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Reward green with gold, Tories say

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Cash prizes of up to£1m for best environmental programmes proposed

Councils should be eligible for£1m prizes for their environmental programmes, a Conservative party policy paper says.

A review led by the former environment secretary John Gummer and environmentalist Zac Goldsmith calls for a£50m prize fund for which councils would compete, with prizes ranging from£100,000 to a£1m 'gold award'.

The Blueprint for a green economy says the top prize would be enough to pay for at least a one percent council tax cut, even in a London borough, and would help build public support for green measures.

It says local government is "an under-utilised asset" in the fight against climate change and should be under a statutory duty to protect the environment.

A Conservative government should "require councils to explain to the secretary of state why they are not implementing best practice", it says.

Councils should be allowed to impose higher energy efficiency standards on new buildings - a power under threat from a government review (LGC, 30 August) - the report says.

The report rejects the policy of previous Conservative governments to tackle congestion by building new roads.

It says new bypasses might be needed, but "grandiose programmes of road building are part of the problem, not the solution".

Mr Gummer calls on planners to think about how new developments could be designed to reduce the need to travel, by clustering housing, health, education, retailing and employment in convenient reach of each other.

Mr Gummer, as environment secretary in the mid-1990s, placed restrictions on the growth of out-of-town retailing and encouraged the revival of town centres.

This approach would now confer benefits in tackling climate change by reducing road traffic, he said, calling for "mixed-use development and walkable neighbourhoods".

Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper called on Tory leader David Cameron to accept the report's recommendations, rather than the free market ones Tory MP John Redwood outlined in his competition report. "The challenge now is to turn this blueprint for a green future into official party policy," Mr Juniper said.

key points

>>£50m environmental performance prize fund

>> End to large-scale road building

>> A Department of Sustainable Growth for environment, planning and transport

>> A Department of Local Government & Housing

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