Hamphire, Norfolk, Cornwall and Oxfordshire look set to be the first four counties to receive national funding to develop sustainable eco-towns under the Government's widely-publicised programme.
Those developing the four sites will be able to bid for a share of £60m to support local infrastructure.
The developments will be required to meet unprecedented standards of sustainability and will be zero carbon and water neutral.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "The revolutionary concept of eco towns is a unique opportunity for us to confront two of the most urgent priorities as we embark on building Britain's future.
"Eco-towns will help to relieve the shortage of affordable homes to rent and buy and to minimise the effects of climate change on a major scale.
"They will provide modern homes with lower energy bills, energy efficient offices and brand new schools, community centres and services.
"I am delighted that Whitehill-Bordon, St Austell, Rackheath and North West Bicester have all been chosen to be pioneers for these new green communities and I hope people will seize the opportunity to be at the forefront of Britain's green revolution."
The eco-towns project has been controversial and emotive, with many proposed sites sparking strong local opposition.
The four sites announced today are all in areas where the local planning authorities have expressed a keenness for the developments.
Housing Minister John Healey said: "If Britain is going to be successful and safe from climate change in the future, we have to change the way we live now.
"More than a quarter of carbon emissions come from houses, so we are not only making improvements now, we are establishing pioneering places that in ten years' time will set the standard for every new town and community.
"We are leading the way on the world stage with these developments by radically rethinking how we design, plan and build our homes we can create zero carbon developments, which combine affordable housing with new green infrastructures and a higher quality of life.
"I recognise that the proposals can raise strong opinions, but climate change threatens us all and with our commitment to the eco-towns we are taking steps to meet this challenge and help build more affordable housing.
"We said we wanted to see up to ten eco-towns by 2020. Despite the recession I am giving the green light today to the first four pioneering proposals and making the offer to work with and help fund six more.
"The standards are high but I am confident of wider interest from developers and councils."
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