Eco-towns could be forced through by controversial planning legislation, despite the Tories’ decision to axe them if the next general election was a Tory victory.

Conservatives say that the Planning Bill, passed by the Commons last week, could be used to push through plans for the infrstructure necessary for the eco-towns – in other words, new roads and water pipes.

Around 300 eco-town protesters gathered outside Parliament yesterday and handed a petition with 60,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street.

Eco-town planning will be the responsibitlity of the new Homes and Communities Agency.

Grant Shapps, the shadow Communities and Local Government secretary, said: ‘Labour will use the cover of the planning bill to impose eco-towns on local residents and an unelected quango will be able to force infrastructure decisions on everything from road building to water and sewage.’

A Department for Communities and the Regions spokesman said: ‘As we have made consistently clear throughout, schemes that make the final shortlist will then have to submit a planning application to the local authority and will be judged through the proper planning process.’

The Planning Bill may mean, however, that eco-towns could be forced through, despite the Tories’ decision to axe them if the next general election was a Tory victory.

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