The Fate of Bordon’s ‘Eco-Town’

Ordinance Survey map of Current Whitehill and Bordon regeneration plans

12 years ago, Spectacle investigated the former military towns of Bordon and Whitehill in Hampshire, which were part of a plan by the UK Government’s Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), to turn these two neighbouring towns into an ‘Eco-Town’. An effort to create a self-sustaining, eco-friendly town to combat the threat of climate change. The HCA no longer exists and funding for the project was cut in half in 2010. There have been new developments over the past decade such as Prince Phillip Park,  the Green Loop, and Quebec Park, previously the Quebec Barracks. Are these developments true to their original Eco-Town goals, or as some say, greenwashing? Are the new homes truly affordable housing for local residents? An expensive lost opportunity?

The UK eco-town plans originally set up in 2007 had taken inspiration from the European eco cities of Amersfoort, the Netherlands, Freiburg, Germany, Hammarby, Sjöstad, Sweden, Zaragoza, Spain and also Dongtan in China. The UK set up its own guidelines based on these case studies;

  • Eco-towns must be new distinct settlements, separated but well linked to surrounding towns
  • Consist of at least 5,000 new homes, 30%-50% of which need to be affordable housing and the town overall reaching zero carbon standards
  • They must also contain a variety of facilities including a secondary school, a retail centre, business and leisure spaces to provide local employment and entertainment
  • Become the lead example for at least one area of environmental sustainability and a new management body should be set up to help the development of the town. 
  • It must be easy for residents to default to a more sustainable lifestyle, including reducing the use of cars in favour of cycling or walking. 
  • For the developers, there must be a focus on conserving energy for new construction projects that need to be energy and resource efficient and be powered by renewable energy. 

In 2008 there was a shortlist of 15 planned sites across the UK for eco-town development, by 2010 there were 4 successful bids, including the garrison town of Bordon. In the May 2010 general election, Labour lost to a Conservative and Lib Dem coalition. This resulted in the funding for the eco-towns, planned by the previous government, to be cut in half. The standards for the eco-town developments were also lowered, with only Northwest Bicester in Oxfordshire still being developed closely to the original guidelines. The other 3 only needing, by law, to cover the standard building requirements of any new suburban housing model. All original eco-town development plans nationwide were archived and shelved in 2012. 

Some of the new development in Prince Phillip Park

Plans to regenerate Bordon into an eco-town continued, leading to various construction plans, some of which are still being built. The largest construction project is Prince Phillip Park which intends to build over 2,400 new sustainable homes on the north west of the town, beside the upper half of Hogmoor inclosure. The current residents of Bordon are not generally approving of the plans, with the Park’s Facebook page currently only having 2.5 stars out of 5. Some of the main complaints being the loss of woodland for the area, the unaffordability to buy or rent one of the new homes, and what are considered to be poorly thought out designs. 

The eco-friendly marketing of the Park by the The Whitehill & Bordon Regeneration Company, a joint venture between Dorchester Regeneration and Taylor Wimpey UK, could be accused of ‘greenwashing’, or overstating the environmental sustainability of the developments. For instance, the advertised ‘Green Spaces’ in the park are not new, but forested areas that were already there and that are now enclosed in the Park’s vicinity. They claim they are going to build new green spaces, however it would appear from the Prince Phillip Park timeline there have still not been any new green spaces created. Many residents are unhappy and feel their wishes for the regeneration of existing built areas, such as Bordon High Street, have been ignored.

A map of The Green Loop

Another plan for sustainability in Bordon and Whitehill is ‘The Green Loop”. This is a walkable and bikeable trail encompassing the towns to encourage residents to travel around the area on foot and to stop using their cars. On the surface it does comply with the original eco-town goal of having residents reduce the use of their cars. This plan has been praised and awarded more for its potential than its practical pay-off. Winning the ‘Best Project’ and ‘Best in Region’ awards by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) for its incorporation of an app called BetterPoints which would reward users of the loop for their activity and the Whitehill Town Council’s plan to collect drone footage of the users to see their activity day-to-day. The idea of the Green Loop is a sustainable one if it becomes a success with the residents of Bordon and Whitehill, but it requires their action for it to work, relying on them for the reduction of emissions from the town, rather than actually implementing forms of green public transport. 

Much like Prince Phillip Park, the Green Loop also does not include any newly created green spaces, relying on spaces that are already there, so does not actually make the town any greener. As for how useful it is to the residents, most work outside of Bordon and have to commute away from the town anyway, which is not helped by the fact that there are very few plans to renovate old areas of the town which could otherwise provide local employment. For example, the old fire station was converted into an ‘ecostation’ in 2012, but has not seen much use since the change.

The old Bordon Fire Station before it’s renovation

Not all changes to the town have been met with hostility however. The Quebec Barracks, formerly owned by the Ministry of Defense, was sold in 2013 to the government’s Homes and Communities Agency. This agency no longer exists as it was split into Homes England and the Regulator of Social Housing. The Quebec Barracks development is listed Under Schemes Confirmed by Homes England. It cites as both the lead partner and developing organization as Swaythling Housing Society Limited, who in turn manage the subsidiaries for the company Abri, named as the developers of Quebec Park on their website. 

Inside Café 1759 from the official site plans

Abri is a non-profit organization regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. In Quebec Park they have built 65 for-sale homes, 10 shared ownership and 25 affordable rent houses. Two former Barracks buildings were also converted into an employment centre and ‘Café 1759’. Already this new housing site avoids many of the issues faced by Prince Phillip Park, provides affordable housing, encourages local employment and the café is proving to be popular with residents as it has a 4.5 out of 5 on google and a 4.8 out of 5 on Facebook. It is also sustainable for the local environment, being solely built on a brownfield site and the housing itself designed to be environmentally friendly, with construction planned as to be ‘fabric first’ and the houses are also Low Carbon Homes.

