Gordon Brown was this week due to announce the latest moves in his drive to build five eco towns.

The prime minister has pencilled in Thursday to make a statement that will provide more details about his plan to strengthen sustainable housing.

Brown and Yvette Cooper, his housing minister, are due to list the criteria for the sustainable communities that the government wants to develop.

The announcement will pave the way for a summit of those local authorities that have told the government that they want to be included on the shortlist of sites for the towns.

A broader package of measures to support housing growth is expected to include £50m of support for local authority planning departments in fast growing areas.

A working party of planning experts set up by Cooper to work out the criteria for the eco towns has been told to conclude its work by the end of this month.

English Partnerships published the masterplan for the first of the eco towns at Northstowe in Cambridgeshire last week. The town will provide 9,500 homes on 42 7ha. The housing, consisting of a range of private sale, key worker and social rented accommodation, will be grouped into three neighbourhoods using a template set out in the Northstowe Area Action Plan.

Building revealed last month that the Northstowe masterplan will fall short of previously agreed environmental goals.

Cooper’s strengthened housing role means that the implications of key housing policy changes are more likely to be taken into consideration.

One senior industry source said Cooper had been in line to win a full Cabinet role but had been damaged at by her role in the home information packs fiasco.