Government-appointed inspectors are understood to be recommending up to 44 000 more homes in the South-west than local councils say they can cope with.

The government-appointed panel’s report, given to the DETR as Building went to press, is set to advise deputy prime minister John Prescott that 411 000 new homes will be needed by 2016. A local authorities planning review had decided only 367 000 were needed.

Planning and environmental groups are divided over the proposals.

Graeme West, director of the Town and Country Planning Association, said he was “delighted” that the inspector had recognised the need for new housebuilding.

But Tony Burton, assistant director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, said he feared the region could duplicate problems in the South-east.

Prescott is expected to make a decision in autumn.