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Tories pledge to flush away eco slums

Contemplating stools for Gaia

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Who would have guessed that in 2008, a pledge to give British people flushing toilets would be a shock vote winner?

The Conservatives this week promised to scrap the Government's plans for 15 "eco towns" which will potentially house 100,000 people. These have been heralded as a new era in design, but you need to take a closer look at both the theory and practice to see the full, grim picture.

Firstly, it's clear that "design goal" is enforcing patterns of behavior on people.

"What are the responsibilities we each must share in return for the freedoms we enjoy?" asked Town and Country Planning Association chief David Lock last year when introducing a report. Lock and his quango are advising the Government on the initiative. What does he mean? He means freedoms you previously enjoyed have been clawed back.

Almost every aspect of life in the eco towns is minutely regulated. The streets are too small to drive around, and if you must drive the mandatory speed limit is 15mph. Planners are particularly excited about installing eco toilets that don't flush. Because flushing is "the worst thing ever devised by modern man," (according to one advocate), compost toilets may be mandatory. You won't have a choice.

We took a look at one candidate loo, and the description gives us a whiff of this fragrant, low carbon future:

"The dry fecal matter is captured by a built-in teflon-coated bowl with a turning mechanism and is 'flushed' into wheeled bins in the buildings' basements. 'Flushing' uses sawdust, dispensed from the back of the toilet, instead of water."

Lovely.

Residents will also be required to pay a fine, mooted at around £2 ($4), each time they leave the town.

So these are really detention centres - with behaviour set down in advance by the Carbon Cult. Residents will not be able to vote on whether they want to have flushing toilets.

Another clue that they're about punishment emerged this spring, when ministers described them as "healthy towns". The eco-camps will aim to tackle obesity by encouraging lots of walking about, said Health minister Alan Johnson in April.

And being confined to such a grim existence means the end of social mobility. Forget about advancing along the precarious housing ladder. The houses will be far more expensive than they should be, because they're saddled with fashionable but useless totems of Greenery such as "micro generation" turbines, that can't even power a light bulb.

Nowhere in the glossy brochures that describe "what makes eco towns different" is employment mentioned. The new settlements are remote - several are on disused airfields - and "will become the eco-slums of the future if they are built without regards to where residents can get jobs or training," the LGA's Simon Milton has predicted.

Low resource use developments don't have to be miserable - but with the eco towns, this is the whole point. Marry old-fashioned paternalism (where the proles should be grateful for what they get ) to the Carbon Cult's misanthropy (where being alive is a sin) and what else do you get, but a boring, smelly slum? This time, by design. ®

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