Yvette Cooper announces plans for new zero-carbon community and offers householders £15m to green existing homes

Plans to construct a new "eco-quarter" and spend money greening existing homes in the Thames Gateway have been announced by housing minister Yvette Cooper.

Speaking at the Thames Gateway Forum, Cooper said the Communities Department would be asking for bids from councils in the Gateway to build a new zero-carbon community.

The initiative is in addition to plans for 10 eco-towns previously announced by prime minister Gordon Brown, and the construction will be addition to the 160,000 homes the government has already said it wants built in the gateway by 2016.

The announcement came as Cooper unveiled a £500m funding package from the Communities Department to assist the planned development in the region.

In a separate move, Thames Gateway chief executive Judith Armitt said £15m of this would be set aside to pay for improvements to the environmental performance of 5,000 existing homes. Again councils will be invited to bid to take part in the trial, with the homes to be split across five areas.

£35m of the funding package will be to pay for efforts to enhance the natural environment of the Gateway, including the creation of a Thames Estuary park along the Thames waterfront, with architect Sir Terry Farrell appointed to act as design champion.

Former Communities Department chief planner Paul Hudson has also been appointed executive director of delivery for Thames Gateway as part of a government bid to respond to criticisms of the programme from the National Audit Office.

Yvette Cooper said: "In the same way that Dongtan is a beacon of what can be done in terms of sustainable new development, we want the Thames Gateway to be a beacon for cutting carbon emissions in an existing community."