British government plans new eco-towns, flood-plain development

The British government announced plans this week to build 2 million new homes by 2016, including five carbon-neutral “eco-towns” of at least 5,000 homes each. Each green town will have public transportation to existing cities, favor green space and walkability, include 30 to 50 percent affordable housing, and showcase a project such as communal heating or a carpool scheme. An additional million homes are likely to be built in Britain between 2016 and 2020, and the government is requiring that all homes built after 2016 be carbon neutral. Says Housing Minister Yvette Cooper, “No one should be in any doubt about the historic scale of this vision.” But critics can’t shake one niggling doubt: the government, citing heavy demand, is deflecting concerns about its plans to develop on flood plains — despite the country’s recent drenching. Says one opponent, “[They] aren’t planning the eco-towns of the 21st century, they are planning the sink estates of tomorrow.”