Government names 15 sites shortlisted for the 10 zero-carbon eco-towns

The shortlist of 15 sites in England for the construction of environmentally friendly eco-towns has been announced by the government.

Among the sites shortlisted from the 57 bids to house zero-carbon new towns are Bordon in Hampshire, Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire, Ford in West Sussex and Hanley Grange in Cambridgeshire.

Also selected were Marston Vale and New Marston in Bedfordshire, Curborough in Staffordshire, Rossington in Yorkshire and Weston Otmoor in Oxfordshire.

Up to 10 of the sites will be finally selected over the next six months. The eco-towns will then be built over the next decade, becoming the UK's first new towns since the 1960s. Each will provide up to 20,000 zero-carbon homes, between 30% and 50% of which will be affordable, with an emphasis on large family homes.

The initial plan was that just five eco-towns would be built, but this figure was doubled last September because of the strong bidding response.

Among the 42 rejected locations were Micheldever Station, Grovewood in Derbyshire national forest and Shipton Quarry. Most of the rejected sites were either on greenbelt land, posed a threat to local wildlife or had already had planning approval refused for similar projects.

Housing minister Caroline Flint said the eco-towns would eventually provide not only affordable housing but “the highest green standards we can expect for the way we want to live our lives in the future”.

A panel of experts is to be set up to vet potential developers for the eco-towns. Flint said: “Bidders will have to meet the highest standards for sustainability, affordability and creativity. This expert panel will challenge developers to the limits.”

Developers associated with the bids include Banks Developments, which has been promoting the Rushcliffe site in Nottinghamshire on behalf of landowner the Kingston Estate.

Curborough in Staffordshire has been promoted by a joint venture between Gleeson, Redrow, Banks Developments and Henry Boot.

The Town and Country Planning Association welcomed the announcement of the shortlist. Gideon Amos, chief executive, said: “With a potential to deliver around 200,000 new homes, eco-towns are an essential part of the solution to the problem of delivering affordable homes at the highest environmental standards to families and households crying out for decent homes in a good environment.”

The eco-towns proposals have provoked controversy, however. There have been fears among local opponents that the schemes would sidestep the usual planning processes, but the government has said that this will not happen.

Flint said: “Building in existing towns and cities alone simply cannot provide enough new homes. I understand this is an issue that can raise strong opinions, but everyone now has the opportunity to express their views before any decisions are made - because this is an issue that affects us all.”

There have also been concerns among environmentalists that the small size of most of the proposed eco-towns would increase car use as inhabitants use their cars extensively to travel to facilities in nearby towns.

Robert Napier, chairman of English Partnerships, responded to the announcement by calling for government to focus on how to deliver eco-towns.

He said: "Identifying 15 potential sites is no more than the beginning. Selection of the final sites must be based on the practicalities of delivery, rigorous excellence in design and planning and must involve local communities at every stage. I am looking forward to working with government to help achieve this."

The 15 eco-town sites and their promoters/developers

1. Bordon, Hampshire, East Hampshire District Council
2. Coltishall, Norfolk, Coltishall Group Plc
3. Curborough, Staffordshire, Curborough Consortium
4. Elsenham, Essex, The Fairfield Partnership
5. Ford, West Sussex, Ford Airfield Vision Group(comprising Ford Farming Group, Redrow Homes Southern Ltd and Wates Developments Ltd)
6. Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire, Jarrow Investments Ltd
7. Imerys, Cornwall, Imerys Minerals Ltd
8. Leeds City Region, West Yorkshire
9. Manby, Lincolnshire, East Lindsey District Council
10. Marston Vale and New Marston, Bedfordshire, O & H Properties Ltd
11. Middle Quinton, Warwickshire, St Modwen and The Bird Group of Companies
12. Pennbury, Leicestershire, Co-operative Estates,part of the Co-operative Group and English Partnerships
13. Rossington, Yorkshire, Rossington Ecotown Partnership (UK COAL, Persimmon, HelioSlough and Rossington Forward)
14. Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire, Banks Developments
15. Weston Otmoor, Oxfordshire, Parkridge