Coventry is to turn down an offer of Government money to help it build thousands of homes in a so-called “eco suburb”.

Council leaders were furious after Ministers claimed they had agreed to build up to 3,000 new homes on green belt land.

The planned eco suburb in Keresley, north Coventry, provoked fierce opposition from local residents after it was included in the council’s planning strategy.

But Tory-led Coventry insists it only drew up the proposals under pressure from the Government, which has ordered every English region to embark on a major home-building programme.

Councils across the West Midlands have been given a target for the creation of new homes, and Coventry has been ordered to provide 33,500 - even though it says it can only build 22,000 without using the green belt.

Now, Ministers have named Coventry as a council which is set to be part of a new wave of eco towns - and offered it a share of £10 million to help move the plans along.

The announcement was made by Housing Minister John Healey, who said Coventry was one of nine councils to be part of a “second wave”, after four eco towns were confirmed for Hampshire, Cornwall, Norfolk and Oxfordshire in July.

Linking the plans to the international climate change conference in Copenhagen, he said: “The further nine areas are looking at proposals to design and develop to the tough new eco town standards. This signals real and radical momentum to change and to re-think how we design our towns and homes for the future.

“We must push for international change at Copenhagen, but also act locally here in Britain too. In July, I encouraged councils to be at the forefront of Britain’s green revolution and use government backing to investigate eco town potential for mainstream developments.

“I welcome the interest of these nine authorities. They have recognised that eco towns in the future will not be exceptional. We said we wanted to see up to ten eco towns by 2020, so we will now work closely with these councils and communities to develop their bids and ensure that the public can have their say at every stage.”

But Coun Kevin Foster, deputy leader of Coventry City Council, said: “Our aim is to build housing on brownfield land or as part of regeneration projects, such as a scheme in the city centre.

“We included the eco suburb scheme as a last resort, not as something we want to progress immediately.

“My hope is that we have a change of government next year so that Conservatives let councils make their own decisions and we are not forced to build housing on the green belt.

“Whatever happens, we are not going to accept the Government’s funding because we have no intention of pressing ahead with the scheme at this stage.”

Eco towns and suburbs are designed to be environmentally-friendly, so that homes are fitted with “smart meters” to track energy use and charging points are provided for electric cars.

Critics say that all new properties need to conform to environmental standards anyway, and eco towns are simply traditional new towns with a different name.