What’s an ‘ecotown’, anyway?
England once had a dream: Newly-constructed, zero-carbon, ecotowns; constructed from recycled materials and full of bike lanes. Some upper crusty Britons absolutely seethed at the very mention of an ecotown.
So what happened? Oh, yeah – Con-Lib Dem coalition, economic recession, yada yada.
But the dream is not over. Northstowe, in Cambridgeshire is set to be the UK’s first ecotown. Its planned location is on an old RAF airfield.
This op-ed in the Guardian suggests that Northstowe will be but a boring blip on the map, as opposed to the socialist vision of post war ‘new towns’, which relocated urban slum dwellers into more bucolic settings. Ecotowns seem to be a bit more like middle-class bedroom suburbs:
The ecotowns are very unlike new towns, in interesting ways. New towns were supposed to be self-sufficient, with their own industries; Northstowe is transparently planned as a commuter town in the Cambridgeshire “Silicon Fen”. The new towns moved tens of thousands of working-class, inner-city dwellers out of the slums and off council housing waiting lists, offering them the homes with gardens they’d always dreamed of; the new ecotown will have, at most, a scattering of “affordable” homes among the executive housing. New towns had their own railway stations and town centres; Northstowe promises nothing so ambitious.
So in the 80s they drank Perrier and now they move to ecotowns?
Private ecotown developments are also planned. Turner Prize-winning artist Damien Hirst wants to build an ecotown of 500 sustainable homes near his farm in North Devon. Each will have a huge shark in a tank of formaldehyde, hohoho.
Read more about that here.
And way over in Singapore, Punggol ecotown is expected to be completed next year.
At first sight the row of white towers doesn’t look very ‘eco’ – concrete blocks never do – but we actually found that there are some subtle yet progressive differences compared to the energy hungry apartments nearer the city centre. For one thing the residents here aren’t wedded to their air-conditioning systems, and instead we had the refreshing sight and sound of people living side by side with their windows open and fans spinning, instead of sealed inside an artificially cooled interior. The blocks are oriented away from the sun and towards the prevailing wind from the north-east.
If you still don’t know what an ecotown is, don’t worry. Apparently, it’s whatever you want it to be. Just build some new homes, pop a few solar panels on the roofs and maybe a couple of wind turbines on the edge of the bike lanes and presto!