Whitehall leans on regional assembly to sanction the construction of an extra 23,000 homes

Government officials are putting pressure on West Midlands planners to authorise a big increase in housebuilding in the region.

The West Midlands Government Office has told the regional assembly that demand will rise steeply over the next 20 years.

The assembly is the first of England’s regional planning bodies to revise its housing plan after the publication of the latest report on household growth by the Office for National Statistics.

A report on the implications of these findings was endorsed by the assembly’s planning board last week. It says the assembly must provide “robust” evidence if it decides not to cater for the 576,000 extra households expected by 2026.

This level of demand will require the construction of 23,000 dwellings a year, 50% more than are being built now.

Under the assembly’s present plans it would have provided 381,000 homes by 2026.

The report says demand will be greatest in rural Warwickshire and Worcestershire. But it warns that relaxing restrictions in the south of the region will undermine regeneration in the Black Country and Birmingham.

Countryside campaigners have warned that housebuilders will try to cherrypick greenfield sites. Peter Langley, the vice-chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The regional assembly must stick to its guns and resist government pressure to open the floodgates.”

The assembly’s report coincided with last week’s publication of government proposals to link local authority planning delivery grants to success in meeting Whitehall’s housing delivery targets.

The consultation paper proposes that a proportion of the grant, worth £120m next year, should be earmarked for the authorities that do most to remedy housing shortfalls.