Agency and English Heritage to ensure that proposals coming forward are sustainable, affordable and realistic in terms of policy and infrastructure investment support. This in no way prejudges the role of the planning process but it does allow better supported proposals to come forward.
34. More detailed information for local authorities and potential proponents is available separately.
The Green Paper indicates that we are looking for a least 5 new schemes of between 5 and 20,000 homes each, with final decisions depending on strength, cost and sustainability of proposals. The Eco-towns Prospectus sets out the criteria large-scale free-standing new settlements that are exemplars of sustainable building and living, with the opportunity to design in low- and zero-carbon technology from the start. Eco-towns are intended to be well-designed, attractive places to live, with jobs and services, but also with good links to existing towns and cities close by. They will provide a major contribution to housing supply and increasing affordability as a guide we expect around 30-50% of the homes in eco-towns to be affordable. The Prospectus sets out further guidance on planning, delivery and next steps (particularly paras 23-34). Higher environmental and earlier infrastructure costs will be taken into account in decisions on growth funding support.
The bidding and selection process for additional new growth points and eco-towns will be similar to that which applied to the first round of new growth points.
For both growth points and eco-towns we envisage a 3-stage process:
(a) By end October 2007 Expressions of interest in terms of strategic potential and based on the relevant criteria will be welcome from local authorities and on eco-towns from the private sector and other parties (whether singly or in partnership). At this stage we are looking for broad proposals and, in the case of eco-towns, views on potential we are not looking for the level of detail appropriate to an individual planning application;
(b) November/December 2007 Proposals which are judged to have potential to meet the relevant criteria for new growth points or eco-towns will go forward for a strategic and high level cross-government review involving DEFRA, DfT, Highways Agency, Environment Agency and Natural England and the Government Office
(c) Early 2008 Government will announce schemes accepted for support, subject to consultation, testing and independent examination through the planning system, including use of the new town powers where appropriate (as set out in the Eco-towns prospectus). Conditions may include further detailed assessment of particular aspects such as environmental impact. Funding could be available from April 2008.
2.2.1 Communities and Local Government received 57 proposals, some led by local authorities but the majority by developers. Communities and Local Government then undertook an initial broad sift of the bids against the Eco-towns criteria set out in the Eco-towns Prospectus and categorised them as very strong; strong; medium; or poor ... The broad sift was undertaken on an internal basis partly because Communities and Local Government anticipated that some of the proposals would have little prospect of being taken forward and that to publicly identify such proposals would have led to a period of uncertainty for the communities concerned
2.2.2 Communities and Local Government then designated each bid A total of 33 schemes were confirmed as sufficiently strong to be considered through the regional review process.
2.3.1 Communities and Local Government then took forward assessment of the bids through a cross-government review of the proposed locations, mainly covering the transport and environment impacts in each case. Transport and the environment were focused on since Communities and Local Government considered these to be the two principal place-specific factors governing the success of a growth proposal. The cross-government review was also a 'showstopper' review that enabled Communities and Local Government to identify if there were any factors which would make it difficult or impossible to realistically provide infrastructure to serve a new settlement in that location or if the environmental impacts were unacceptable.
2.3.2 The cross-government review was carried out at a regional level with Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department for Transport, English Heritage, Environment Agency, Government Offices, Highways Agency and Natural England. For the purposes of the Review, a short draft summary of the scheme and supporting documents were circulated to the key departments and agencies to inform a round table discussion held on a regional basis with all parties represented, including the Government Offices. At the meetings the agencies were invited to give Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulations Assessment of the Eco-towns Programme views on the sustainability impacts of the locations under review [using a banding system in which A signified that the proposal "meets criteria and no significant issues at this stage"; D signified the proposal met criteria but there was a potential show-stopper and F signified a proposal which failed to meet key criteria]
2.3.3 Discussions centred on those locations which had been listed for review. However, comments were also invited on locations which had been categorised as Reserve or List Only. List Only categorisations were overall confirmed as E or F and some other bids were also scored in these categories. Any bid scoring D or below was regarded as a 'showstopper' in terms of environmental and transport impacts on the information available at that stage.
2.3.4 In some cases, further information was sought from promoters of schemes, or agencies required more time to consider the impacts of a bid. These further deliberations led to changes in some of the assessments. The outcomes of these discussions, including any changes to the assessment bandings were recorded on a series of Assessment Summaries published on the Communities and Local Government website.
2.4.1 In parallel to the cross-government review, on 22 November 2007, Communities and Local Government wrote to all 57 of the scheme promoters, requesting further information on the key infrastructure requirements of the schemes; the extent to which they were able to contribute to the costs of delivery; and their plans for local consultation on proposals. This information was fed into an early assessment of deliverability.
2.5.1 All 57 locations were also assessed against housing market pressures
2.6.1 Of the 33 schemes considered at the regional review a total of 18 scored sufficiently well on the A to D grading and on delivery to be judged at that stage to be capable of going forward into a shortlist for wider consultation. This included two areas Rushcliffe and Leeds City Region where, in the light of views from the relevant authorities who wished to consider areas of search in greater detail Communities and Local Government agreed to a further review of potential sites rather than endorsing a specific scheme at that stage. In three cases where two schemes were competing in the same sub-region, a further review against Eco-town criteria and the issues raised in the cross-government review was carried out to identify the stronger candidate.
2.6.2 In determining the shortlist of locations with the potential to go forward as an Eco-town, Communities and Local Government took into account the following factors: a score of C or higher on the banding approach undertaken at the cross-government review; the housing market pressure in that area; and the assessment of deliverability. During the assessment process, Communities and Local Government also took informal soundings from local authorities and regional partners before short listing the 15 locations.
