A senior civil servant at the ODPM has hinted that the sustainable communities plan could change after criticism from Richard Rogers’ Urban Task Force.

Richard McCarthy, the director general of sustainable communities, said he was “up for an active debate” after Rogers’ call for a radical overhaul of the areas selected for housing growth.

This comes after Building last week revealed the contents of draft report from the taskforce that was critical of regeneration policies and implied that the sustainable communities plan should be axed.

McCarthy, talking at the CityScape conference this week, said: “We are up for a challenge. We challenge them to go away and look at our six key areas for investment and then we can talk.”

He attempted to play down the differences in opinion between the ODPM and its former advisers, saying they were a lot closer than people chose to recognise.

The news comes as leading industry figures contributed to the growing objections to the government’s plan.

We challenge them to go away and look at our six areas

ODPM official Richard McCarthy

Trevor Beattie, corporate strategy director at English Partnerships, said he agreed with the proposed report from the taskforce, which said the growth areas should be reduced in size and linked more to towns and cities.

He said: “We need to be much more challenging and ambitious – especially where densities are concerned. We definitely need to raise the densities in the plan. As a standard, I would say we should be aiming for 50-80 units per hectare, depending on the area.”

Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Groundwork UK, said: “The plan is now in danger of putting speed as a top priority. This would only serve to recreate the soulless communities of the past.”