Two developers pull out of schemes and another two consider their options

The government’s plan for 10 eco-towns took a further blow this week as more developers get cold feet about bidding for them.

The number of consortiums in contention for the towns has now fallen to 11 from an original 15, after the decision earlier this week by promoters of the Marston Vale and Curborough schemes to withdraw their bids. Two others, those in Selby and Manby, had already withdrawn.

However the promoters behind another two are also considering their options in the light of public opposition and the cost of bidding.

The Fairfield Partnership, which is pushing the development of North East Elsenham near Stansted airport, admitted that it was reviewing how to proceed with its plans.

The partnership has the support of Uttlesford council for a smaller, 3,000-home development on the site. A source close to the scheme said: “Fairfield is trying to decide if it would be better to submit the scheme under the normal system – they’d rather have 2,000-3,000 homes with local authority backing.”

Stephen Biart, strategic land director for Fairfield, admitted the proposal was under “constant review” and abandoning it was an option, but he denied it was owing to “dissatisfaction” with the government. He said it would cost £1.5m “or maybe more” to work up the eco-town planning application.

In addition, it is understood that St Modwen, the developer behind the Middle Quinton eco-town in Warwickshire, has requested a meeting with housing minister Caroline Flint to reassure itself that the government was fully committed to the programme.

A source close to St Modwen said: “We need to set out to Flint what the cost is of carrying on, and find out if the government has the appetite and the power to continue with the programme.”