Critics seize on statistics that predict higher than expected demand in the North to oppose demolitions

Plans to demolish hundreds of homes in northern England came under fresh attack this week after figures revealed higher than expected demand for houses in the North and the Midlands.

In a report published this week the Office for National Statistics estimates an extra 5 million households will be created by 2026.

The ONS says the bulk of housing need will be in the South-east but it predicts that growth areas in the North and Midlands will need 20,000 extra homes a year on top of current growth.

Critics of the ODPM's housing market renewal programme believe this strengthens their argument against the demolition of rundown terrace housing in northern towns.

The plans have been resisted by those whose homes face demolition and heritage campaigners. Some pathfinder renewal projects have already rejigged their plans as a result of rising house prices in market renewal areas. Brendan Nevin, head of housing at consultancy Ecotec and one of the key architects of the market renewal programme, said that the evidence of increased housing demand would lead some pathfinders to reconsider their plans.

He said: "Manchester will have a good, long hard think about this, but I'm not sure whether many people will go to Liverpool or Burnley."

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said that the publication of the figures underlined the need for the planning system to be more responsive to market needs.

The forecasts over the growth in the number of households, which are based on the 2001 census, show an extra 209,000 will be created every year for the next 20 years. Previous estimates indicated household growth of 189,000 a year.

The increase is largely fuelled by immigration and a rapid rise in the number of people living alone. The number of people who will live on their own is predicted to increase from 6 million to 10 million.

Nearly 60% of the housing demand will occur in the London and the South. Demand for housing is expected to grow fastest in London where the ONS figures show that 36,000 households will be created every year.