"Well over 100 submissions from across the range of respondent types commented on the Government's proposals for new Eco-towns, of which over four fifths were supportive of the Government's plans. A small number of responses (16) from local authorities, NGOs and RSLs/housing associations stressed that Eco-towns needed to be sustainable in terms of transport links to existing economies.
C. ELGF and the ministerial statement
We will also be looking at the proposed schemes from promoters and we expect each proposal to be further refined and improved over the coming months. We will be looking for clear evidence that each scheme:
achieves the highest possible environmental standards, not only mitigating the impact of development but positively enhancing the site as well as reducing the need for residents to rely on cars; is clearly deliverable, with funding identified and proper management arrangements set out; and is affordable, with a clearly agreed basis for contributions from private investors and public sector agencies.
A panel of experts will advise and challenge those leading the proposals to improve the environmental credentials of each project. Government will also be providing support to the relevant local authorities, comparable to the support on offer to local authorities designated as growth points or growth areas. We will continue to work in partnership with local government and the LGA as we move forward.
This consultation is the first of four key stages in the planning process for eco-towns.
Stage 1 three-month consultation on preliminary views on eco-town benefits and these shortlisted locations; stage 2 further consultation this summer on a sustainability appraisal, which provides a more detailed assessment of these locations, and a draft planning policy statement; stage 3 a decision on the list of locations with the potential to be an eco-town as part of the final planning policy statement, later this year; and stage 4 like any other proposed development, individual schemes will need to submit planning applications which will be decided on the merits of the proposal
Our objective is for five eco-towns to be completed by 2016, and up to 10 by 2020. We expect work to begin on some sites by 2010.
1. This consultation paper sets out how Government is taking forward the eco-towns programme including the shortlist of locations going forward for more detailed assessment.
2. It seeks your views on:
the way in which the eco-towns concept is being developed and the different potential benefits that an eco-town could offer;
how particular features such as greenspace or innovative approaches to housing can best be developed in an eco-town;
preliminary views on the 15 locations going forward for further assessment;
3. We want anyone with an interest in climate change, more sustainable living and our housing shortage to give us their views, both on the programme as a whole and on the particular issues in individual locations, and on the approaches and technologies involved.
4. We are looking for responses by 30 June 2008 and these will feed into a more detailed consultation on the individual locations as part of the Sustainability Appraisal and Policy Statement which we will issue in July as explained below. Details on how to respond to this consultation are at Annex E.
5. Building on the principles set out in the eco-towns Prospectus, this paper also explains the planning process for eco-towns, indicates how the eco-town proposals from bidders will need to be further refined and developed, and points to the specific challenges which will need to be addressed in each location, if it is to be confirmed as a potential eco-town location. We received 57 bids covering a wide range of proposals and this paper summarises the 15 going forward for further assessment and how we will select up to 10 locations as suitable later this year. It also sets out how Government will support local authorities and other delivery bodies as the proposals are taken forward.
6. The 4 key stages in the process are as follows:
this consultation paper which asks for preliminary views on eco-town benefits and the 15 short-listed locations;
there will then be a more detailed assessment of the locations (the Sustainability Appraisal) which will also be available for consultation, together with a draft planning policy statement on eco-towns. We expect to publish these in the summer;
publication of the final list of locations with potential to be an eco-town final Policy Statement which we expect later in 2008;
consideration of planning applications for individual schemes.
The outcome of the bidding process We invited eco-town bids from both local authorities and the private sector. The full list of 57 responses is listed in Annex D. There was a wide range of ideas and proposals for new technologies and new approaches to more sustainable living. Some of these ideas could be applied generally; others are better suited to a particular location. Government is keen to encourage this type of new thinking and to see it develop further as the detailed proposals for individual projects are refined.
3. Each eco-town location will need its own approach but each will need to demonstrate key features to fit with the eco-towns criteria. While the detailed design will vary according to each location, this section gives an indication of the benefits which an eco-town development should provide. We would welcome your comments on the potential benefits listed below. We are particularly interested in innovative approaches and techniques which require the whole town scale to be piloted successfully.
Are these potential benefits the most important which an eco-town could deliver. Do you have views on how they could be most effectively delivered?
In addition to these, are there other significant areas of potential benefit which you would wish to see added to this list?
Are there particular technologies or approaches which you would wish to see piloted to help achieve the eco-town outcomes?
How the planning process will work decisions on individual applications and the planning policy framework
1. More work is needed on which locations could be suitable for an eco-town as well as on particular schemes being put forward before decisions on a final list of locations can be taken. This consultation paper sets out a shortlist of locations where Government believes there is potential for an eco-town based on consideration of its benefits, its infrastructure fit and deliverability based on the information we have had from bidders and other sources. In the next stage that preliminary assessment will be followed up with more detailed work.
2. Any eco-town scheme will be the subject of a planning application and we would expect most to be determined by the local planning authority. It is important that eco-town schemes are taken through the planning process to ensure that all issues have been considered, all views gathered and the best solution achieved. It is important for local communities to have their say on individual schemes and community engagement is a vital part of the process for delivering eco-towns successfully. The Government also wants to set the right planning policy framework for eco-towns and to indicate those locations that have the potential to be an eco-town; we therefore propose to consult on and publish a Planning Policy Statement on Eco-towns, which will create a framework for consideration of eco-town planning applications. Further details of the planning issues are set out in Annex A.
Potential Locations The Planning Framework
3. The shortlist of locations published today will be subject to a more detailed Sustainability Appraisal (SA) which will provide greater detail on environmental sustainability and other issues and test them against reasonable alternatives. We will publish the SA for consultation alongside a draft Planning Policy Statement on Eco-towns in July. This statement will set out the core principles and criteria for eco towns as well as a refined list of potential locations which could include sites or locations that are not currently shortlisted (as a result of consideration of alternatives in the SA). The final decision on the policy statement will take into account the SA and the views of consultees and be published as the Eco-towns Policy Statement in the Autumn. While an individual planning decision is decided on individual merits, this policy statement, and the evidence that underpins it, will act as a material consideration in those decisions.
