The ODPM has denied reports that it is set to authorise a 140,000-home housing growth area between Southampton and Portsmouth.

However, it has refused to rule out the possibility that it will sanction a “Solent Gateway” of 80,000 houses “at some point in the future” to add to the four housing growth areas in the South-east.

A spokesperson for the ODPM said: “Expanding the housing growth initiative is one option we have been looking at to meet our housebuilding targets.”

He added: “Partners for Urban South Hampshire have been consulting on plans to build 80,000 homes between the two cities. We are in discussions with the local authorities about the possibility of the Solent Gateway but the idea that we are about to give it the go-ahead is utter nonsense.”

The spokesperson added that the government was looking for bids from councils in the South-east for the £40m allocated in January’s “Homes For All” five-year plan to “facilitate housing growth in the region”. The deadline for bids is “the summer”.

Peter Simmons, spokesperson for the south-east branch of the National Housing Federation, said: “We have been calling for 38,600 homes to be built each year in the region to tackle the backlog of need. Eighty thousand homes at the Solent Gateway would be a good start towards delivering this.”