Developers may lose appetite for new towns as local and political opposition mounts

The future of the government’s eco-towns programme is in the balance after the Conservatives formally withdrew support for it.

The declaration came as one of the councils shortlisted for an eco-town withdrew its bid, and a consortium of public bodies in Cambridgeshire, including a housing quango, submitted a dossier outlining their reasons for opposing the plans.

Developers behind the shortlisted schemes are now debating what resources to invest in working up their plans, given the likelihood that a Tory government would halt them.

The average cost of bidding and working up an eco-town planning application is likely to be in excess of £1.5m. A source close to a bid team said: “This could be supercasinos all over again. There’s no way these will get planning permission in the life of this government.”

Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, said: “The scheme won’t come even remotely near to building large numbers of genuinely eco-friendly homes.

I think it is fair to say that eco-towns will now never see the light of day.”

Last Friday, East Lindsey council withdrew its bid for an eco-town at Manby, Lincolnshire. Local protests against the schemes culminated in a march on parliament on Monday.

Cambridgeshire Horizons, the body charged with ensuring 50,000 homes are built around Cambridge, responded to a consultation process that closed on Monday by outlining opposition on behalf of councils to the Hanley Grange eco-town. It said the town would damage growth plans in the area.