Improving the Proposed Schemes
4. Alongside this consideration of principles and locations, developers, local authorities and others concerned with individual schemes will need to do more work to refine and improve the detailed proposals they have made, for example by agreeing and clarifying the infrastructure required, ensuring that it is robustly costed and evaluating novel environmental and other technologies needed to deliver the eco-towns vision for that location. There will need to be a costed plan for delivery of the project with input from public agencies on likely support and realistic assumptions about future public investment.
5. Refining and developing these specific eco town proposals will enable Government and local authorities to be assured that a project is viable for its location, can be effectively delivered, and matches the eco-towns ambition. There are three key areas of test in this further work:
Sustainability: does the proposed approach achieve sufficiently high environmental standards, not only mitigating impacts but positively enhancing the site for example in terms of bio-diversity and accessible greenspace. In terms of transport does it generate a substantial shift away from car use and reduce the need to travel compared with a standard approach to development.
Deliverability: is it clear how the project could be delivered over time in this location. Is there a clear statement on funding support for infrastructure by the promoters in the light of government and public sector assessments. Is there provision for delivery and long-term management arrangements, including secure funding for the latter.
Affordability: is the total cost of delivering a scheme in this location affordable within the funding streams likely to be available from investors and from the public sector. Is there a basis for agreeing the respective contributions of each and is this based on reasonable expectations by relevant public infrastructure bodies and likely to be agreed between the parties.
6. To help bidders review and refine proposals Government will be establishing an assessment and review panel (The Eco-towns Challenge Panel) and it will also be offering Local Authorities additional support to help with developing costed plans for the delivery of schemes. Wherever possible government wishes to take a partnership approach with the LA on taking forward the eco-town and it will be offering local authority Partnership Agreements which can provide a basis for funding for necessary studies, additional capacity within the authority and expertise so that it is in a good position to contribute to this part of the process. Further details of the process for refining schemes and government support is set out in Annex B. When the Homes and Communities Agency is established we would expect it to play a major role in supporting local authorities and working with bidders to review and refine proposals as set out in Annex B.
7. As stated above, all schemes will be subject to the necessary planning applications and this process of refining and developing the proposal, engaging with the local community and discussing issues with the local authority should lead to an improved planning application being made and a better chance of receiving planning permission. In addition if a scheme meets the Government's eco-town criteria then we will offer continued support to the local authority and the developer to take it forward as set out in Annex B. This is all without prejudice to any final planning decisions which will be taken on the individual merits of each scheme.
1. These bids going forward performed the most strongly in an initial scrutiny across Government and its agencies in terms of transport and environment issues, affordability benefits and deliverability against eco-towns criteria. Each of these now needs to be assessed in more detail as set out in section 4.
2. What follows is an initial summary of the issues for each location with a broadly indicative map marking, which in some cases includes alternative options or sites. Also included is information on housing affordability and a housing affordability pressure indicator (ratio of lower quartile home prices to lower quartile earnings). This sets out some of the specific challenges and potential benefits in each location. More detail is available from the individual scheme bidders and a more detailed assessment of each location will become available in the Sustainability Appraisal alongside consideration of alternatives.
|West Midlands MIDDLE QUINTON
||The eco-town proposal comprises a 240ha brownfield site 6 miles to the SW of Stratford upon Avon between Long Marston and Lower Quinton. It is a former MoD Engineers depot with extensive warehousing, a rail system and a rail (freight use) connection to the main Worcester-Oxford-London line.
||A scheme of at least 6,000 zero carbon homes on previously developed land, with substantial employment opportunities, affordable housing and community infrastructure, including up to four schools, health care and retail facilities and high quality public transport links to surrounding towns and villages, all supported by leading edge environmental technology. [Housing Affordability Pressure Very High. The scheme would deliver 2,000 affordable housing units in comparison with current delivery of 170 annually and 3,000 households on waiting list. Stratford experiences very high levels of demand for rented accommodation in relation to its role as an international destination an issue recognised in the Stratford World Class vision initiative.
|Initial summary of challenges and constraints
||Environment The scheme will need to be developed with design sensitivity to its setting close to Cotswolds AONB and suitable mitigation measures. Would look for an SFRA to make sure there is no flood risk on site. Capacity of existing sewage network unlikely to be able to cope. The scheme will need to include a contaminated land survey and to carry out remediation sustainably.
Transport No major issues regarding the strategic transport network but the scheme would need to develop and support a substantial improvement to public transport links to surrounding centres and particularly Stratford upon Avon.
Employment The site is already a significant employment centre with scope for expansion around proposed eco-town technologies including recycling and sustainable construction.
Conservation and historic constraints Historic settlements, listed buildings and landscape issues would need to be safeguarded and enhanced as the scheme is developed.
|See Annex D for further details of a proposal for this location.
|Do you have views on the inclusion of this location in the programme?
|A more detailed assessment will be included in the Sustainability Appraisal. Are there other potential benefits or challenges which you would wish to see addressed for this location?
|Are there particular issues which you would like to see the proposals for this location address?
|South East WESTON OTMOOR
Cherwell DC, Oxfordshire County Council
(also relevant to Oxford City Council)
||The site adjoins the M40 Motorway and the Oxford-Bicester railway around 3 miles SW of Bicester and 7 miles from Oxford. The total area is over 800 hectares of which around 130 has are currently in use as a grass airstrip. The southern edge of the site fringes the Oxford Green belt.
||The eco-town proposal is for a major scheme of 10-15,000 homes which would achieve exceptional standards of sustainability, particularly in relation to transport, while also relieving housing pressures in a sub-region with one of the most highly stressed housing markets in the south east and creating significant new business space. The proposal is based on a major package of investment in rail (including restoring services on the Oxford to Milton Keynes line) and other public transport, and would incorporate a major Park and ride facility adjoining the M40, combined with improvements to the A34/M40 junction and stringent controls on car access to/from the site.
