It’s official Pennbury Eco Town is not

This morning the government announced which proposed Eco Towns were on the short list.  Pennbury was not. 

Pennbury was a proposed “eco town” of 15,000 houses by the Co-operative Group to be built on greenfield land on the East side of Leicestershire.  It would have swamped local villages, created flooding problems, destroyed wildlife habitats and completely jammed all the local roads.  Right from the beginning the Co-operative Group failed to discuss plans with local communities.  There were two major problems with the scheme:-

  1. There is not the local infrustructure to support such a large development.  The Co-operative Group failed to commit any money towards improving transport links, blaming the local councils for not “co-operating” and not “advancing solutions”, which completely ignored the fact that solutions would not be required if the proposed development was not being built.
  2. The Co-operative Group have been very hazy on detail.  Sure they’ve produced some great artistic impressions of what life in Pennbury would look like.  But have failed to say exactly where these homes will be built, exactly how many schools and surgeries and other community facilities would also be built, failed to commit to either building a local cottage hospital or providing money to expand existing hospitals in Leicestershire and failed to come up with any credible transport plans.  The Co-operative Group have also been criticised for failing to explain how their overly optimistic job creation figures were arrived at.

I’ve never had a problem with new homes being built in the area.  But new homes without transport and infrastructure was never credible and has rightly been rejected.

Leicester City Council’s Cabinet decision on Pennbury “Eco Town” Challenged

Leicester City Council Cabinet’s decision to support the Co-operative Group’s proposed “Eco Town” has been called-in by the Pennbury Transparency Group of Councillors.  The call-in facility allows for scrutiny of cabinet decisions prior to their implementation.  This means that the Co-operative Group’s plans for Pennbury will come to the full council for consideration, probably in late March.  This is following Halcrow’s recent report raising strong concerns about the lack of detail from the Co-operative Group. 

The Leicester Mercury is offering people the chance to send in questions to be put to government by the end of March, which is when the public consultation period ends.  Send questions to Martin Robinson, Leicester Mercury, St George Street, Leicester LE1 9FQ or email (replace “AT” with @).  Selected questions will be forwarded to Iain Wright, Minister for Communities and Local Government, who commented, “Eco-towns give us a unique opportunity to tackle two of the greatest challenges facing the country – the pressing need to confront climate change, and to deliver more affordable housing.  No decisions have been taken on which proposals will go forward and we must get the locations for these eco-towns right.  We want to give everyone the opportunity to have their say, including through the current round of consultation.  We also want to give people this further opportunity to put their questions to the government, and we look forward to hearing from Leicester Mercury readers, who will ofcourse have a particular interest in what an eco-town in Pennbury could mean for the area, if it goes ahead.”

Pennbury “Eco” Town: Leicestershire County Council say No

leicestershire-county-council-no-to-pennburyLeicestershire County Council have emphatically said “No” to Pennbury.

The reasons given were varied and include: lack of details on health, waste, community facilities, landscape protection, employment, transport, wildlife. All of which have been raised on this blog before. And all of which led the County Council Cabinet to vote against Pennbury.

Independent Report: Pennbury “Eco” Town Will Not Work

Consultants Halcrow have published their independent report into the proposed Pennbury “Eco” Town by analysing the Co-operative Group’s most recent masterplan.  Halcrow found that overall the plan left too many questions unanswered or ambigious statements about how problems could be solved. 

Key Conclusions of Halcrow’s independent report into Pennbury “Eco” Town:

1. Employment

The “eco” town would conflict with the economic strategy for Leicester.  Pennbury has poor links with the road network and this is unlikely to attract employers to the proposed town, therefore, Pennbury will not produce the number of jobs required.  The Co-operative Group have proposed that 60% of Pennbury residents would work there.  Halcrow found no convincing evidence to support this assertion.  In neighbouring Oadby and Wigston only 34% of residents work in Oadby and Wigston.

2. Environment and Location

Pennbury would not be a freestanding settlement with its own identity (a key requirement of the Government’s specification) as it is too close to existing villages.  There have been no detailed surveys of the existing environment by the Co-operative Group.

3. Design

Halcrow found no evidence that the Co-operative Group would produce quality design or provide quality of life for potential residents.  There was no evidence that the Co-operative Group would sensitively integrate the proposed town with the wider landscape.  The high density site – 75 dwellings per hectare – will create a very urbanised town that will be difficult to integrate into the area.  There is little evidence that the Co-operative Group has considered flood risks.

4. Housing

The Co-operative Group are not clear about who they are seeking to attract and different groups have differing needs.  More detail is required as there is also no clear evidence on linking the economic and housing strategies in the masterplan.

5. Transport

There are funding uncertainities associted with the proposed tram.  There are still concerns about the transport infrastructure.  A further report about the effect of the Co-operative Group’s transport plans, particularly in regard to the extra traffic on the A6, will be completed in January.

The Co-operative Group, missing the point as usual, commented:

We think this is very encouraging for us – more and more, people are starting to see and grapple with the issues that the eco-town is all about.  That is sustainable growth, investment, new homes and jobs and more environmentally responsible ways of living.  This report will add further momentum to that and, in our opinion, help people to make informed decisions about the challenges we all face.

