The government is considering buying up land for housing development at bargain prices during the credit crunch, in order to ensure there is a development pipeline of new housing once demand from housebuyers picks up.

The plan was revealed by housing minister Caroline Flint’s at a fringe meeting at the Labour conference last week, and reported in Building.

According to estate agent Savills, land prices have fallen by up to 40% in some areas.

Meanwhile, another eco-town proposal is running into difficulties. Construction News reports that Oxfordshire County Council is involved in a payments row with developer Parkridge over the proposed 15 000 home Weston Otmoor Scheme, with the leader of the council calling it a “fairytale” proposal. The row comes after two other councils – Manby in Lincolnshire and Curborough in Staffordshire – have apparently withdrawn their support from eco-town proposals in their areas.

But the government’s programme to build five eco-towns by 2016 has received a boost from a new coalition of charities and pressure groups - led by Shelter and the Town and Country Planning Association - concerned that a progressive idea is becoming mired in Nimbyism and local politics.