When the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, first announced plans to build over 50 eco towns it was hailed as a way of creating affordable housing and a greener way of living. However, as the practicalities of building these eco towns came to light cynicism grew about whether they’d be eco friendly or just create rural sprawl. Instead, there’s now growing clamour for renovating existing houses to create eco homes rather than building new ones.
What are Eco towns?
Eco towns are designed to be green, sustainable housing developments. Initially, eco towns were supposed to fulfil the following criteria:
- At least 30% of the eco houses in each eco town must be classified as ‘affordable housing’
- Roads should be largely car free, with a speed limit of 15 mph
- The town should generate zero carbon in a year (excluding transport emissions)
- At least 40% of the eco town should be green space e.g. parks, gardens and playing fields
- There must be shops and a primary school within walking distance of every home
- To encourage people to use public transport, bus times will be displayed in eco homes
Since being announced these requirements have been downgraded (largely due to realisation that people can’t be forced from their cars). This has led to accusations that previously rejected housing projects are now being rubber stamped as ‘eco towns’ in order to bypass normal planning controls.
Recently, it was announced that four eco towns are to be built, with another nine planned. Construction is expected to start in 2016, but the number of eco houses built will be far fewer than the 100,000 originally planned.
Why not turn existing houses into eco homes?
Controversy continues to dog the progress of building these eco towns, with serious question marks over their sustainability, transport links, jobs and whether it’s just a gimmick to get more homes built on green belts.
Instead many have questioned why more isn’t done to turn existing houses into eco homes. This can be achieved by making them more energy efficient (as well as decorating them with eco textiles and eco furniture). Buildings account for almost 50% of the UK’s carbon emissions. So the Government has at least made at start on making homes more eco friendly by announcing plans to insulate all homes by 2015, and vastly reduce the energy wasted on heating.