Housing Affordability Pressure Extreme. Scheme would deliver 3-5,000 affordable housing units in comparison with current new build of affordable housing of 100 and 230 annually in relevant LA areas. Current households on housing waiting lists are around 3,400 in Cherwell and 3,965 in Oxford.
|Initial summary of challenges and constraints
||Environment The scheme will need to ensure adequate protection for the WendlebyMeads and Mansmoor grassland SSSI on the southern boundary of the site, which is a nationally important unaltered lowland hay meadow and will need to be safeguarded against potential impacts for example, from increased use of the site for recreational purposes. Development must go ahead in a way that does not exacerbate flood risk. The main water issue is lack of local sewerage infrastructure the scheme will need to provide for a major increase in current capacity. There is also a need to ensure that water resources can be provided sustainably given that the development is an area of "serious water stress". Possible need for remediation of former landfill sites within the site boundary.
Transport The scheme will need to demonstrate a robust, deliverable and viable set of transport options for this site. The options of major investment in Oxford Milton Keynes EastWest Rail Link (and new station), park & ride, tram system and free transport for residents on site and to Oxford will require major investment commitments and ongoing subsidy as well as strong controls on car use in and around the site.
Employment The site will generate significant new employment but it will be critical to ensure that the project directly benefits Bicester and the need for a stronger jobs-services homes balance in the existing community.
Conservation and historic constraints Is in an area with historic landscape (Otmoor) and historic settlements potential impacts would need to be managed.
|See Annex D for further details of a proposal for this location.
|Do you have views on the inclusion of this location in the programme?
|A more detailed assessment will be included in the Sustainability Appraisal. Are there other potential benefits or challenges which you would wish to see addressed for this location?
|Are there particular issues which you would like to see the proposals for this location address?
|East Midlands PENNBURY (STOUGHTON)
Harborough and Oadby & Wigston Borough
Councils, Leicestershire County Council, Leicester City Council
||The site would accommodate 12-15,000 homes based on a development of 750 ha within a 1,720ha of _reenfield/brownfield/ part surplus public sector land site on the outskirts of Leicester (4 miles south east from the centre), surrounded by farmland.
||The eco-town proposal would create a largely freestanding community, but linked to Leicester, on the basis of very ambitious environmental and sustainability standards and environmental innovation. Built on 40% of the available land, 15,000 homes with jobs, schools and healthcare would be designed to complement the surrounding settlements. The scheme pioneers innovative transport and energy solutions and new methods of community participation.
Housing Affordability Pressure High. The scheme would deliver 4,000 affordable housing units in comparison with current delivery of 210 annually in relevant LA areas. Current households on waiting list 3,000 in Harborough, Oakham and Wigston and 1,045 in Leicester.
|Initial summary of challenges and constraints
||Environment The scheme will need to address the impact on water issues in urban Leicester and since water resources in the area are in deficit, a sustainable approach to meeting demand would need to be identified. Adequate capacity of sewage treatment works in the area will have to be demonstrated. Surface water runoff must be carefully controlled. Land contamination from previous uses such as airfield and fuel depots must be remedied sustainably. Impacts on the local landscape and biodiversity especially fish populations would need to be considered.
Transport The scheme will need to accommodate the development with an enhanced local public transport infrastructure, within constraints of existing housing and street layout on edge of urban area and severe road congestion into this part of Leicester along the A6. Rail services are distant from the site.
Employment Further work will be needed on the economic and retail hierarchy aspects of a scheme in this location. It would need to complement work to regenerate Leicester, including initiatives on training and linking adult education to employment.
Conservation and historic constraints Small parts of the site have green wedge status and eastern part of site attractive countryside. One scheduled ancient monument, and some other monuments of significant archaeological importance. Some of the surrounding villages are designated conservation areas.
|See Annex D for further details of a proposal for this location.
|Do you have views on the inclusion of this location in the programme?
|A more detailed assessment will be included in the Sustainability Appraisal. Are there other potential benefits or challenges which you would wish to see addressed for this location?
|Are there particular issues which you would like to see the proposals for this location address?
1. Like any other proposed development eco-towns will be subject to a planning application which we would generally expect to be decided by the Local Planning Authority. Such an application could be submitted at any time and each application must be decided on its merits and the local planning authority will need to take into account all the impacts of the proposals. In order for this to happen developers will need to provide full details of their Environmental Statement, community consultation and consideration of alternatives. The planning application will also address issues such as design, the impact of the proposed development on the landscape and neighbourhood, the transport system, public services, infrastructure and benefits to the community.
2. Any planning application must be determined in the context of the planning policy framework, including the development plan and any other material considerations. Government statements on planning policy are material considerations and this will include the eco-towns Planning Policy Statement.
Planning Policy Framework
3. We want to create the right framework for consideration of eco-town planning applications through the publication of the Planning Policy Statement on Eco-Towns. The Policy Statement on Eco Towns will be an important material consideration in the determination of any planning application for an eco town, particularly where the Development Plan is silent or out of date (the Development Plan includes the regional spatial strategy (RSS) together with any adopted local development plan documents (DPDs) and any "saved policies" still in effect).
