updated 7/24/2007 11:43:44 AM ET 2007-07-24T15:43:44

Britain will build 2 million new homes by 2016, developing major new residential areas in the country for the first time in 40 years, including five specially designed "eco-towns," the government said Monday.

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said the country needed around 3 millions new houses by 2020, principally because heavy demand continues to force up prices and squeeze young people out of the housing market.

Cooper said from 2016, all newly built homes must be carbon neutral, meaning they would produce a net total of zero carbon emissions, which most scientists tie to global warming.

"No one should be in any doubt about the historic scale of this vision. We are proposing the first new towns in 40 years," Cooper told lawmakers at the House of Commons.

Municipal authorities and developers will be asked to submit proposals to build five new "eco towns," she said.

The towns, each with a minimum of 5,000 to 10,000 houses, will be built to meet zero carbon standards and will each showcase a specific project promoting energy preservation or green technology, the Communities and Local government office said.

Projects to be showcased could include use of communal heat pump systems or car pool schemes, the office said.

Cooper has studied housing developments in Stockholm and Malmo, Sweden, and in Niuew Terbregge, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to examine work on mass public transport, renewable energy and carbon emission reduction projects.

Only one site has been identified so far for a new "eco-town," the Communities office said: the disused RAF Oakington airstrip and barracks, close to Cambridge, in eastern England.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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