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Eco-Cities: Today's Garden Cities

<p>England's plans to build 3 million new homes by 2020, and much emphasis has been placed on making them environmentally friendly. The push for "eco-town" draw a strong parallel to the "Garden Cities" of the past.</p>
April 12, 2008, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Yesterday's response to the announcement of 15 proposed eco-towns was similarly grudging. But if we must build to meet the Government's target of 3 million new homes by 2020, then these zero-carbon settlements seem as good a scheme as any. What's more, after the wrong turn of the New Towns and edge estates of the postwar years, the eco-towns herald a return to the purity of the Garden City template."

"Only in the tiny hamlet of Letchworth, among the gentle hills of Hertfordshire, was the scheme ever properly attempted. Under Howard's oversight, architects Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin set to work building a Garden City designed to embody more than the "mere self-centred independence and churlish disregard of others, which have stamped their character on our modern towns". For here was the guiding ambition: through design and architecture the garden cities, like the eco-towns, would foster a new approach to society and nature. Today, the challenge is climate change; then, a fear of humanity losing its spiritual and social bearings as it was steadily detached from the soil."

"So far the signs are that the Government has learnt from the worst mistakes of the New Towns experiment and, with their demand for each site to have a "separate and distinct" identity, is rightly seeking to avoid the McMansion sprawl so favoured by property developers. Of course, there remain sites in the long list that should be aborted: building on open countryside around Pennbury is ill-advised given the amount of regeneration that is needed in run-down Leicester, only four miles away. While the developments in Bedfordshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire all threaten Greenbelt land."

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Published on Saturday, April 5, 2008 in The Times
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