A new town proposed by a consortium of Norfolk councils has emerged as the frontrunner to be the first of the government’s eco-towns.

Of the 12 proposals the communities department assessed as part of its second consultation on eco-towns, the plans for Rackheath were the only ones to receive an “A” classification.

This rating meant the site was deemed “generally suitable for an eco-town”.

Of the other proposals, Weston Otmoor in Oxfordshire got a “C” rating, and the rest received “B” ratings.

The communities department defined “C” as a “location only likely to be suitable as an eco-town with substantial and exceptional innovation”.

Housing minister Margaret Beckett gave the strongest hint so far that the government is unlikely to press ahead with 10 eco-towns, as originally intended.

Beckett said: ”I do not expect all of these locations to go forward – the eco-town standards are tough and some of these shortlisted schemes could struggle to meet them.”

The communities department also said the proposal for an eco-town in an urban location, in the Leeds region, would be taken forward in place of earlier plans.