Prescott warned over new homes plan

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Government-backed plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes in "sustainable communities" will damage the environment and endanger Britain's efforts to curb global warming, according to a ministerial adviser on green issues.

Government-backed plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes in "sustainable communities" will damage the environment and endanger Britain's efforts to curb global warming, according to a ministerial adviser on green issues.

The warning, from Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the official Energy Saving Trust, will embarrass John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, who have been promoting the schemes as environmentally friendly.

Mr Sellwood called the plans a "major disappointment". In a written statement to The Independent on Sunday, he said they were set to prove "at best a massive missed opportunity, and at worst reckless", and said ministers were abandoning their promises in order to build houses as cheaply and quickly as possible.

Hailed as "a very important statement" last night by Peter Ainsworth, the Tory chair of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Mr Sellwood's unusual intervention follows revelations of a hushed-up government report which suggested the plans could increase emissions of carbon dioxide, a major cause of global warming.

Last year Mr Prescott and Mr Brown launched a £22bn programme for "sustainable communities", including house building in the Thames Gateway east of London; the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor; Ashford; and Milton Keynes. The Energy Saving Trust says the Treasury is insisting on building the houses in the Thames Gateway as cheaply as possible, overriding Mr Prescott's environmental commitments.

Mr Sellwood said: "To build this number of homes will have a serious impact on the environment, which the Government should be trying to offset by implementing and then enforcing much higher environmental standards."

He said the plans could make the Government's targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide "very, very difficult to achieve indeed".

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