Four sites have been approved by the UK government for the construction of low-carbon eco-towns.

The news follows new plans announced by the UK Government earlier this week to lower harmful emissions and boost jobs across the sector.

Housing minister John Healey announced that developments each comprising 5,000 houses are to move ahead to the planning stage in the English towns of Norfolk, Cornwall, Hampshire and Oxfordshire.

The plans are expected to serve as a platform from which to pioneer and launch the energy-efficient design and infrastructure necessary for lower carbon emissions.

From 2016 all new residential buildings are to be built to zero-carbon specifications as part of plans to reduce the quarter of all UK emissions that come from housing.

The eco-developments will be fully equipped with smart metres to measure electricity consumption and community heat sources.

Homes will also feature renewable energy technologies to draw power from the sun, wind and earth.

The government plans to have ten eco-towns under development by 2020.