The government will not force through 10 eco-towns in the face of public opposition if proposed schemes do not make the grade, ministers have decided.
According to sources, the communities department will abandon plans to shortlist 10 eco-towns in October if their developers do not bring the schemes up to scratch.
Housing minister Caroline Flint told Radio 4 this week that there would be “up to” 10 eco-towns and added it was possible that they would be built “over a period”.
A source said: “A consensus has emerged that these schemes must be genuine exemplars.”
Sources suggested that two schemes were in danger of being thrown off the programme. These were New Marston in Bedfordshire by Gallaghers and Curborough near Lichfield by Banks Developments.
The government-appointed “challenge panel”, set up to improve the quality of eco-town bids, said earlier this week that Curborough was “not yet an eco-town” and lacked “innovative transport solutions”. On New Marston it concluded: “An eco-town should be a trailblazing development.
At present, New Marston looks like a typical commercial scheme.”
It is also understood that the communities department has commissioned Pricewaterhouse Coopers to make detailed financial appraisals of all the bids to assess if they are realistic in light of the credit crunch.
The assessment will also consider how much government funding is likely to be required to meet standards.
The government has been pushed on the back foot by the level of public opposition to eco-towns, with protesters against the Middle Quinton development lodging a bid for judicial review with the High Court this week.