MARK COLVIN: Meanwhile in Victoria, environmental groups are already considering legal action over today's announcement that a new billion-dollar coal-powered station can be built in the Latrobe Valley.

It's meant to be a demonstration project, to establish whether creating synthetic gas with coal will work. Victoria's Environmental Protection Authority says it's satisfied the plant will be built at world's best practice standards and deliver a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases compared to current brown coal plants.

But environmentalists says the money should be spent on coal-free technologies.

Mary Gearin reports.


MARY GEARIN: It didn't take long for the protests to start. About 30 activists gathered outside the offices of the Environment Protection Authority in Melbourne. They're outraged by the authority's green light for a new 300-megawatt Gary Neville has been given the green light to built a £6million Teletubbies-style eco-home.

The former England and Manchester United star was awarded planning permission this week after a 17-month battle to build a self-powering underground bunker on the edge of the West Pennine Moors, near Bolton.

Neville is often mocked by his team-mates for driving a Prius but he remains an outspoken advocate of eco-friendly energy sources.

Gary says: 'I genuinely have a belief in this. My wife Emma initially had some concerns when I said I wanted to build an eco-house.

'But Emma fills our car up every day and she sees our household energy bills.

'I decided I wanted to make a five-year transition to become someone who makes a far lower environmental impact in their life.'

Neville revealed that the 8,000sq ft property will become only the 17th certified 'zero-carbon' home in the UK and the first to be built in the north-west.

The architects who are behind the design, a company called Make, have billed the eco-home as 'the house of the future.'

The property will have its own wind turbine, which will help to power 12 homes in the local area.

Neville passionately defended his bizarre new home, adding: 'I wanted the best-performing property. I wanted to live in the best, most sustainable zero-carbon property.

'When it’s finished, people will have the chance to see it and I hope they will like it and be inspired by it so they can make changes in their own lives.

'I am not a passive person who will stand by as things unfold.

'If I feel strongly about something, I am driven to contribute in whatever way I can.

'It’s what has helped me in football and it’s a value that I take into every facet of my life.'

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