The plan is to build ten 'eco-towns' in the next decade
Ministers have rejected plans to build "eco-towns" on three controversial sites in Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Derbyshire, the BBC has learned.
Micheldever Station, Grovewood in Derbyshire national forest and Shipton Quarry are among 40 rejected applications, sources say.
Most were on greenbelt land, threatened wildlife or were similar to projects previously denied planning permission.
The environmentally-friendly towns will be the first new towns since the 1960s.
On Thursday the government will publish 15 locations where it believes the first "eco-towns" - low-energy, carbon-neutral developments built from recycled materials - could be located.
After a consultation period, that will be reduced to ten, which will be announced later this year.
Shipton Quarry in Oxfordshire is partly within the constituency of Conservative leader David Cameron.
"Eco-towns", which will still have to go through normal planning procedures, are to be built over the next decade as part of the government's plans to build 3 million new homes by 2020.
In September last year Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the number of towns to be built would be doubled from five to ten, because of the positive response to the original announcement.
He said it would help boost housebuilding to 240,000 homes a year.
BBC political correspondent James Landale said government sources emphasised that most of the successful applications would be located on industrial sites and former Ministry of Defence land.
But they have proved controversial and most of the planned sites will almost certainly face local opposition, something that has been worrying Labour strategists, he said.
Sources said some had argued for a delay in releasing the list in the run-up to the local elections.
In January protesters in south Derbyshire delivered a 2,000-signature petition to Downing Street against the Grovewood plans for up to 5,700 homes, which they argued would "rip the heart out of the National Forest".
Eagle Star estates had submitted a proposal to build 12,500 new homes to create Micheldever Station market town - a petition against it on the Downing Street website attracted 2,591 signatures. Opponents said it would destroy the local countryside.
The Shipton Quarry proposal was for at least 5,000 homes as well as schools, shops, a new railway station and nature reserve, to be built in an old quarry.
In February developers dropped plans for a 7,000 home town in Wardle, near Nantwich in Cheshire, in the face of strong local opposition.