Pennbury “Eco Town”: the lie of the land

“We hope that if the eco-town is included in the short-list then local people will recognise the usefulness of influencing the proposals – so please look at the questions that follow as well, and let us know your views.” Wow, the Co-operative Estates want to know our views… but only because the public consultation period is open to the end of June.

So let’s look at their survey then. The questions are simple: rate the importance on a scale of unimportant to very important and themed around transport, community, etc. You are asking to rate the importance of questions such as “provision of infrastructure to address traffic problems in east Leicester by including measures such as park and ride on the A6 and A47” (I’ll ignore that that should be east Leicestershire), “homes designed to reduce energy and water use, and minimise associated household running costs”, “working with regeneration teams in Leicester and in the region, to attract a range of businesses to strengthen the local economy and not compete with opportunities elsewhere” (love to know how they’re actually going to do that one), “water on the site being managed to avoid flood risk in the immediate and wider area” (again, how are they going to do this?), “healthcare provision so as to meet the needs of the growing population as the phases are developed”, “support for a new academy for sustainable technology in the town as well as working with existing schools and education authorities”, “homes designed to provide opportunities for home working with broadband access” and “essential infrastructure, for instance waste recycling, delivered from the start to ensure long term sustainability of the eco-town”.

Just how do you say any of these are not important? And can’t you just see the Co-operative Estates arguing that “95% of responses to the survey rated provision of infrastructure as fairly or very important” (the other 5% weren’t sure, or spoilt their surveys in disgust).

So let’s look at another survey: the one the County Council did in response to the Co-operative Estate’s Pennbury plans. The County Council have concluded, the “eco town” will need £850 million of transport improvements. The “eco town” will need 8 primary and 2 secondary schools, costing £94 million. Health services would cost a further £37 million, a social care and community base would cost £2 million with running costs of £5.9 million a year. A waste site, fire services, library, parks, sport and leisure facilities would cost £5.4 million.

The Co-operative Estate’s response, “We’re interested in how the county council proposes to bring forward infrastructure without the support we can bring… We are the only people coming forward with solutions to these.”

So the Co-operative Estates want a slap on the back for “solving” a problem that wouldn’t exist if it were not going to build Pennbury? Without explaining how they’re actually going to solve their own problems without landing local taxpayers with additional bills. According to the Co-operative Estates 70% of Pennbury’s working population will work in Leicester. They’ve failed to answer the simple question: how are they going to get to work without gridlocking the A6 and A47 and causing major disruption to existing residents?

County Council Leader David Parsons is right, “The Pennbury proposals raise more questions than they answer.” It’s about time the Co-operative Estates started to answer them.  I understand the “usefulness of influencing” the proposals only too well, I don’t understand that the Co-operative Estates are listening.