Boss of housing superagency to vet applications, as consultation on sites faces fresh delay

The boss of the government’s planned housing and regeneration agency is to be given the role of weeding out substandard plans for eco-towns.

Sir Bob Kerslake, the chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), is to help ensure that previously refused applications are thoroughly vetted before being made the basis of the government’s 10 planned new towns.

One source said: “The HCA is going to take on the implementation of eco-towns from the communities department. Bob is a key driver in this as he has been very troubled by the way the whole process has gone. He wants to make it much tighter and more rigorous.”

A separate source at the HCA confirmed that the agency had been given greater input into the process, but did not specify the exact nature of the role. A communities department spokesperson confirmed the HCA was an “interested party”.

The news comes as the government struggles to prepare its delayed consultation on the suggested locations for the eco-towns, which was originally supposed to come out in February. It now seems unlikely that the government will announce the locations by 10 April, the last date on which an announcement can be made before the local elections on 1 May.

A separate source close to the process said the delays were to make sure that there would be no objections to the sites from other government departments and agencies. The source said: “They need to be sure nobody is going to say there are fundamental problems after the consultation.”