Eco-town on your doorstep?

RESIDENTS of Tickhill, Bawtry and Harworth face having a huge "eco-town" built on their doorstep, if a bid to develop Rossington into a settlement of 42,000 people wins approval.

Should the plans, by a newly formed Eco-town Partnership, go ahead, five new housing "hubs" would encroach onto the open land south and west of Rossington – extending towards this area, with impact likely to show on the roads linking the towns and villages.

Current plans are for the hubs to be interlinked, while still separated by green areas.

Director Paul Bedwell of Spawforth – the consultants acting for the Partnership – made particular mention of Tickhill and Bawtry when outlining the scheme.

He insisted they would remain "distinct and separate communities", as building progressed towards them.

The development of 10-15,000 new homes is spearheaded by the new Partnership.

This in turn is fronted by Rossington Forward, Rossington Development Trust and the four major landowners and developers – UK Coal, Persimmon Homes, Helios Properties and Rossington Hall Ltd.

AS Rossington faces the prospect of tripling in size, one of the main men behind the project claimed the identities of Tickhill, Bawtry and Harworth would NOT be compromised.

Paul Bedwell, Director of Major Projects for Spawforth, said the new town would remain a separate entity from the southern townships, as it expanded in their direction.

The proposals were presented to Rossington Community Partnership at a recent meeting, after being drawn up between Spawforth and the new group's members, along with the South Yorkshire Training Trust.

The potential project has been forwarded to the Government in an 86-page brochure, as one of 10 to be considered for central funding, with a shortlist to be made by March next year.

If it goes ahead, a huge quantity of land between Tickhill and Bawtry and Rossington would "re-defined" for the plan, which would include 35 per cent affordable housing, plus work and office schemes to ideally provide 2,500 jobs.

Among the employment plans, is a scheme to build an Inland Port on land owned by Helios Properties.

Overall, the project would cover 898 hectares – more than NINE times the size of the former Rossington Colliery site which is included in the plan. Building would be phased in over more than two decades.

The new development would feature a new road link, from the projected airport link road, to Stripe Road.

Debate is already rife over the issue, in Rossington itself. Just this month, 93 per cent of respondents to a Newsletter survey on the village's future, objected to the possible loss of Green Belt land.

And 90 per cent were against an eco-town of just 6,000 homes – before the larger project became generally known!

But Mr Bedwell told the Newsletter that 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.

He added: "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 into play here."

A motorway link road to the south of Rossington, instead of the northern route opted for by Mayor Martin Winter, may be an option again, added Mr Bedwell.

Progress is currently halted on the FARRRS bid to build the northern route, due in part to the 37m that the Department of Transport is demanding from the private sector.

Mr Bedwell added: "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".

Speaking of the "strong, locational benefits" he believes will act in the eco-town's favour, Mr Bedwell stressed: "This is just the beginning of the process and dialogue with community organisations is important... but every voice is important here."

"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, the Rossington eco-town dream is unique.

Initial building would start in 2011, with transport provision still under debate, but with a chance of opening up the East Coast line via a new Rossington station.

Hubs would also be connected by a new shuttle bus service to Doncaster, and would have a network of pedestrian and cycle routes.

"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."

Mr Bedwell said that dialogue with landowners and partner organisations had been ongoing in recent months.

This followed the Government's invitation of 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.

The proposal document itself 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 new one to five-bedroom homes in the "walkable neighbourhood hubs" – each 800m in diameter, and offering at least 2,000 homes and 500 job opportunities, together with community facilities and shops.

"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".

Doncaster councillor Barbara Hoyle was "alarmed" when the Newsletter told her of the plan, of which she was completely unaware.

She said: "Why have people not been told about this.

"Rossington is creeping closer to Tickhill all the time and I don't see the need for a development of this size.

"People who live at Tickhill have chosen it because it is a town of character, and they don't want to become part of an urban spread.

"It's a scary thought that we could all become one big sprawl and lose that separate identity along with the Green Belt. I will definitely be looking into this further."

Meanwhile, a national company with a base between Tickhill and Rossington is keenly observing link-road developments, with a view to a spur road of its own.

DHL Exel recently expanded from its Stripe Road site, to a huge, additional Harworth site where it has created 160 new jobs.

Drivers for the logistics company are banned from taking their

lorries through Tickhill, and although close to the A1, a further motorway link would benefit the company greatly.

The planned spur could, however, cut through more Green Belt.

Operations manager Andy Mutch said: "We would definitely seek to put in a spur of our own, to cut through to the motorway, and we'll be watching for anything further happening on that score."

The new Harworth site is dedicated to work on behalf of Reckitt Benckiser, in a 304,000 sq ft warehouse that holds 53,000 pallets.

A new 205 bus service was launched last month, travelling from Doncaster via Rossington to the two sites.