Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 18:38 UK

Wildlife Trust's 'eco-town' fears

Existing eco-homes built on The Wintles estate in Bishop's Castle
The shortlist of 15 sites will be trimmed down to 10 locations

Nationally important wildlife will be destroyed if an "eco-town" is built in Oxfordshire, claims The Wildlife Trust.

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxford Wildlife Trust has launched a campaign against Weston Otmoor becoming one of first new towns in 40 years.

The area is among 15 locations which were shortlisted by the government.

The trust fears its own Woodsides Meadow Nature Reserve is under a direct threat from the plans and wants people to write to their MPs by the 23 June.

A public consultation about the Weston Otmoor eco-town proposal closes on Monday 30 June.

What we object to is inappropriate and poorly thought out development
Chief executive Philippa Lyons

A spokesman for the trust said the proposals "indicate high density housing, a tram line and a railway on top of this beautiful wildflower meadow".

"This ancient landscape has been undisturbed for centuries and is brimming with wildflowers such as green-winged and common-spotted orchids, pepper saxifrage and dropwort," she added.

"The Weston Otmoor eco-town is proposed next to Weston-on-the-Green, between Bicester and Oxford, and would bring 15,000 new homes into the area"

Philippa Lyons, chief executive of The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxford Wildlife Trust said: "What we object to is inappropriate and poorly thought out development where the loss of wildlife could be disastrous for the local area."

Bordon, Coltishall, Curborough, Elsenham plus Ford in West Sussex have made the list, as well as Hanley Grange, Imerys, Leeds and Manby.

Marston Vale and New Marston in Bedfordshire, Middle Quinton, Pennbury, Rossington and Rushcliffe make up the 15.

The 10 sites for the "eco-towns" will be finalised in the next six months.

Ministers wants five of them built by 2016, with the other half completed by 2020.

The largest will provide between 15,000 and 20,000 new homes, with officials saying the towns should be "zero-carbon" developments and should be exemplary in one area of sustainability, such as energy production or waste disposal.

They also want 30% to 40% of each eco-town to be allocated as affordable housing.

The housing minister, Caroline Flint, said the new towns would help to tackle climate change, as well as providing affordable new housing.

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