THE government’s eco-town shortlist has been delayed in the latest setback to hit the project.

The shortlist, due to be published this year, will now come out early in 2009 after the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said more time was needed to consider new applications or reconsider those whose details have been revised.

Chris Atkinson, a spokesman for DCLG, confirmed: "The final decision on the potential locations for eco towns will be made in early 2009, after which each scheme will have to submit planning applications.”

It was originally thought eco-town applications would circumvent existing planning laws but after a lengthy campaign of opposition from both residents and local authorities, that has changed.

The Better Accessible Responsible Development (BARD) Campaign, opposed to the development of a 6,000-home eco-town at Long Marston, launched their own judicial review of the government’s eco-town policy in May.

The review sought to clarify whether eco-town applications would comply with a local authority’s own planning procedures. A similar legal challenge was considered by the Local Government Association (LGA) in July.

Since that time the original shortlist of 16 possible eco-town sites around the country has dropped to 13 and now Housing Minister Caroline Flint is talking of ‘up to 10 eco-towns’ suggesting support for the idea may be dwindling still further.

David Cranage, Pebworth Parish councillor and BARD member, said: ““Lord Rogers said at the start that eco-towns would be one of the biggest mistakes Government could make, how prescient he was.

“Building 10 new-town ghettos across the countryside never was the smart way to resolve housing demand, as countless expert bodies have pointed out. Brown should backtrack in the face of continued criticism and return to a local, plan-led approach to development.”