Invitation to a meeting: EcoPark or EgoPark? Greentech or Greenwash?

(Words by Tim Mars) 

The proposed Eco Park, centred on Junction 13 of the M5 motorway

The proposed Eco Park, centred on Junction 13 of the M5 motorway

Invitation: You are cordially invited to a meeting hosted by Stroud Civic Society to discuss and debate Ecotricity’s ambitious plans for an ‘EcoPark’ on a large greenfield site beside Junction 13 of the M5 near Eastington. 

Ecotricity’s EcoPark – Greentech or Greenwash?
Is the proposed EcoPark a ‘centre of excellence for sport and green business’ or just another out-of-town business park off the motorway?

Time and place: 7:30pm Thursday 26th November, Old Town Hall, The Shambles, Stroud GL5 1AP


  • David Drew, Vice Chairman of Forest Green Rovers
  • Hugh Barton, Emeritus Professor of Planning, Health and Sustainability at the University of the West of England
  • Alison Williamson, Environmental Planner at Ecotricity
  • Simon Pickering, Senior Ecologist at Ecotricity and Green District Councillor for Slade Ward
  • Stephen Davies, Conservative District Councillor for Eastington and Standish

Context: This is likely to be a very lively debate on the most significant and contentious greenfield development proposal since Gloucester Motorway Services at Whaddon. Ecotricity and Forest Green Rovers have run a series of drop-in sessions as part of their public consultation exercise, but this is the first opportunity for a public discussion of the pros and cons of the scheme, with a range of viewpoints represented and contributions from the floor welcome.

Background: The proposed EcoPark is a multi-million pound 100-acre sports and business facility located beside Junction 13 of the M5 near Eastington. Ecotricity says: ‘It will be a place where green businesses and technology companies come together and share ideas, a real focal point of creativity and innovation for the area—and a part of the green industrial revolution that’s beginning to take off around the world.’

Half of the EcoPark will be dedicated to creating state-of-the-art sporting facilities, including a 5,000 capacity all-seater stadium for Forest Green Rovers, training fields, 4G pitches, multi-disciplinary sporting facilities, as well as a sports science hub.

The other half will comprise a green technology business park with sustainably built commercial offices and light industrial units potentially capable of hosting up to 4,000 jobs.

Another part of the site will become a nature reserve, while the overall concept also includes working with the Cotswold Canals Trust to open up part of the ‘missing mile’ of the Stroudwater Canal on either side of the M5.

There are also plans to upgrade various roundabouts along the A419, dual some carriageways and the potential to develop a public transport hub—including a Stroud Park and Ride.

Comments: These comments posted online after recent articles on the EcoPark give a good flavour of the range of views. I have highlighted some of the more interesting comments in italics:

kjag23 2:09pm Fri 17 Jul 15
FGR barely fills its current stadium, why does it need another? Does Mr Vince not understand the “Forest Green” part of “Forest Green Rovers”?
Dale Vince slowly taking over.

skittikitty 4:55pm Fri 17 Jul 15
He is on a one man mission to destroy the countryside and Eco featuring anywhere in these plans is a mysnoma.
Neither is there the infrastructure to support this development, queues morning noon and night, or do his “Eco” plans include the concreting over of more countryside to facilitate a new road too?

reggy.smith1 5:14pm Fri 17 Jul 15
More green fields gone, not much eco here. Why does Forest Green need another stadium when they have not long built the one they have now.

sicorlett 6:28pm Fri 17 Jul 15
Dale Vince has a history of producing employment for the local area, and he does so while building sustainable industry – what’s not to like? I wish him luck in continuing to build successful business ventures that do not rape the environment, provide employment, and bring new innovative technologies to the area. Good on ya’, pal!

a-bomberg 6:34pm Sat 18 Jul 15
Once these fields are gone they are gone. Dale Vince, a man that claims to be green when it suits his needs. None of this is needed. We do not have a high area of unemployment. We do not have a need for more sports teams; many teams struggle to fill their sides now, and there is no need for a stadium that very obviously will be used for concerts and not just sport.
If these people think that they can dangle a few carrots and we (the locals) will all start licking his boots then he is very deluded indeed. Dale Vince is messing with the wrong community.
No matter how this tries to be “packaged” or “spun”, these are the green fields of Gloucestershire that we be no-more. Lot will say that “its ok, its near the M5, it will get built on sooner or later, something will be there – that really does not need to be the case. We do not need to be that district, that county.
I can see it now, you come off J13 and these building will welcome people. If we let these fields be built on then that is an end to this England, your England.
#egotricity #ForestGREENmyarse

Ginie 6:39pm Sat 18 Jul 15
There is enough industrial estates in the area! Stonehouse trading estate is sufficient enough to welcome new companies as they have a lot of empty warehouses, so why building a new trading estate there. We need to leave intact some of the only green spaces we have left and leave wild animals in peace. Forest Green has already got a stadium and don’t need another one, they can’t even fill the one they have now.

corin22 12:12am Mon 20 Jul 15
already taking money out of our pockets with our energy bills with his waste of space windmills he would not be doing this unless there is a lot in it for him—again

juanhunglo 12:48pm Tue 21 Jul 15
Vince the viking, raping and pillaging the countryside.
5,000 seater stadium for mediocre football, the ball’s in the air more times than it is on the ground, what a waste.
Leave the fields, there’s not many left.

stewartwardrop 12:00pm Thu 3 Sep 15
Great idea – needs to support across the community.
Joined up thinking at last – bringing investment and jobs to the area in a sustainable way
From a Whitminster resident who totally supports this proposal.