The only issues I’ve been grappling with are that building 12,000 – 15,000 homes, businesses and services on green wedge, sucking surrounding towns and villages into one huge urbanised mess, in an area desperately short of transport infrastructure is wrong.  What do you think?

Co-operative Group Win Award for Pennbury “Eco” Town – Pity it’s a Golden Bull


The Plain English Campaign have awarded the Co-operative Group a Golden Bull Award for “the worst examples of written tripe”, in particular the Co-operative Group’s use of,

The flexibility of the eco-town enables the densification of residential plots that occur at an individual level, with the opportunity to create the value (rather than incur the cost) that this implies.

on its website.

The Co-operative Group declined to attend the awards ceremony.

Great Glen Councillor Kevin Feltham commented, “The Co-op is talking in riddles. It does not want people to understand its proposals to rip the heart out of rural Leicestershire – proposals which come with a fake eco badge. This demonstrates why the Co-op has failed to engage with the public about its absurd eco-town plans.”

Any one prepared to translate the Co-operative Group’s quote into plain English?

The Co-operative Group withdraw from local meeting about their Proposed “Eco” Town Pennbury in Leicestershire

Students at Oadby Beauchamp College will discuss the proposed “eco” town, Pennbury in Leicestershire, on 12 December.  Present will be Edward Garnier QC MP, David Parsons Leader Leicestershire County Council, Patrick Kitterick Leicester City Councillor, Kevin Feltham Leicestershire County Councillor for Great Glen, Simon Galton County Councillor for Thurnby, Bushby and Houghton and Andrew Reeves of Leicester Transition. Absent will be the Co-operative Group.

The Co-operative Group threatened to withdraw from a local meeting chaired by MP Keith Vaz in Evington because the Co-operative Group felt the audience might be negative. If the Co-operative Group didn’t attend, the meeting would have been cancelled. At it was, Evington residents got chance to discuss issues including transport and employment in Pennbury.

Transport has been discussed elsewhere. The Co-operative Group confirmed they would not be funding the majority of the debated tram costs. They also confirmed the tram would not be provided from the start and would probably not be available for 20 years.

The Co-operative Group reckon (reckon because they didn’t produce any studies or figure in support of their assertion) it would also take 20 years to create 14,000 jobs within Pennbury (and hence cut down travel outside Pennbury particularly at peak times). One of the best employment areas in Leicestershire is Fosse Park which creates 300 jobs per year, ie 6,000 jobs after 20 years. The Co-operative’s reckoning is incredibly optimistic.

At the end of the night 95% were against Pennbury. Only 3 people voted for and one of those was a Labour City Councillor.

So let’s look at the village polls again:-

Evington village meeting 95% said No;

Thurnby and Bushby village poll 98.8% said No;

Scraptoft village poll 98.88% said No;

Illston on the Hill village poll 100% said No;

King’s Norton village poll 96% said No.

A poll will be held in Great Glen in January.

No wonder the Co-operative Group are too scared to attend meetings, even one organised by a bunch of students too young to vote. But the failure is all theirs. Right from the start they failed to engage the local communities, failed to understand the impact their proposal would have, failed to provide credible transport and employment plans and failed to provide any good reason for Pennbury to go ahead. It should fail.

Pennbury “Eco Town”: how much can a tram cost?

The Leicester Mercury quoted a report produced by a senior City Council officer for a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee who were considering Pennbury, saying that the Co-operative Group have “carried out of lot of work in desiging a tram and have costed it out as between £250 – £300 million.”

The Co-operative Group’s Director of the Rural Estate and Land Ventures, Graham Ramsbottom, has denied these costs have come from the Co-operative Group.

Leicestershire County Council transport professionals have costed the tram at £500 million plus.  The plus being the costs of alterations to London Road to take the tram and ongoing costs of running the tram.

Which figures should be trusted?  Anyone like to guess??

Pennbury “Eco Town” – more transport concerns

Finally catching up with Leicestershire County Councillors, Leicester City Council set up an overview and scrutiny committee to look into Pennbury, the proposed 15,000 home development on the east side of Leicestershire based around Leicester airport. 

Councillor John Mugglestone said, “Even if only 30% of traffic goes north, that’s 30% going down the A47.  They’ll turn off on the distributor road… That part of the city is going to be so congested you just won’t be able to move.”

Councillor Rashmikant Joshi said, “…The A47, Uppingham Road and Humberstone Road, is absolutely jam-packed at rush hour.”

Councillor Peter Coley said, “A lot of people are going to be traveling by car – it’s going to have a big impact on Stoneygate and Knighton and other areas.”

Ruairidh Jackson for the Co-operative Group who want to build Pennbury said there would be more buses provided along the A47, “because the town [Pennbury] is designed in a certain way, it means the natural movement will be down the A6.  We did look at a park-and-ride on the A47, but the modelling suggested that wasn’t an appropriate solution”.

