The model green communities, where residents would be able to do without cars and grow their own food on allotments, were billed as the most imaginative answer to putting roofs over heads in half a century. But the plans are now in jeopardy thanks to a combination of the credit crunch, a collapsing construction industry and fierce local opposition.
Officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government have concluded only 'one or two' of the 15 shortlisted projects are genuinely viable, according to a source close to the discussions. The Eco-Towns Challenge Panel, appointed by ministers to ensure the plans were genuinely green, is understood to have reached similar conclusions. Some bidders have already dropped out, while others are said to have been alarmed by the house price crash and the collapse in sales.