AS many as 25,000 new homes could be built in Huntingdonshire by 2036, planners say, adding one-third to the 70,000 households already in the district.

The district council had been working on the assumption of 14,000 additional dwellings by 2026, but the Government has demanded that councils stretch their planning horizons by a further 10 years.

New planning rules announced on March 28 mean that HDC’s planners now have to convert their core planning strategy – which was approved by the Planning Inspectorate in 2009 – into a new ‘local plan’ that includes providing more homes than will actually be needed.

Predictions of demand from 2026 to 2036 vary between the 4,500 included in the defunct regional spatial strategy for the East of England and the 10,500 forecast by the Office for National Statistics – and even that could change when the results of last year’s census are analysed.

“The challenge is immense,” said HDC chief planner Steve Ingram. “We are facing some of the biggest development pressures in the country. But one of the key issues here and across Cambridgeshire is that the growth agenda is a good thing and the growth can be delivered.”

It may be challenging, but HDC has a head start. New, slimline planning guidance makes an assumption in favour of sustainable development. HDC could have written that itself: it has been an assumption here for years, with development managed, rather than controlled, as it is in less growth-assuming planning authorities.

But sustainable development is achievable only if the private sector and other parts of the public sector co-operate. HDC can provide planning consents and land allocations, but it does not control house-building or infrastructure provision, which are respectively in the hands of private developers and other public and private bodies, as planners are telling members of HDC’s new council tonight (Wednesday).

The key missing link for Huntingdonshire is major improvement of the congestion-ridden A14 – a project cancelled 18 months ago by the same Government that is now demanding that planning authorities over-provide housing.

They may be able to provide more housing allocation, but it is economically heroic to expect the private sector to build so many homes that it under-cuts its own prices.

INFORMATION: HDC’S initial public consultation documents will be available from next Monday at http://consult.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/portal