Never mind the protests about the proposed A47 park-and-ride being built on nurseries owned by James Coles Nurseries then, the Co-operative Group’s own modelling suggested it was OK to gridlock the A47.

So, as well as restricting 15,000 households to 7,500 cars, residents of Pennbury will be forced to travel down the A6.  How realistic is it to expect residents not to head north or east?  Or find rat-runs to beat the congestion on the A6?

The councillors concluded Pennbury could cause city roads to become gridlocked.  A conclusion that agrees with earlier research done by the county.

Pennbury “Eco Town” an update and the Co-operative Group’s Sixth (I think) Plan

After producing three “choices” and then announcing a fourth as the prefered choice, the Co-operative Group complained when their fifth map was leaked by councillors and have now produced a sixth.  Crucially the Co-operative Group have given up pretending that Pennbury is to be concentrated on the area solely around Leicester airfield and concluded that 15,000 homes will take up more room than that.  But does it meet the government’s eco towns’ criteria?

Eco Towns will be Separate and Distinct

This map of Pennbury shows that it joins the Stretton Hall development in Oadby and the southernmost tip is a mere 120 metres away from homes in Heron Close, Great Glen.  So not separate or distinct then.

Transport or reducing car use to a minimum

The Co-operative roup have stated that there will only be an average of 1 car space per two homes, ie 7,500 cars, plus a futher 2,500 for commercial and retail use.  There would be a rapid bus service along Stoughton Lane, Manor Road, Knighton Grange Road, London Road.  However, the Co-operative Group are holding a feasibility study into a tram.  If the tram is feasible, the Co-operative would not pay for the bus service but put that money into the tram (there’s a funding gap here).  The Co-operative Group say,

It can be argued that with moderate parking restraint levels the development would be viable, as outturn forecasts of residential skills mixes are not seriously out of line with comparable adjacent areas. However, traffic generation from Pennbury would in this case be significant, with associated deterioration in traffic conditions, particularly in the east of Leicester… The conclusion for thecurrent work that a bus rapid transit system can be implemented on a capacity neutral basis, and that a tram system would remove considerable existing highway capacity, must be regarded as provisional. …. There is a distinct possibility that any problems of both residential and employment viability will compound, possibly in quite a severe way.

Quite how they’ll implement the bus rapid transit system on a capacity neutral basis could take some explaining.  Especially as the bus only goes into Leicester.   Obviously anyone in Pennbury with jobs in Great Glen, Harborough, Rutland, Lutterworth, Hamilton, any of the A47 villages will be reduced to using their car.  Perhaps residents who fancy visiting Rutland Water in their leisure time can walk?

After all this time, I was hoping the Co-operative Group would really have come up with something more solid.  Now there’s a new housing minister in government and hence a delay in the latest round of consultations, the Co-operative Group really have no excuse for not producing something that’s yet another aspirational wish-list.

Related Articles

Pennbury – the Co-operative Group release more details

Pennbury “Eco Town” – is anyone saying “Yes”

Saturday Afternoon’s for Protesting

Pennbury “Eco” Town and more transport issues

The Co-operative Estates have managed to draw up some transport plans that aren’t just “we’ll encourage people not to use the car” aspirational white-wash, or are they?


A station at Great Glen is mentioned again, but there doesn’t appear to be an agreement with Network Rail or any actual detail. Great Glen isn’t geared up to sending trains to Leicester, so trains from this station will only go south (ie away from Leicester).


The Co-operative Group have made much of their proposed tram, which has a proposed route to Oadby Racecourse and then along London Road (A6). The transport plan also makes much of a rapid transport system (buses) that would follow the tram route. But there’s no detail as to how this is going to happen. There’s no space on the Gartree Road to create priority bus lanes without extending the width of the road. So how will they be created? Will this mean the destruction of frontages of properties along the route? And how will tram lines be laid on London Road?


On the Co-operative Group’s plan, Mere Land from Great Stretton to Houghton on the Hill has disappeared. Gartree Road will be closed as a through route so it can become a green lane for walkers or those brave enough to compete with the rapid bus services and/or tram. But Gartree Road isn’t for the exclusive use of Pennbury residents, so where does existing traffic go? And how do service vehicles get to Pennbury anyway?

Apparently the loss of Gartree Road will be “balanced” by the gain of a link road from the Shady Lane/Gartree Road junction to Spencefield Lane in Evington. Gridlock. Especially at school run time. Or is this a sneaky plan to ensure that Leicester children will use Pennbury Schools because no one can get to Judgemeadow, City of Leicester, St Pauls or Oakfields Schools? As Judgemeadow and City of Leicester are frequently over-subscribed, that might just take the pressure off. But the Co-operative Estate’s haven’t shown that much forethought in their planning so far, so this is just a scheme to dump their traffic problems on Leicester city.

Considering as much detail as the Co-operative Estates can be bothered to give, this is just more aspirational white-wash. I’d say green-wash but the area used for roads has increased by 23% and the choice of the “compact town” design uses 40% more greenfield space so that there can be a lower housing density. So much for it being an “eco” town.