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£60M boost for eco-towns

Some £60M of Government cash has been set aside to kick-start work on four eco-projects around the UK.

Money will be used to build more than 600 new “green” homes in and around four eco-town sites: Whitehill-Bordon, Hampshire; St Austell in Cornwall; Rackheath, Norfolk and North West Bicester in Oxfordshire.

Each home will feature smart meters to monitor energy use, water saving systems, renewable power and electric car charging points, the Department for Communities and Local Government said.

The cash will also go to boosting energy efficiency of schools in the areas, including a new “eco-standard” sixth form at one institution, improving public transport and setting up biomass projects to develop green energy.

The four final sites for eco-towns were chosen after a protracted selection process, in which a shortlist of 15 areas was bitterly contested by local communities.

The four successful bids - two of which were late entries into the scheme - were all supported by local authorities and the Government hopes the cash will provide them with a boost to drive the schemes forward.

Most of the houses will be for sale, with a third of them affordable homes, although some will remain as permanent “eco-show homes”.

Around 100 show homes will be built in existing communities - with work starting as early as next month - and 500 houses will be constructed on the eco-town sites themselves next year.

The developments still have to go to through the existing planning system.

All the new homes will have to meet at least level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, meeting high standards of insulation, water saving and energy efficiency.

Some will meet the top level 6 in the code - which requires homes to be “zero-carbon”, producing no net emissions from all energy used in the home and using renewable or low-carbon power.

Overall the new towns, which are expected to be “exemplars” of environmental development, must be zero-carbon as well as providing a percentage of affordable homes, large areas of green space and ways to cut car travel.

A second wave of eco-town developments are also planned.

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