Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Eco-town plan 'not a done deal'

Weston Front action group protest
Tougher green standards have been set for eco-towns

A deal to build an eco-town in Oxfordshire has yet to be done, Housing Minister Margaret Beckett has said.

She indicated plans to build it at Weston Otmoor were unlikely after the bid was ranked at the bottom of a government shortlist of 12.

However, she said a new proposal from Cherwell Council for north west Bicester could prove successful.

Mrs Beckett said the government agreed with the council's opinion that north west Bicester was a better alternative.

"One of the sites that has been put forward, has a lot of issues to address if it is to be considered," she said.

"The other, which has been put forward by the local authority, they say they believe it is a better alternative and we agree with them.

"But that doesn't mean it is a done deal, there are still serious issues for that proposal to address."

Ministers said Weston Otmoor would only be suitable with "substantial and exceptional innovation".

New green homes
Twelve sites have been shortlisted for eco-towns

Parkridge, the developer behind the Weston Otmoor bid, said: "Our investment in public transport infrastructure... sets us apart from many other bids."

The Cherwell Council site on the edge of Bicester proposes 5,000 homes and has been declared "suitable", while the Weston Otmoor site proposal is for between 10,000 and 15,000 homes.

Tony Henman, father of former top British tennis star Tim, who is acting as spokesman for the Weston Front group, opposing the Weston Otmoor development, said he was pleased with Mrs Beckett's announcement.

"Margaret Becket seems to have responded to the massive weight of evidence that Weston Otmoor is not the right place for an eco-town by requesting that the developer address the significant weaknesses of the plan," he said.

"However, the biggest problem is the surrounding infrastructure is completely unsuitable and I don't see a way that this can be resolved."

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