Eco-towns are a controversial subject, not only within Bordon but in other areas given the go-ahead for development. The Rackheath eco-town in Norwich has seen similar opposition from the local population in the form of the Stop Norwich UrBanisation organisation (SNUB). Spectacle interviewed SNUB member Stephen Heard in 2010. Creating a zero-carbon emission settlement appears to be much more of a troubling endeavour and requires careful in-depth planning as well as close consultation with the residents affected by the change. As more pressure builds on the government to make serious, nationwide action on climate change, should there be another attempt for sustainable development to UK towns and how strict should the guidelines for development be? How could we stop false promises and greenwashing from occurring in these plans? And how could we ensure their success? 

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Architect Fights Demolition of Battersea’s Little Pumping Station

Conservation architect Jack Warshaw is furious that Wandsworth council is proposing to give the go-ahead for vast amounts of development around Battersea Power Station – far more than would ever have been allowed, had permission ever been given for the site to be cleared. “On each occasion the excuse was that so much building was necessary to ‘save’ the Power Station – an enabling subsidy at no cost to the public purse,” he stresses.

The irony is that as each permission has been granted, the site has been sold on at a substantial profit from the added value it has acquired with the granting of these virtual developments. Its current owners Treasury Holdings may well do the same.

By contrast, the Station itself has been allowed to decay, which Warshaw feels may already well have gone beyond the point of economic repair. “And the Little Pumping Station, the one building that could be re-used at reasonable cost, is now the subject of a squalid application to demolish. Little by little, the heritage value of the site is being eroded. The permission already granted at the Power Station is a mockery of heritage conservation!” he exclaims.

As Wandsworth’s first Conservation Officer, he was proud of having built up its reputation as a leader in preserving London’s heritage. He was also the first to try, despite not succeeding, to bring about the rescue of Battersea Power Station.

So he feels strongly that the Little Pumping Station still stands apart “begging and able to be rescued. There is no credible case for demolition. Its loss, both of itself and as part of the ensemble, can only add a further insult, covering the Borough Council with still more ignominy.”

Warshaw is also a member of local activists Bordon Area Action Group (see and is currently campaigning against another large and dense development in Whitehill Bordon, which will harm the local environment and character of this charming eco-town in east Hampshire.

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Bordon – The Next Tesco Town?

In a recent interview with Jack Warshaw, a local resident to the Bordon area and member of the Bordon Area Action Group (BAAG) committee, the suggestion that the Eco-Town development could lead to the decline of Bordon from a small and quaint town to becoming one of the many new emerging ‘Tesco Town‘ arose.

I hear you all now, what is a ‘Tesco Town’? We all, whether we like it or not have some association with this vast supermarket chain; whether it be the place you do your weekly food shop, your mobile phone provider or where you go for travel insurance – let’s face it, Tesco are taking over the world, well the UK at least.

But what does this mean for other businesses? It cannot have gone unnoticed that over the last few years, independent petrol stations have slowly been disintegrating and being replaced with Tesco, Sainsburys or Morrisons petrol stations, your good old corner shops which used to stock weird and wonderful products are now Tesco Express or Coop Local and fashion magazines are now filled with the latest bargains from George at Asda or Cherokee at Tesco.

This new supermarket craze is helping the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Tesco controls over 30% of the grocery market and certainly does not seem to be suffering the recession blues.

The problem. Towns and villages are losing their charm, for each new Tesco store that opens up, a small part of that town vanishes being replaced by a  superstore with no local history. The days when shoppers knew which family owned which business and each store had a purpose are slowly disappearing as everything you could possibly ever need can now be found under one roof or online.

Jack states, ‘Tesco would be delighted if there was an Eco Town here because they would instantly try to expand to be even bigger… once again you’re looking at a clone town, a Tesco town, an anywhere town, the type of place where all the potential for individual character is eroded and lost’

You don’t need to look far for examples of Tesco towns, towns where the high street is dominated by chain stores and pleasant pedestrianized streets have been turned into car parks – there is even an online society concerned with the power these supermarkets have over the consumer market. This is of course not just happening here, the US are dominated with the giant supermarket chain Walmart and that too, is slowly taking over.

One thing is for sure; there are plenty of people unhappy with this supermarket domination and Bordon residents are no exception. Eco town or no eco town, surely the voice of the locals should be considered before turning what was a small and delightful town into a large and generic housing area.

To see interviews with Bordon Councillors, residents and Bordon Area Action Group members see our Eco Towns and Villages project page or our read the latest blog here.

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Eco-Town Con

Whitehill-Bordon has been designated an eco-town, where it is proposed to double the size of the existing town of 15,000.  There is strong popular opposition to what people see as a con trick to sell off MoD land and build lots of houses.  The result will be the opposite of eco: more carbon, more traffic, a job famine, thousands of trees felled, farm and other green land bulldozed and no real eco benefit, just an urbanised country town that fails all the original government criteria and has only been approved because the local Council supports it.  But the Council’s pre-determined ideas are being steamrollered through a combination of misleading propaganda, scaremongering, tame consultants, rigged consultation and, now political thuggery, with dissenting local councillors being replaced by local party members from distant wards.  The pattern is no doubt being repeated elsewhere in the country.

To learn more see

Read what Friends of the Earth have to say at:

The Local Government Association says:

“These developments could become the eco-slums of the future”