REAL ESTATE – The £12bn (€17.4bn) BP Pension Fund has failed to gain preliminary approval to build a new town in southern England.

The Hertfordshire development – proposed by Ropemaker Properties, a nominee for the fund – included 10,000 houses and supporting infrastructure including schools and retail.

But a panel review by the regional East of England Development Agency, published today, recommended that central government reject the proposals.

It urged the government “to recognise the limits of housing growth and to provide the funding for infrastructure necessary to support new housing in the region”. The recommendation will now pass to the government for a final decision.

The pension fund of the global oil giant was advised by consulting firm Savills. It has £786m in UK property, according to

The scheme acquired the land as an agricultural real estate investment in 1979. It first mooted development proposals involving 5,000 houses in the early 1990s but local government bodies rejected both these and a subsequent set of proposals for 18,000 dwellings.

The “Stop Harlow North” campaign claimed the new development would put unacceptable pressure on local utilities and hamper regeneration efforts in nearby Harlow.

Spokesman Nigel Clarke said: “This is the third time in 13 years Ropemaker have been told no. I hope they’ll now work with the community to use it as a green-belt resource.”

He claimed Ropemaker had been in discussions to sell the land to unnamed developers.