4. We are commissioning more detailed Sustainability Appraisal work that will include evaluation of the locations being considered. This will provide greater detail on environmental sustainability and other issues and test them against reasonable alternatives. Where necessary Appropriate Assessment will also be carried out under the Habitats Regulations. We expect to publish the Sustainability Appraisal and any Appropriate Assessment results for consultation alongside the draft Planning Policy Statement on Eco Towns in July 2008. The final decision on locations will take into account the Sustainability Appraisal and the views of consultees. The consultation on the draft statement will conclude with a final Eco-towns Planning Policy Statement, including the final list of potential locations in the Autumn.
5. Local and Regional Plans The Statutory Development plan remains the starting point for considering all planning applications. In some places eco town proposals are in line with the existing local plan or plans that are at an advanced stage of preparation. In these cases we would expect the principle of development to have been established and an application to be in accordance with the plan through a Local Development Framework Core Strategy or Area Action Plan as appropriate. The Government is keen to ensure that such plans are in place and as part of the support for eco-towns, we will be offering assistance to local authorities to help bring Local Development Frameworks forward where appropriate. In some places the adoption of an up-to-date local planning documents is some way off. In these circumstances the evidence gathered and assessments undertaken in the preparation of the Planning Policy Statement on Eco-Towns will support the development of policy in local planning documents but will also be an important factor in the decision on any planning application. Similarly, at regional level, in some places the relevant RSS encourages the preparation of options for growth in the places being considered for eco-towns. In other places the RSS is silent and again the eco-town policy statement will be a useful addition to the policy framework. We expect the RSS reviews announced in the Housing Green paper (which depending on the region will be prepared between now and 2011) to test the longer term issues that arise from the eco-town proposals such as the ultimate size of new settlements.
6. Additionality of housing numbers The Housing Green Paper made it clear that the housing numbers in existing and in some cases emerging plans were not high enough to address the pressing problem of long term housing need and affordability. We are therefore aiming to complete a further set of Regional Spatial Strategy partial reviews by 2011 that will include revised housing numbers for local planning authorities that are consistent with our national aim to deliver 240,000 homes per year by 2016. We expect eco towns to contribute significantly to help to meet those revised targets for additional housing and we want to assure local authorities which include an eco-town in their future housing plans that it will, of course, count towards those future housing targets, which in most places are likely to be more stretching.
D. Events after ELGF
4.20 The production of core strategies should follow the Government's principles for community engagement in planning. Involvement should be:
appropriate to the level of planning;
from the outset leading to a sense of ownership of local policy decisions;
continuous part of ongoing programme, not a one-off event, with clearly articulated opportunities for continuing involvement;
transparent and accessible using methods appropriate to the communities concerned; and
planned as an integral part of the process for making plans.
4.25 Consultation on the core strategy during the preparation phase of the plan should be proportionate to the scale of issues involved in the plan.
4.26 If it is proposed to produce a new or revised core strategy for an area, for example, to respond to a major change in circumstances, such as receiving eco town or growth point status [footnote], it will in the government's view be appropriate to involve the community in considering the options for the strategy before the final document is produced. A rather different level of consultation may be appropriate where some specific aspect of the core strategy is being revised such as the approach to the delivery of affordable housing.
[As regards eco-town status the footnote referred the reader to ELGF.]
I am writing in response to your request for information relating to information held by or on behalf of the Government relating to the proposed development of Long Marston as a potential new settlement or eco-town. Your request has been handled under the provisions of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
I can confirm that Communities and Local Government does hold some of the information that you have requested and that I am able to provide you with some of the information which you requested. I wish to advise you however that some of the information cannot be disclosed for the reasons given in the annex attached to this letter.
a) Environmental information has been assessed, summarised and included in the initial assessment sheets for each individual scheme. This can be accessed via the CLG website.
As part of the second stage of consultation we will be publishing a draft Sustainability Appraisal and draft planning policy statement, which will set out more detail of each location.
Information relating to "rigorous cross-Government assessment"
(b) Every bidder submitted an expression of interest. For those not short listed, we are withholding these as they fall under exception 12(5)c- disclosure of the information would adversely affect intellectual property rights of the bidder- and 12(5) e- the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by law to protect a legitimate economic inters- of the Environmental Information Regulations. However, the consultation document, Eco-towns: Living a Greener Future in annex D, provides the contact details of all bidders who submitted an expression of interest for those seeking further information.
Views were sought across government on the proposed schemes, and these views are included in the initial assessment sheets as at item (a). I can confirm that bidders, as well as Other Government Departments have provided further information to CLG, however, we have taken the decision to withhold this as it falls under exceptions 12(4)e- the request involves the disclosure of internal communications-and 12(5)c and 12(5)e.
Correspondence relating to the Long Marston proposal
(c) I have enclosed three letters from Henry Cleary here in Communities and Local Government to the developer of the Long Marston scheme dated 22 Nov 2007,2 may 2008 and 6 June 2008.The responses to these letters are being withheld under exceptions 12(5)c and 12(5)e.
(d) I can confirm that CLG has met with the developer of the Long Marston scheme and Local Authorities 4 times.
Reasons why public interest favours withholding information
Revealing all the details related to the Middle Quinton bid could lead to the information being used by other promoters of eco-towns or other new settlements to gain a competitive advantage.
Disclosure of all the details related to the Middle Quinton bid would make it less likely that promoters would provide the Department with commercially sensitive information in the future and consequently adversely impact on the ability of the Department to conduct an award of funding in a cost-effective manner and obtain best value.
If proposals do not make the final list of locations the promoter of the scheme could still choose to submit a planning application outside of the eco-town process. To release all the details related to the Middle Quinton bid or of other schemes could affect the promoter's ability to submit a future planning application.
I would very much welcome working with your authority on the further development of the Bicester proposal. While the Sustainability Appraisal we have commissioned will identify the strengths of the location at a strategic level, we will need to see a more detailed conceptual study which would evaluate how the site can work as an eco-town in the light of the criteria and standards we will shortly publish.
