Shelter’s reply to MMETAG’s letter 27/10/08

88 Old Street
t. 0844 515 2124
f. 0844 515 2176

Dear Mr Roberts

Thank you for your recent letter to Shelter expressing your concerns about the Marston Vale eco-town proposal.

We are sorry that you did not receive a response to your earlier correspondence, but we have been unable to locate the email you sent and believe it may not have been received.

Shelter believes that everyone should have the right to affordable and suitable housing, and we will continue to campaign for what we believe to be necessary for that goal to be achieved. We seek to make people aware both of the existing need for more homes in our communities, and of the way that need will increase in the future. The government has recognised a need for three million new homes over twenty years, and Shelter welcomes the commitment to provide that number.

We believe that the number of homes which need to be built will necessitate both some building on Greenfield sites, and also the building of some new towns. At the same time, we believe we need to meet the challenge of climate change by finding new approaches to building homes and communities that can eventually become standard for all future developments. Shelter therefore supports the principle of eco-towns as a mechanism for delivering affordable housing in sustainable communities built to the highest environmental standards.

However, our support for eco-towns in general does not, at this stage, extend to supporting particular proposals. Eco-towns must provide sustainable communities with well-designed homes, including a significant portion of affordable homes. They must have community amenities and services infrastructure, as well as green spaces, sustainable travel options, local employment opportunities, protection of biodiversity and much more. Shelter will campaign to ensure that whichever sites are eventually developed will provide the right balance of housing types and the necessary facilities.

While the current economic situation is having a serious effect on the housing market and house building, we cannot simply ignore the great need there will be for more housing over the next twenty years. Short-term declines in housing prices will do little to solve the problem of affordability, as they are matched by the increased cost of, and difficulty in getting mortgages. Longer term predictions suggest that the housing prices will continue to rise over time, unless supply is increased to meet increased demand.

The decision to produce a leaflet about each of the proposed eco-town sites was taken by Shelter, which has been supportive of the eco-town project since it was first announced, and the views expressed are our own. Like many voluntary sector organisations, Shelter has often worked in partnership with the relevant government departments on a range of issues. When we are in agreement with government proposals, we are happy to work with them, and to seek funding from them to further a common aim. However, we believe that our history makes it clear that we are equally willing to oppose the government when we feel it is wrong.

Our aim in producing these leaflets was twofold: to ensure that those taking part in the debate about eco-towns are aware of the current and future housing need, and to encourage those with a stake in housing to make their voices heard in the debate. We believe that everyone should be involved in a full and robust public debate on the merits of this approach.

The statistics used in the leaflets are published on the DCLG website but are, in fact, the statistics produced and provided by local authorities across the country.

I feel that it would not be appropriate in this letter to respond in detail to all of the specific queries you have raised. Given the complexity of the issues, I believe it would be better to engage in a discussion with your organisation, rather than attempt to give infinite written answers. Shelter would be happy to discuss such issues with you.

If you wish to discuss with us further any aspects of the eco-town proposals, please contact Chris Spencer, our Regional Campaign Officer for the East of England. I have forwarded a copy of your letter to him, and he would be happy to talk you or meet with your organisation if you wish.

Yours sincerely,
Chief Executive


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