Warwickshire residents have been “left in limbo” after the Government delayed its decision on whether to press ahead with a 6,000-home eco-town in the county, the Tories have claimed.
Shadow Housing Minister Grant Schapps claimed the controversial eco-town programme was in disarray, following the announcement that a final shortlist of locations will be delayed until the new year.
Sites under consideration include Long Marston, near Stratford-upon-Avon, where developers St Modwen and the Bird Group hope to build a new town to be named Middle Quinton.
It is one of 13 proposals across the country. Another three schemes, including a planned eco-town near Lichfield, Staffordshire, have already been withdrawn by developers.
Ministers had originally planned to approve 10 schemes in October, but this has now been put back to the new year.
Housing Minister Caroline Flint announced the delay in a statement slipped out last month, as the House of Commons went into recess.
Mr Shapps said: “The one certainty is that confusion reigns at the heart of Labour’s controversial eco-town project.
“Local residents have been left in limbo as Caroline Flint performs U-turn on U-turn. She must set out a clear timetable for the eco-town project and end the uncertainty hanging over local communities.”
He added: “We want to build more green homes and create the sustainable communities of tomorrow but with the support of local people. Labour have arrogantly ploughed ahead riding roughshod over the voice local communities.”
The Long Marston proposal has sparked widespread opposition in the Stratford area, and campaigners are now planning to protest at the Labour Party conference in Manchester next month. There will also be protests at the Conservative conference in Birmingham and Liberal Democrat gathering in Bournemouth.
Celebrities including cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, author Jilly Cooper, Bergerac actor John Nettles and Dame Judi Dench are all backing the campaign.
But it is emerging as a favourite to be on the final list, despite fierce opposition from Warwickshire County Council and Stratford-on-Avon council.
The Government said the delay had been caused by the addition of two new proposals for eco-towns in Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire, and significant changes to a planned development in Rossington, south Yorkshire, where developers have scaled back a proposed 15,000-home development.
As a result, a “second consultation stage” is now set to run from September until December.
Ministers argue that opponents of eco-towns tend to own properties already, and do not speak on behalf of people struggling to get into the housing ladder.
Ms Flint said: “With a minimum of 30 per cent affordable housing, eco-towns will provide homes for a generation who are currently facing difficulties – young families, singles and the elderly, who all deserve a good quality home. The UK needs more homes because people are living longer and more people are choosing to live alone.
“Eco-towns will meet part of our housing need by creating attractive, new communities with all the facilities that people look for when choosing a place to live.”
Opponents of the Long Marston scheme, including MP Peter Luff (Con Mid Worcestershire) have claimed that it will do nothing to help the environment, because residents will be forced to drive to work and shop in nearby towns and cities.
However it emerged last week that the developers plan to provide an environmentally-friendly tram link between the new town and Stratford, if the project goes ahead.
Hybrid electric-bio fuel vehicles will ferry commuters on a former rail track, running from Stratford to Middle Quinton and on to Honeybourne, near Evesham, Worcestershire. Developers also point out that the town would be built on brownfield land, and not unspoilt countryside.