Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 11:12 UK

Four sites to become 'eco-towns'

England's new eco-towns

The locations of four new "eco-towns" have been announced as part of scaled-down government plans.

They are Rackheath, Norfolk; north-west Bicester, Oxfordshire; Whitehill Bordon, East Hants; and the China Clay Community near St Austell, Cornwall.

Gordon Brown had announced plans to create hundreds of thousands of homes in 10 "carbon neutral" communities.

But the zero-carbon developments - some earmarked on open countryside - have caused protests and a legal challenge.

Schemes at the four confirmed sites are proposed or broadly supported by local authorities, the government said.

However, the developments - including 4,000 homes on the disused airfield at Rackheath, near Norwich, and 5,000 in the Cornwall town - must still go through the planning process.

Construction would be under way by 2016, later than originally envisaged.

All the low-flush toilets in world can't make dumping a housing estate on green fields somehow eco-friendly
Grant Shapps
Shadow housing minister

Housing Minister John Healey wants to see a second wave of at least six eco-towns and is making up to £5m available for councils to conduct further planning work on proposals.

Rossington near Doncaster and North-East Elsenham in Essex are still developing proposals for their sites.

Mr Healey said radically redesigning housing schemes could lead to a higher quality of life.

"The proposals can raise strong opinions, but climate change threatens us all.

"With our commitment to the eco-towns we are taking steps to meet this challenge and help build more affordable housing," he added.

The towns would include smart meters to track energy use, community heat sources and charging points for electric cars. Parks, playgrounds and gardens would make up 40% of their area.

Affordable homes would take their energy from the sun, wind and earth, with residents able to sell their surplus energy into the grid.

Their development would be coupled with strict rules on public transport, with all homes located within 10 minutes' walk of bus, train or tram services.

But before the announcement shadow housing minister Grant Shapps, branded the scheme an "eco-con" and a "gimmick".


"Many of these schemes are unsustainable, unviable and unpopular, but Gordon Brown wants to impose them from Whitehall irrespective of local opinion," he said.

"All the low-flush toilets in world can't make dumping a housing estate on green fields somehow eco-friendly."

Mr Brown's idea originally met with a positive response and he expanded the scheme from five towns to 10 in September 2007.

He aimed to tackle the twin problems of housing shortages and climate change with at least 30% affordable housing.

But he has since faced criticism from environmental groups and residents who have questioned the impact on the planning system, transport links, jobs provision and environmental impact of the sites.

Protesters claim some sites were picked where conventional developments had failed to get off the ground.

Opponents have included actress Judi Dench, author Jilly Cooper and former tennis star Tim Henman's father Tony Henman.

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