The Government has welcomed plans by the Leeds City Region group, of which Selby District Council is a part, for the development of major 'eco-communities' in four priority urban brownfield sites.
Earlier this year, the leaders of the eleven strong LCR partnership rejected plans for a single, freestanding, eco-town and instead put forward their own proposals for the four innovative 'eco' developments to help address housing and regeneration needs.
Today (1st December) housing minister Iain Wright MP met LCR leaders and formally accepted the principle of plans set out in a memorandum of understanding and welcomed the opportunity to work jointly with the city region on the project.
Although four sites - the Aire Valley in Leeds; the Bradford to Shipley Canal Corridor; York north-west and north Kirklees/south Dewsbury - have been selected, an assessment to identify just one suitable for 'fast tracking' will now take place.
Each 'eco community' will be built with green credentials in mind and will include high quality design elements to deliver integrated and sustainable living environments.
The proposals include the aim of affordable housing making up 30 to 50 per cent of the developments.
Cllr Robert Light, chair of the Leeds City Region partnership said:
"After extensive representations from the Leeds City Region I am pleased the Government has realised its eco town policy couldn't be delivered in the city region.
The proposals from the Leeds City Region are practical and offer a real opportunity to deliver eco developments across the area and we welcome the Government's commitment to support them.
This shows that if the Government will just listen and work with local authorities we can ensure real issues are properly addressed."
More detailed plans for investment needs will be drawn up, particularly to bid for Government cash to pay for the infrastructure required to support the new communities. Discussions will also continue with other major funding agencies and developers and landowners to ensure the city region's 'eco communities' proposals become a reality.
Subject to successful negotiations and appropriate planning and development processes, it is hoped that the first eco homes could be ready for occupation in just two or three years time.
Councillor Andrew Waller, chair of the city region housing panel said:
"I'm delighted that our proposals are being taken seriously by Government.
They provide us the opportunity to develop eco communities within an urban setting, will promote new technologies to be zero-carbon, and should become national 'eco exemplars' in design and environmental sustainability.
The developments will provide a range of high quality services including innovative public transport infrastructure; enable access to jobs and the economic potential of the city region; and importantly, provide much needed affordable housing."
Today's meeting between the minister and leaders of the city region also covered a number of other housing related issues.
Measures to kick-start and then maintain momentum into the housing market; provide mortgage support for people in short term difficulties; and the provision of affordable and social housing in these difficult economic time were all discussed.
Iain Wright MP, housing minister said:
"I very much welcome the Leeds City Region Leaders' proposals to develop ecologically sustainable urban settlements within brownfield sites in Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, and York. We are keen to work with the City Region to see how we can support this programme of urban eco communities. Subject to further assessment of deliverability and infrastructure costs, I welcome the potential contribution that all could make to overall growth in the City Region and will be happy to see how we can help with taking forward the next stage of appraisal and preparatory work for the different sites."