First and second-wave towns to be announced on Thursday said to include sites in East Hampshire, Cornwall, Oxfordshire and Norfolk

The government will on Thursday identify a number of sites across the country to take part in two waves of its eco towns programme, with the first wave of three or four under way by 2016, according to newspaper reports.

The front-runners for the first wave of eco-towns are Whitehill Bordon, in East Hampshire; the China Clay Community in St Austell, Cornwall; North Bicester, Cherwell; and Rackheath, Norfolk, according to the Times newspaper.

In total 10 eco-towns will be named, matching prime minister Gordon Brown's original pledge, with those in the second phase supposed to be underway by 2020. Eco-towns are classified as free-standing settlements of more than 5,000 homes built to a low-carbon standard defined by the government.

Six of the original 15 developers have already withdrawn from the eco-towns programme since the shortlist was made in April last year, although two more have since joined the scheme.