Architect Jack Warshaw, whose practice is located within East Hampshire Council’s proposed
Whitehill-Bordon eco-town zone is urging his MP, Damian Hinds, to back withdrawal of
Government support for the Council’s plan because the local community opposes it. Warshaw
points to Housing Minister Grant Shapps’ statement that “The Government will not designate or
impose a solution on a particular area and will not support an eco-town if the local community is
opposed to it” as reason enough to withhold further funding for a scheme which, he says has
already wasted millions. Shapps is on record as condemning eco-towns when he was Shadow

Warshaw, a member of local activists Bordon Area Action Group (BAAG – says
that the principal cause of community opposition is the amount of the proposed development, over
5000 homes and associated building, doubling the size of the town. This size was stipulated by the
previous Government in its Planning Policy Statement on Eco towns, July 2009 with no regard for
the capacity of Whitehill Bordon or any site to accommodate it without harm to the environment
and character, thereby undermining the very purposes which eco-towns are supposed to achieve.
“The Council’s entire approach has been top-down and dishonest,” he says. “Top down because
the amount of development was predetermined, the community was never consulted about it and
cogent criticism is ignored or brushed aside. Dishonest because the Council has no sound basis for
its plan, falsifies evidence, pledges benefits which are not in its power to deliver, steers consultees
towards favourable replies to loaded questions and misconstrues results. Even so, community
responses show consistent opposition to the plan and distrust of the Council.”

“In terms of PPS1, PPS7 and the Eco-towns PPS, sustainable options were not presented and
tested, through consultation or systematic study. When the Council’s masterplan consultants,
EDAW, now AECOM were asked directly why they only had one option to put to interested parties,
they replied “That’s what the Council instructed us to do.” Since then it has been reported that the
development cannot be self-financing as required.

“If ‘community’ really means local people, not a euphemism for the Council or local ruling
politicians, this will be a huge test of the Minister’s integrity,” says Warshaw. His letter warns that
continued Government funding for a high risk, unsustainable, unviable plan would waste much
greater sums building a large urban dormitory with a tarnished eco-badge and a resentful
population. He thinks the Minister should review Council’s conduct of consultations and put his
money where his mouth is, behind the community.

SNUB has also questioned Grant Shapps about his actions since the election which seem contradictory to the views expressed when he was in opposition and his later assertion that “The Government will not designate or impose a solution on a particular area and will not support an eco-town if the local community is opposed to it”.

1 comment:

  1. edith crowther7 June 2011 at 10:38

    Interesting link. I had a quick look at the Council's own website, there was a Delivery Board Meeting on 25th March for the Whitehill Bordon Ecotown. The notes do not mention any environmental law - however when it came to the Public Questions, Peter Parkinson (presumably of the B.A.A.G.) put two questions which show that he may be aware of the law:

    "1) The various Specialist Groups have their own particular aims and objectives, which overlap and may conflict with each other. How will these differing aims and priorities be resolved? How for example, will concerns for better traffic flow be reconciled with concerns for air pollution and damage to wildlife sites?"

    The answer was a tad vague given the enormous power and reach of the United Nations, EU, and UK laws covering this topic since 1985:
    "We will sponsor joint meetings of the various Specialist Groups as necessary to try and resolve any differing or conflicting aims and priorities. We may also seek the views of the Standing Conference. If these cannot be resolved then the Delivery Board will be asked to take a view."

    I am afraid it is not for the Council to "take a view". It is for the Council to find out what the law says and then obey it. Mr Parkinson then put a second question, rather more probing than the first:

    "2) In view of the demanding objectives of the eco-town proposal, has a mechanism been put in place to monitor particular factors and halt development, if adverse effects are found or targets are not achieved? If not why not? This mechanism might apply to traffic, air pollution, employment, wildlife habitats, water resources, provision of new facilities and so on. I understand this idea has been used elsewhere as a condition for planning consent."

    This is a superb question and tells me that Mr Parkinson may be well aware of what the law says. The answer shows that the Council may be dimly aware of the 2001 Directive on SEAs transposed into UK planning regulations in 2004:
    "We agree this is very important and have asked our consultants to advise on how best to ensure that monitoring is effective, timely and feeds back into policy changes wherever necessary to adjust policy. It is important that the monitoring is timely and therefore objective."

    Well actually the monitoring has to be continuously updated, carries on even when UK planning moves into "Reserved Matters", and covers 130 separate nature topics listed by law.

    I think Mr Parkinson is going to have to do what a certain category of police officer does - LOOK as if he is armed (with the law) by actually citing it. I have been reading environmental law textbooks over the weekend and am a bit annoyed, because the material in recent court judgments has been available to Planners in several textbooks for years. The books are very clear, even entertaining in some cases. There is no excuse for ignorance, and in any case ignorance cannot be used as an excuse in court, though it can elsewhere.

    Anyway, it should not have been necessary for individuals to go to court to get the law put into practice. Not in the UK, anyway - naming no names, but some recent arrivals into the EU might have a wee bit of a history of Stalinist building plans, and "socialist" governments above the law, and "teacher's pet" developers like T Dan Smith. But not the UK, surely?