Four ‘eco-town’ sites have been announced and will go through to the next stage of planning.

The sites at Rackheath in Norfolk, Whitehill Bordon in East Hampshire, north west Bicester, and the China Clay Community scheme near St Austell in Cornwall will now go to a full public consultation and local planning approval.

The government had planned to build 10 eco-towns. However the plans have been dogged by protests and a legal challenge earlier this year.

John Healey, housing minister, said: “I recognise that the proposals can raise strong opinions, 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.”

Healy said that despite the recession, the government would still aim to fund a further six eco-towns in order to meet its original pledge.

The towns would include smart meters to track energy use, community heat sources and charging points for electric cars. The eco-own homes would take their energy from renewable sources, with residents able to sell their surplus energy into the grid.

All homes will reach at least level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, including standards for energy efficiency, recycling, water efficiency and reduced pollution. The government claims this would see a typical saving of between £200 and £500 a year in energy bills.