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Locations of four "eco-towns" announced

Four sites have been confirmed today as the locations of the Government’s new carbon neutral “eco-towns”.

Housing Minister John Healey announced that Rackheath in Norfolk, North West Bicester in Oxfordshire, Whitehill-Bordon in East Hants and St Austell (China Clay) in Cornwall will go through to the next planning phase, full public consultation and local planning approval.

The 4 locations will now share £60m of start up growth funding, which will be spent by 2011 on demonstrator projects, exhibition homes and improving local facilities and infrastructure.

Pioneering green design and infrastructure

The sites will pioneer innovative environmentally friendly design and infrastructure, with zero carbon schools and public buildings, and homes powered by the sun, wind and earth. Residents will be able to sell their surplus energy into the grid.

Eco-towns will also have community heat sources, charging points for electric cars and frequent, conveniently located public transport. Parks, playgrounds and gardens will make up 40% of the towns, and all homes will reach at least level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.

“We are establishing pioneering places that in ten years’ time will set the standard for every new town and community,” said Healey.

“We are establishing pioneering places that in ten years’ time will set the standard for every new town.”

John Healey, Housing Minister

“We said we wanted to see up to ten eco-towns by 2020. Despite the recession I am giving the green light today to the first four pioneering proposals and making the offer to work with and help fund six more.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the project “a unique opportunity”.

“Eco-towns will help to relieve the shortage of affordable homes to rent and buy and to minimise the effects of climate change on a major scale,” he said.

“I hope people will seize the opportunity to be at the forefront of Britain’s green revolution.”

Mired in controversy

However, Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps criticised the scheme this morning.

“Gordon Brown’s so-called revolutionary eco-town programme is an eco-con, mired in controversy,” he said.

Shapps called the eco-towns “unsustainable, unviable and unpopular” and said: “All the low-flush toilets in the world can’t make dumping a housing estate on green fields somehow eco-friendly.

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

Grant Shapps, Shadow Housing Minister

“This scheme is a distraction from the more important task of reducing carbon emissions from our existing housing stock.”

Healey acknowledged the controversy but insisted the project was worthwhile.

“I recognise that the proposals can raise strong opinions,” he said.

“But climate change threatens us all and with our commitment to the eco-towns we are taking steps to meet this challenge and help build more affordable housing.”

Healey also announced stricter new energy standards on new homes, which must all be carbon neutral from 2016, and launched a review of the climate change planning policy statement to reflect the Government’s Low Carbon Industrial Strategy, which was published yesterday.

Rossington near Doncaster and North-East Elsenham in Essex are developing proposals for their sites to become eco-towns.

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