E. Grounds of challenge and legal principles
In breach of the common law relating to consultation, the SEA Directive, the Aarhus Convention and the Code of Practice on Consultation, the Secretary of State has failed:
1. to consult on the principle of constructing eco-towns, alternatively any such consultation has to give sufficient reasons for particular proposals to allow those consulted to give intelligent consideration and an intelligent response;
2. to consult on the key locational criteria for eco-towns;
3. to consult at all on the 42 locations proposed which were rejected by ministers in favour of the 15 proposed locations;
4. to provide adequate information to enable informed representations to be made. Instead, information has been produced late, has dribbled out in response to requests and some relevant (and non-confidential) material is still being withheld from the public;
5. to provide adequate time for consultation, given the late production of material.
6. a declaration is sought (because this still appears to be in issue) that the Eco-Towns policies are subject to the requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and Regulations.
Common law requirements as to consultation
To be proper, consultation must be undertaken at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage; it must include sufficient reasons for particular proposals to allow those consulted to give intelligent consideration and an intelligent response; adequate time must be given for this purpose; and the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account when the ultimate decision is taken.
"Two broad criticisms are made of the 2006 Consultation Document:
(i) it either was or appeared to be in the nature of an issues paper, seeking consultees' views as to which issues should be examined by Government (and the manner in which they should be examined) when deciding whether or not the new nuclear build option, which had been left open, should now be taken up; rather than the consultation paper on the substantive issue itself: should the new nuclear build option be taken up? The decision in July 2006 "leapfrogged the stage of carrying out proper consultation on the substantive issue".
(ii) if it was not simply an issues paper, but was intended to be a consultation paper on the substantive issue, it was inadequate, and the overall consultation process was unfair because:
(a) consultees were not told in clear terms what the proposal was to which they were being invited to respond;
(b) consultees were not provided with enough information to enable them to make an intelligent response; and
(c) on many issues, including in particular the critical issues of the economics of new nuclear power and waste disposal, consultees were deprived of the opportunity to make any meaningful response because the relevant information on which the government relied in making the decision that "nuclear has a role" was published after the consultation period had concluded."
29. The fact that a council may have come to a provisional view or have a preferred option does not prevent a consultation exercise being conducted in good faith at a stage when the policy is still formative in the sense that no final decision has yet been made. In my judgment, however, it is a difference in kind for it to have made a decision in principle to adopt a policy and, thereafter, to be concerned only with the timing of its implementation and other matters of detail. Whilst a consultation on the timing and manner of implementation may be a proper one on these issues it cannot, in my judgment, be said that such a consultation, insofar as it touches upon the question of principle, is conducted at a point at which policy on that issue is at a formative stage.
33. In my judgment, of these four conditions [identified in Coughlan], the second and third have manifestly been satisfied. I am also satisfied that the product of the consultation was conscientiously taken into account when the decision was made on the 20 October. In so deciding I bear in mind the approach to bias, in a different context, referred to by the defendant and described in the decision in Georgiou. The problem, however, is with satisfying the first principle and whether the conscientious consideration of the consultation was applied, in effect, to the question whether to reverse a decision which had already been made rather than taking a decision untrammelled by any prior decision. In my judgment, the requirement that the decision taking process, where consultation is required, has to be both substantively fair and have the appearance of fairness, is of such importance that, even though what was done after 5 September was done professionally and in accordance with the requisite standards, there must remain a residual feeling that the decision to delimit has not been taken in a fair way. On the crucial issue of principle the sequence has been - decision first, consultation later. It is a different matter to decide to reverse a previous decision rather than to take one in the first place and, in my judgment, the consultation exercise and its fruits went, on the issue of principle, to inform a decision of the first type rather than one of the second.
Stages 0 and 1 of the consultation process involved county-wide consultation on the general principle of whether or not to adopt a two-tier model. There was no consultation on the implications for specific school partnerships, let alone specific schools. Stage 2 of the consultation process does focus on specific school partnerships and specific schools but is confined to consideration of different two-tier models. In other words, at no stage during the consultation process has there been any consultation on whether or not specific school partnerships, let alone specific schools, should adopt a two-tier model.
32 The claimant's case is very simple. Ms White submits that, by structuring the consultation process as it has and, in particular, by proceeding as it has in the wake of what she calls a broad structural decision on 19 April 2005, the defendant has prevented itself from complying with its statutory obligation to consult on individual school closures and alterations.
33 In substance I agree with Ms White. I repeat my analysis of the consultation process. Stages 0 and 1 of the consultation process involved county-wide consultation on the general principle of whether or not to adopt a two-tier model. There was no consultation on the implications for specific school partnerships, let alone specific schools. Stage 2 of the consultation process does focus on specific school partnerships and specific schools but is confined to consideration of different two-tier models. In other words, and this as it seems to me is the crucial point, at no stage during the consultation process has there been any consultation on whether or not specific school partnerships, let alone specific schools, should adopt a two-tier model.
34 There was, let me emphasise, no objection to the defendant adopting a phased consultation process. And I am quite content to accept, as Mr Purchase urges, that the entire consultation process Stages 0, 1 and 2 is properly to be viewed as one long consultation process. Nor, I should add, was there any objection to the defendant taking a preliminary or provisional decision, or decision in general principle, at the end of Stage 1 that its preferred model, county-wide, was the two-tier model: see Nichol and others v Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (1988) 87 LGR 435. There was, therefore, in my judgment, no legal defect in the way in which Stages 0 and 1 of the consultation process were structured and implemented. Nor, in my judgment, was there so far as concerns this head of complaint any legal defect in the defendant deciding, as it did, on 19 April 2005, that the "preferred framework" was to be the two-tier model. And I agree with Mr Purchase that there is not, as such, any objection to the defendant consulting on the basis of a preference for a two-tier model.