Salendine 12:34pm Thu 3 Sep 15
4,000 new jobs? What are all these people going to be doing, and how are they going to get out of the towns to this site? Do locals skill sets match what will be required by green technology companies or will the jobs be going to people out of town? Many questions yet to be answered.
Whilst it is planned to be on green land (rather than remediating brown field sites) it is still sounding like an ego trip. DV doesn’t actually answer that question, but deflects it in the manner of a skilled politician.
Fair play for having a public debate. Will be interesting to hear the outcome.

Sbak4287 11:07am Sun 6 Sep 15
Why is it that every interview I hear from Dale Vince, he’s so defensive, patronising and inconsiderate of the local residents. I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy about this being built on the back of his fort! To say this is a mile away from Eastington is a load of rubbish, this is being built IN Eastington, my parents home is right next to the field he wants to build on and I’m pretty sure last time I checked, their address stated Eastington in it, or do these residents not matter?!
Why do you want to destroy one of the very few rural villages left in Gloucestershire for the sake of unnecessary building developments and sports facilities. We already have a sports field in Eastington! Or has that been overlooked too? 4000 jobs? I’d like to see a listing to prove that this isn’t just a figure that’s been plucked out of the air.. And the already heavily congested roads leading to that site are just going to become constant standstill traffic areas.
Finally in the recent interview with BBC Gloucestershire, Dale was very defensive about the development being described as concreting over green land, of course you are concreting over green land, or are you expecting your staff and football fans to park in a field? We don’t NEED this development at all! But that’s just my opinion…

a-bomberg 3:56pm Sun 6 Sep 15 million 
“4000 new jobs” total lies…. Its a trading estate where 4000 people could work. So, what that relates to in real terms is existing companies moving to this site. The job creation will not be 4000, new jobs may only be 10-25% at best I would expect.

kjag23 4:15pm Mon 7 Sep 15
An eco technology park sounds like a good idea. A very Stroudy way to bring business to Stroud, and being just off the motorway would mean many wouldn’t travel through towns to work.
However, I wouldn’t trust Mr Vince as far as I could throw him.
He’s a slippery character with a dodgy past, this seems like a self indulgent addition to his empire.
Take out the totally needless FGR stadium and move it to a brownfield site then I’ll be on your side.
Score: 4

HarryMonmouth 1:59am Tue 8 Sep 15
This does sound like a good idea to me. I am usually in favour of stopping big companies trampling over countryside but of all the ways in which this sort of thing could be done ecotricity seems to be trying to create a positive environment with as little negative impact on the countryside as possible. Perhaps some of the jobs will require skills that are not available locally but those workers will become local and will require services that are supplied locally. The knock on effect is probable more than four thousand jobs when the effect on the local economy is taken into account. I would far rather a forward thinking company like ecotricity tried this than any other company, or for that matter allowing stagnation of the local economy.

daphnetomlinson 5:29pm Sat 26 Sep 15
These are exciting, much-needed plans. Since May, the government has abolished subsidies for renewable energy while maintaining substantial tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry, scrapped the Zero Carbon Homes standard for all new houses to be zero carbon by 2016, slashed the budget for the Department for Energy and Climate Change, and dumped the tax discount for low-emissions vehicles. By these actions, our government is hastening us down the road to runaway climate change. It is only enterprising individuals with vision, such as Dale Vince, whose work can help avoid planetary disaster.

a-bomberg 1:31pm Wed 11 Nov 15
Not true at all. “While the other half will comprise a green technology business park with sustainably built commercial offices and light industrial units potentially capable of creating up to 4,000 jobs.”
It is a site where up to 4000 people could work (like any industrial estate). Companies would be moving in to new units. Companies that already employ people. That is NOT job creation. That is just companies moving to a site closer to the M5… EGO before ECO?

Salendine 9:39pm Wed 11 Nov 15
Why not invest in Brimscombe Port? That project needs a developer/investor, and its a brown field that needs cleaning up. That has to be greener than building on green fields. There are numerous other brown field sites that need cleaning up and developing. That would be a contribution worthy from a minted eco warrior.
I wonder if he does get permission to build on green fields will he come up against his old tree hugging buddies as they hurl themselves in front of his bull dozers? Going to be interesting watching this one roll out.

David_Lloyd 11:50am Thu 12 Nov 15
This doesn’t look like a debate.
The Panel is David Drew (FGR and promoting the scheme), Dale Vince ( who is proposing the scheme), Simon Pickering ( who works for Ecotricity), and Hugh Barton who is in favour of building on areas like this as per his proposals for other parts of Stonehouse.
We are yet to even see detailed plans .. The illustration you continue to use is just a concept ( pure fiction ).
This area remains outside of any area earmarked for development in the old and emerging Stroud Local Plan.
Let’s see the full planning application, compare it to local and national planning policy, and see the process through.

If you have views, or just want to find out more, do come along to our meeting on November 26th!  It’s at 7:30pm,  Old Town Hall, The Shambles, Stroud GL5 1AP.  Members £2, Non-members £3.

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