Bid for a huge new Eco-town unveiled

A BID to change Rossington into a massive "Eco-town", more than NINE times the size of the former pit site, complete with new road and rail links, has been made to the Government.

Consultants Spawforth, on behalf of newly-formed Rossington Eco Town Partnership, have forwarded the scheme to the Government as one of 10 potential sites for central funding, to be shortlisted by March next year.

The proposals, which were presented to Rossington Community Partnership at their last meeting, were drawn up between Spawforth and the new group's members – landowners including Persimmon, Helios and UK Coal, along with Rossington Forward, South Yorkshire Training Trust, and the southern-based Bartlett School of Planning (for academic support).

Paul Bedwell, Spawforths' Director of Major Projects, said Rossington presented the best option for such a trailblazing scheme in the region, with a good chance of selection by the Government, although what exactly will be contributed in financial terms has not been stipulated.

A huge quantity of Green Belt land would be lost (or 're-defined') under the proposals, which comprise five 'neighbourhoods' with totally sustainable community homes, 35 per cent of which would be affordable housing, combined with work and office schemes to provide 2,500 jobs along with those created by the Inland Port.

The former pit site would include 92 hectares of contributory land to the overall 898 hectare project.

Persimmon has options on a "sizeable chunk" of the swathe of land which wraps around the southern end of the settlement.

Building would be phased, with work beginning on the colliery's brownfield site then encroaching in to the green belt areas.

"This all ties in with the Government's current stance on pressing delivery of new homes, and there is a particular shortage of affordable homes in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The ongoing debate over the status of green belt land – whether it should be regarded as sacrosanct, or whether boundaries can be changed with significant countryside gaps between large communities, comes in to play here" added Mr Bedwell.

He insisted Rossington would remain a separate entity from Tickhill and Bawtry, as the eco-town expanded in their direction.

Dialogue with landowners and partner organisations has been ongoing in recent months, said Mr Bedwell, after the Government invited bids for schemes in early summer, from landowners and local authorities who must deliver between 5,000 to 20,000 new homes in each location. Rossington is looking at about 10-15,000!

Spawforth representatives hope to attend all monthly Rossington

Community Partnership meetings, and will devise ways to take villagers' views on board should the bid succeed, he added.

A southern route link road may be on the agenda again, as the current FARRS proposal lacks funding.

"As a northern route appears to be so problematic in presenting barriers, the alternative villagers' choice may find favour as part of the new scheme."

Funding is the stumbling block to progress, with the Department of transport wanting 37 million from the private sector towards the route.

"The whole idea would be to make the community self contained once more and dissuade people from making trips out to satisfy their requirements," said Mr Bedwell.

"The Eco-town ethos fits in with Doncaster's aspirations as regards the Local Development Framework, and is backed by its "strong locational benefits".

But, he admitted: "The Government is hesitant about the amount of commitment involved. We would be very surprised if there were not very many different viewpoints to be taken into account here.

"People would need very strong reassurances about how the Green Belt issue would be dealt with, with measures in place to give them comfort as regards the future of the area.

"This is just the beginning of the process and dialogue with community organisations is important but is no substitute for dialogue with the people of the village – every voice is important.

"There will be things current residents would want to include and similarly if people were dead against the whole thing, much more dialogue would be needed."

As a zero carbon development powered entirely by renewable energy schemes, Rossington Eco Town would be unique.

"Should it go ahead, initial building would start in 2011, with new infrastructure in place hopefully by then.

Transport provision is still under separate debate, with distinct possibilities of opening up the East coast line via a new Rossington station, and siting a park and ride bus station at Rossington. Existing council properties would all be upgraded alongside the new builds, added Mr Bedwell.

The proposal document says the plan is to "explore the opportunities and challenges associated with delivering a major expansion of the existing Rossington community".

It says: "Additional community engagement work is also being planned and timetabled for the next few months to ensure that there is an ongoing relationship and flow of information with the existing residents of Rossington while the Rossington Eco-town proposals are being developed and considered for short listing".

The plan involves the construction of 10-15,000 new homes in five circular "walkable neighbourhood hubs".

Each would be 800m in diameter, and would offer at least 2,000 homes and 500 job opportunities, together with community facilities and shops. Connecting each hub would be a new shuttle bus service to Doncaster.

It adds: "A network of overlooked, pedestrian and cycle routes will provide additional connectivity between each neighbourhood".

One to five-bedroom homes would contain at least 35 per cent of affordable homes, the proposal says.

"Neighbourhood One" would be built by 2015, with two to five following up to 2031.

The report plots the current population of Rossington as 13,241, with a predicted population of 42,000 by 2026.

It goes on to say: "Significantly, the proposed Eco-town would deliver housing on areas of higher ground that are not at risk of flooding and would carry a commitment to use green roofs where appropriate, porous surfaces and sustainable urban drainage systems in order to minimise surface water run off".