35 The defendant's error was in treating that decision as precluding any public discussion during Stage 2 of the consultation process of anything other than two-tier models. Given what had gone before and given, in particular, that down to 19 April 2005 there had been no consultation on the implications for specific school partnerships, let alone specific schools, of the defendant's proposals, the vice here lies in the fact that the decision of 19 April 2005 has been understood as confining the subsequent Stage 2 consultations in relation to specific school partnerships and specific schools to consideration of different two-tier models, when what is now required as part of the Stage 2 consultations, given that this opportunity was not afforded earlier as part of the Stage 0 and 1 consultations, is meaningful consultation, for example, on whether Southlands Middle School and Brockwell Middle School should be part of a two-tier system or remain as part of a three-tier system.
36 In these circumstances, as Ms White correctly says, the Stage 2 consultations the only consultations relating to specific school partnerships and specific schools are taking place at a time when the proposals are in truth no longer at a formative stage. The proposals are now no longer at a formative stage because the defendant's decision on 19 April 2005 is being treated by it as precluding any public discussion during Stage 2 of anything other than two-tier models. The consequence, as Ms White points out, is that consultees have been denied any opportunity let alone any meaningful opportunity to express their views as to whether, for example, Southlands Middle School and Brockwell Middle School should be part of a two-tier system or remain as part of a three-tier system. As Ms White puts it, and I agree, the consultation process has been operated in such a way that objectors have never been given a real opportunity to present their case against closure of particular middle schools. For this reason, in my judgment, neither the consultation process taken as a whole, nor the Stage 2 consultation on its own, is adequate.
The Aarhus convention
Each Party shall make appropriate practical and/or other provisions for the public to participate during the preparation of plans and programmes relating to the environment, within a transparent and fair framework, having provided the necessary information to the public. Within this framework, article 6, paragraphs 3, 4 and 8, shall be applied. The public which may participate shall be identified by the relevant public authority, taking into account the objectives of this Convention. To the extent appropriate, each Party shall endeavour to provide opportunities for public participation in the preparation of policies relating to the environment.
2. The public concerned shall be informed, either by public notice or individually as appropriate, early in an environmental decision-making procedure, and in an adequate, timely and effective manner, inter alia, of:
(i) the proposed activity and the application on which a decision will be taken;
(ii) the nature of possible decisions or the draft decision;
(iii) the public authority responsible for making the decision;
(iv) the envisaged procedure, including, as and when this information can be provided:
(a) The commencement of the procedure;
(b) The opportunities for the public to participate;
(c) The time and venue of any envisaged public hearing;
(d) An indication of the public authority from which relevant information can be obtained and where the relevant information has been deposited for examination by the public;
(e) An indication of the relevant public authority or any other official body to which comments or questions can be submitted and of the time schedule for transmittal of comments or questions; and
(f) An indication of what environmental information relevant to the proposed activity is available; and
(v) The fact that the activity is subject to a national or transboundary environmental impact assessment procedure.
3. The public participation procedures shall include reasonable time-frames for the different phases, allowing sufficient time for informing the public in accordance with paragraph 2 above and for the public to prepare and participate effectively during the environmental decision-making.
4. Each Party shall provide for early public participation, when all options are open and effective public participation can take place.
8. Each Party shall ensure that in the decision due account is taken of the outcome of the public participation.
Code of practice on consultation
1. Consult widely throughout the process, allowing a minimum of 12 weeks for written consultation at least once during the development of the policy
2. Be clear about what your proposals are, who may be affected, what questions are being asked and the timescale for responses
3. Ensure that your consultation is clear, concise and widely accessible
4. Give feedback regarding the responses received and how the consultation process influenced the policy
5. Monitor your department's effectiveness at consultation, including through the use of a designated consultation co-ordinator
6. Ensure your consultation follows better regulation best practice, including carrying out an Impact Assessment if appropriate
2.1 ask focussed questions, and be clear about the areas of policy in which you are seeking views.
2.3 as far as possible, consultation should be completely open, with no options ruled out
F. Ground 1: No consultation on principle
56. In that case the Health Authority had sought and considered a report by Dr Clark on the opinions of local clinicians which was received well after the consultation period had ended. Rejecting the claimant's complaint that the authority had acted unfairly in considering the report, Lord Woolf said this at :
"It has to be remembered that consultation is not litigation: the consulting authority is not required to publicise every submission it receives or (absent some statutory obligation) to disclose all its advice. Its obligation is to let those who have a potential interest in the subject matter know in clear terms what the proposal is and exactly why it is under positive consideration, telling them enough (which may be a good deal) to enable them to make an intelligent response. The obligation, although it may be quite onerous, goes no further than this."
57. A paper on ethical decision-making fell into the same category:
"It was not a part of the proposal and not necessary to explain the proposal. The risk an authority takes by not disclosing such documents is not that the consultation process will be insufficient but that it may turn out to have taken into account incorrect or irrelevant matters which, had there been an opportunity to comment, could have been corrected. That, however, is not this case." 
i) Bard noted that the Summary of Responses to the Housing Green Paper made no reference to concerns expressed about the selection criteria being used to define this new form of development. This was said to show a lack of interest in considering detailed issues raised in relation to selection criteria (for example, whether eco-towns might form extensions of urban areas). The reason, said Bard, was because the Secretary of State had already determined that eco-towns were to be pursued.
ii) Moreover, while the Summary of Responses said that over four fifths of the responses on eco-towns were supportive, Bard submitted that the responses overall did not provide a "ringing endorsement" for the principle of eco-towns.
iii) When providing Bard with copies of responses the DCLG had failed to include an important letter from Warwickshire County Council.
iv) Bard added that it was now known that before the deadline for consultation responses, at least in relation to Weston Otmoor, DCLG met with the promoters and others and discussed matters relating to the bid.
v) It was also now known that from November 2007 the DCLG was undertaking the evaluation of the bids for candidate sites for eco-towns. It would be thoroughly disingenuous, as well as a waste of public money and time, to do this at a time when the principle of having them and the criteria to select them was not settled and the subject of public consultation. The reality was that this was not the case and that the principle of having eco-towns had already been settled and was not what the consultation was all about.
vi) Consistently with this when ELGF was published in April 2008 it failed to say anything about consideration of responses on the principle of eco-towns.
vii) The local advertisements in June 2008 for the first time posed the question 'are eco-towns a good idea?' They were a belated and muddled recognition that the Government had failed to consult on the principle of eco-towns earlier.
