THE first wave of garden villages planned to create tens of thousands of new homes in England has been given the go-ahead - with a larger scale scheme in Taunton also signed off.

Ministers have backed 14 bids across the country that will develop new communities with between 1,500 and 10,000 properties.

Larger scale garden towns in Taunton, Aylesbury, Bucks, and Harlow and Gilston, on the Essex-Herts border, have also been signed off by the Government.

The plans are expected to create a series of new communities with green spaces, good transport links and high quality affordable homes to help tackle the country's housing crisis.

Some £6 million in funding will go towards developing the new villages, which could generate 48,000 new homes, while £1.4 million has been earmarked for the towns.

Combined with seven garden towns and cities already announced, the initiative has the potential to deliver 200,000 properties, the Government said.

Homes are already being built in Aylesbury, Taunton, Bicester and Didcot in Oxfordshire, Basingstoke in Hampshire, Ebbsfleet in Kent, and north Northamptonshire.

Housing minister Gavin Barwell said: "Locally-led garden towns and villages have enormous potential to deliver the homes that communities need.

"New communities not only deliver homes, they also bring new jobs and facilities and a big boost to local economies. These places combined could provide almost 200,000 homes."

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow said: "I am delighted that Taunton has been chosen as one of the latest Garden Towns.

"The idea behind the Garden Town status and the associated injection of funding is to accelerate the delivery of housing ensuring plans are sustainable including the right infrastructure at the right time and delivery of high quality new settlements that stand out from the ordinary.

"This is the kind of status that should  make much needed new housing in areas such as Staplegrove, Monkton Heathfield and Comeytrowe more sustainable and acceptable.

"It is essential that green spaces, recreational space and allotment sites are given due weighting alongside essential facilities, services, infrastructure and park and ride facilities.

"The £350,000 funding linked to this designation will be used to unlock the full capacity of sites, providing funding for additional resources and expertise to accelerate development and avoid delays.”

Cllr Roger Habgood, Taunton Deane Council executive member for planning and transport, said: "Taunton already benefits from many of the characteristics of a Garden Town – we want to strike that balance between retaining our character and wonderful environment to our growth aspirations that will make our county town more prosperous in future.

“The concepts of a garden town, which combines the best of town and country living, have been successfully demonstrated by places such as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City.

"Garden towns are even more relevant today than when they were first introduced more than 100 years ago, precisely because of their contribution to the environment combined with sustainable growth.

“Garden Town status will contribute to the support we need to deliver the vision and supporting infrastructure. This is a huge recognition of Taunton, its aims and its place as a key player in the South West.”

Deane House leader Cllr John Williams said: "This is a tremendous opportunity, not just for Taunton but for the wider South West.

“Taunton is surrounded by beautiful countryside which, with its location and excellent road, rail and air links, is part of what makes the town such an attractive place to invest.

"Garden Town status will emphasise the importance of development maximising the potential of the area’s green spaces and Taunton’s easy access to the countryside.

“It will also help to stimulate improvement and growth of the town centre and help us to deliver the essential infrastructure that we all know is necessary to support our ambitious plans.”

Cllr John Osman, leader of Somerset County Council, said:  “We need new homes and jobs for the long-term prosperity of the county and a new garden town is part of our vision.

"The announcement today is great news and we will be working closely with district colleagues to take the next steps.”

The new villages are Long Marston in Stratford-on-Avon; Oxfordshire Cotswold in west Oxfordshire; Deenethorpe in east Northamptonshire; Culm in Mid Devon; Welborne near Fareham in Hampshire; West Carclaze in Cornwall; Dunton Hills near Brentwood, Essex; Spitalgate Heath in South Kesteven District, Lincolnshire; Halsnead in Knowsley, Merseyside; Longcross in Runnymede and Surrey Heath; Bailrigg in Lancaster; Infinity Garden Village in south Derbyshire; St Cuthberts near Carlisle; and North Cheshire in Cheshire East.