BASINGSTOKE MP Maria Miller has urged local housing chiefs to slash the number of new homes to be built each year amid fears that the borough’s natural environment will suffer.

Her call comes as Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s planning and infrastructure overview and scrutiny committee are set to recommend an annual new homes target for the borough’s Local Plan – a document outlining how many houses should be built until 2029.

The document will eventually replace the current South East Plan, which requires that 945 new homes are built in the borough each year.

The committee met last night, and council housing experts are recommending that 770 new homes should be built annually. Last year, councillors settled on 594 new homes as the annual figure, but following a High Court ruling in April, the pre-submission Core Strategy – part of the Local Plan – was deemed “irrational” and “unlawful” for not considering building on the council-owned Manydown land and was scrapped, forcing the borough council to go back to the drawing board in deciding a yearly housing target.

The new 770 figure has been recommended following “concerns” from a Government planning inspector, who disagreed with the borough’s calculation and said 594 new homes was too low.

The new calculation is based on predicted population growth, changes in average household size, and predicting the number of people moving into the borough.

But Mrs Miller, who was recently appointed to the Government Cabinet as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, believes the proposed 770 new annual housing number is far too high. “Local people have said clearly that they want to see fewer houses built in future years, and it should be for them to shape the future of the borough,” she said.

“We have seen some of the highest levels of house-building in the south-east in our area over the last 10 years, driven by centrally-set house building targets – not local needs. It simply isn’t appropriate to take these high levels of house-building over the last 10 years and project the figures into the future so that the borough continues to grow disproportionally larger.”

Mrs Miller declined to say how many homes should be built, but she said the environmental impact of new homes must help to determine the final figure.

She said: “Housing numbers should be based on evidence not just of population growth and household size, but also of the impact housing development has had on our environment and water quality, and the ability of our infrastructure and water supply to cope with more.

“It is about getting the balance right – the right number of homes for our community, built in a sustainable way. What I have is a question mark if more could be done to understand that impact.

“We are guardians of our community, and we need to protect it for the next generation.” According to a report for Wednesday’s committee, the borough’s population will rise from 167,000 people in 2011 to 185,000 by 2029, and on average, 490 people move into the borough each year.