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Criticism over eco-town plan

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The Mayor of Bingham, Mr George Davidson, has criticised Rushcliffe Borough Council for being secretive and undemocratic over plans for an eco-town at Newton.

Around 70 residents attended a borough council meeting, called by Mr Davidson’s Liberal Democrat group, on Thursday to discuss the proposal.

Before the meeting, council members had not publicly discussed the idea for 6,000 homes, built to environmentally friendly specifications, on the former RAF Newton site.

Newton was earmarked as a possible eco-town by the government after it ruled out the only other site put forward by the borough council, Kingston-on-Soar, near Gotham.

Mr Davidson, also a borough councillor, told the meeting that it beggared belief that the council had not considered the eco-town issue, but had, instead, caved in and offered to find an alternative site when the first suggestion was dismissed.

He said he had looked at the Newton site in detail, something the council leadership had failed to do, before going public with the suggestion.

Mr Davidson said there was about two square kilometres of brownfield site at Newton but about six square kilometres was needed, meaning greenbelt would have to be used.

He told the meeting that Bingham was expected to have 4,000 homes when development was complete, so the Newton scheme would be nearly 50% bigger than Bingham and would dominate the area.

The Bingham member spoke of the improved infrastructure that a development of such a magnitude would require, with a need to dual both the A46 and the A52 and an upgrading of rail links.

“These are expensive projects, and there is absolutely no guarantee that they would be forthcoming,” he said.

“It is naivety of the highest order for some members here to say with so many requirements the Government will never accept the scheme.”

Another Bingham member, Mrs Maureen Stockwood, said such a development at Newton would create an urban fringe for Bingham and Radcliffe.

The council leader, Neil Clarke (Con) denied there had been secret meetings between officers and leaders of the council that had resulted in the Newton suggestion being made.

He suggested the outbursts from the Liberal Democrats were the worst examples of political scaremongering he had seen for some considerable time.

Liberal Democrat member Chris Evans said the Newton site was on a national list of 15 sites, from which ten would be selected, so there was a 66% chance it would happen.

He strongly criticised the council for not giving members the chance to discuss any of the eco town suggestions.

Conservative member Mr Reg Adair said there were no facts to discuss.

The council agreed that if further talks take place on the site at Newton there will be a minimum requirement for infrastructure improvements.

In addition, the council’s local development group will also meet to consider if an eco-town is acceptable as part of the borough’s housing plans.

A dozen members of the Bingham pressure group, Community Concern, attended the meeting.

The group’s spokesman, Mr Dennis Briggs, said: “There was a full house. They had to lock the doors at 7pm. There were 70 seats put out and they were all taken. There was a lot of local feeling

“The whole thing seemed to hinge on who decided RAF Newton should be put forward as a site. No one wanted to admit anything.

“I think everybody who was there felt a little better but they were still miffed about where the report came from in the first place and who authorised it.”

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