59. The overriding need for fairness in any consultation process was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in R. (on the application of Edwards) v Environment Agency  EWCA Civ 877: see  and . At  Auld L.J., with whom Rix and Maurice Kay L.JJ. agreed, said this:
"103. In general, in a statutory decision-making process, once public consultation has taken place, the rules of natural justice do not, for the reasons given by Lord Diplock in Bushell, require a decision-maker to disclose its own thought processes for criticism before reaching its decision. However, if, as in United States Tobacco (see per Taylor LJ, as he then was, at 370371, and at 376, per Morland J), and in Interbrew (see per Moses J at pp 3335 of the transcript), a decision-maker, in the course of decision-making, becomes aware of some internal material or a factor of potential significance to the decision to be made, fairness may demand that the party or parties concerned should be given an opportunity to deal with it. See also the remarks of Schiemann J in R v Shropshire Health Authority, ex p Duffus  1 Med LR 119, at 223 as to the changing scene that a consultation process may engender and the consideration by Silber J in R (Smith) v East Kent Hospital NHS Trust  EWHC 2640 , at 3944, of the possible need, depending on the circumstances, for further consultation on matters and issues that the initial consultation may have thrown up."
G. Ground 2: Number, size and key criteria
the number of Eco-towns to be promoted (i.e. at present 10) is not directly linked to issues of housing need. If housing need were the key determinant of the number of Eco-towns to be promoted then a number far greater than 10 would be being proposed . The prime determinant of the number of Eco-towns to be promoted is thus not need but supply. That is to say the likely number of suitable locations for the development of Eco-towns.
H. Ground 3: The rejected bids
 the way in which the eco-towns concept is being developed and the different potential benefits that an eco-town could offer;
 how particular features such as greenspace or innovative approaches to housing can best be developed in an eco-town;
 preliminary views on the 15 locations going forward for further assessment.
I. Ground 4: Lack of information
78. It would have been a very easy matter indeed for the Defendant to publish in a single and accessible form the criteria which it intended to apply to the selection of eco-town locations. Instead it has produced this jumbled mess of different criteria in different documents at different times. It does not constitute a proper consultation for ordinary members of the public and it is, in truth, a paper chase traceable only by a person of energy and persistence.
79. Further, the Pennbury site in Leicestershire is not "freestanding" and therefore fails to meet the criteria but was nevertheless selected for further consideration. This implies either that this jumble was not the real criteria or that there was some further criteria of which no one else was aware.
80. Further or alternatively, if this jumble is said to be the criteria then it is irrational, preposterous and unfair that Weston Otmoor is still seriously being considered since it is so obviously in conflict with them.
81. Another way to put this is that contrary to WF's legitimate expectation these criteria have not been applied in a rational, fair and even-handed manner:
(i) Public Authority Support: Both of the Statutory Planning Authorities vehemently oppose the selection of the Weston Otmoor site.
(ii) Brownfield: The site is entirely Greenfield. On 4th November 2008 Margaret Beckett apologised for her predecessor's error in thinking that Weston Otmoor was a brownfield site. It follows that at all material times whilst conducting the showstopper review the Defendant was acting under the mistaken belief that the Weston Otmoor site was brownfield.
(iii) Conformity with Green Belt Policy: 174 hectares of the Weston Otmoor site lies within the Statutory Green Belt. The developer currently proposes inappropriate development in the Green Belt as part of this proposal and the extent of the Green Belt incursion is not fixed and is not known.
(iv) The SSSi Criterion: "Part of the land identified within the Eco-town boundary is SSSi and under a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. The SSSi is noted for its extremely rare grassland (MG4) and is also an historically important ridge and furrow landscape feature which is likely to be affected by increased visitor use". [This quotation was taken from a "reporting assessment" by Natural England.] As to the likelihood of significant adverse effects the same document states:
"Water Quality Issues: Potential for eutrophication on SSSi which if it happened would lead to habitat degradation and loss of a rare and valuable grassland site".
(v) Early Delivery: The Defendant's document "Eco Town Proposals: Review Assessment Summary (March 2008)" reads:
"Site falls in SWOX water resources zone where significant new resource likely to be required to meet cumulative growth, unlikely to be deliverable until 2020s".
(vi) Good Transport Links: [the email of 15 February 2008 was quoted.]
82. The confusion as to what criteria were employed and how they were applied to selecting some sites and rejecting others is deep and real. WF should not be in this position. They are entitled to expect to be provided with a clear indication of what the criteria are and how they have been applied. Instead, WF has been left with the very real impression that the process has been far from thorough and is, in fact, capricious and subjective.
J. Ground 5: Inadequate time
K. Ground 6: SEA
L. Weston's complaints
(i) Weston Ground 1 Green Belt
(ii) Weston Ground 2 SSSI
(iii) Weston Ground 3 - alternatives
M. Conclusions, putting on one side disclosure
N. Bard's disclosure application
O. The overall result