Four communities in southern England are to share £60m of Government cash to build 'eco show homes' as part of the wider ecotowns agenda.
Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire, St Austell in Cornwall, Rackheath in Norfolk and North West Bicester in Oxfordshire will each receive a chunk of the funding to build a total of 600 new homes to exacting environmental standards.
They will also meet some social criteria, with a third of the properties expected to meet local standards for affordable homes.
The ecotowns will showcase sustainable building techniques, from the dull-but-effective super insulation through to the more attention-grabbing features such as smart metering, renewable energy, water and waste reduction measures and electric car charging points.
Most of the eco-show homes will be sold on the open market so that hundreds of families can experience green living and get a feel for eco-homes of the future.
The funding will also improve existing transport links, including rapid routes for buses with real-time travel information, green travel hubs and facilities for electric cars and bikes.
Pioneering new energy projects will be set up so that residents take their energy from natural sources.
The cash is a major boost for the councils driving forward the innovative blueprints for the main eco-towns in their "masterplans", before seeking public approval and planning permission.
Housing Minister John Healey, said: "Last year I gave the go-ahead to the first wave of world-leading eco-towns that will set the global standard for green living while helping tackle climate change and the shortage of affordable homes.
"Since then these four areas have done a huge amount of work to plan new homes designed and built to the toughest ever environmental standards. Today I'm backing them with £60m to help get these projects off the ground.
"This is the start of the country's biggest ever eco-home building programme.
"As a first step, 600 will be built in these four areas - most will be for sale but some will be permanent eco-show homes. By 2016 there will be 10,000 new eco homes in these four pioneering areas.
"This means people will be able to experience green living for themselves and see how It can change their lives and save money.
"But green living isn't just about homes. That's why this cash will also help transform local schools and create new transport links and energy sources. By the time the eco-towns are finished green living will already be a way of life for these communities.
"Local workers, including apprentices, will help build these pioneering homes and other projects. This will arm them with the new skills in green construction, giving them a head start on their career paths."
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