British government narrows possible ‘eco-town’ sites to 15

>LONDON (AP) – The British government selected 15 possible locations Thursday for its ambitious plans to build 10 new low-energy, carbon-neutral towns entirely from recycled materials.

The so-called “eco-towns,” a pet project of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, will be built from scratch and equipped with their own shops, schools and transportation links. The towns will run on renewable energy and use innovative waste recycling and water-saving systems.

Housing ministers say they have narrowed the number of proposed sites down to 15 from a list of 57. The final 10 sites will be chosen within six months.

While Scotland and Germany have built “eco-developments,” the eco-town concept would create an entire sustainable community.

The towns will be similar to proposed “eco-cities” worldwide, such as the United Arab Emirates’ planned zero-carbon desert city, Masdar, where cars will be banned, energy will be generated by solar power and organic food will be grown, according to planners.

Housing ministers want to build 3 million homes in Britain by 2020 to counter a shortage of affordable housing. The number of households grows by 225,000 a year while only 180,000 new properties are available, the Department of Communities and Local Government said.

Each town will have between 5,000 and 20,000 zero-carbon homes. Between 30 and 50 percent of those will be affordable housing.

But some residents near the shortlisted sites have opposed the new towns, fearing that construction will eliminate green spaces and bring traffic congestion to rural areas. The Campaign to Protect Rural England accused the government of ignoring recommendations from local and regional planners on where to build the towns.

The eco-towns will be the first new towns in Britain since the 1960s.