The government will name three or four sites on Thursday 18 July in the South and South West that will be transformed into eco-towns.  

Frontrunners are in Whitehill-Bordon, East Hampshire; China Clay Community, St Austell, Cornwall; North Bicester, Cherwell council and Rackheath, Greater Norwich.  

The timetable has slipped. The first towns will be “under way” rather than built by 2016. The remainder will be “under way” before 2020.  

Rural campaigners warned of local protests throughout the country because the zero-carbon developments could be a threat to the countryside, they believe.