Serious doubts about the scale of development planned for the former Wyton Airfield were raised with council officers at a packed public meeting last week.

More than 150 people were at Houghton Memorial Hall on Thursday to quiz staff from Huntingdonshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council.

They questioned the merit of HDC earmarking the former MoD site for up to 4,500 homes in its forthcoming Local Plan, a planning blueprint for the district up to 2036.

Houghton and Wyton residents said current congestion on the road network, particularly between St Ives and Huntingdon, made it difficult to get out of the villages at rush-hour.

Parish councillor Paul Boothman said the proposed development represented a new town, but warned it was not being planned in the right place.

Paul Bland, HDC's planning services manager (policy), said the new homes were needed to support the forecasted economic growth in Cambridgeshire, and Wyton had the capacity for 4,500, out of a district-wide target of 21,000.

A lower figure had been envisaged previously, said Andy Moffat, HDC planning chief, but the higher figure would require a secondary school to be built, and would relieve current pressure on school places in St Ives. Responding to a question about what benefit developing Wyton would have for existing communities, he said: “We are providing new housing that people need, people's children need, and providing opportunities for jobs and transport improvements. We need 8,000 affordable homes and this is an opportunity to provide [some of] them at Wyton.”

On the controversial propsect of a new road over the meadows between Huntingdon and The Hemingfords, CCC's Jeremy Smith said elected members did not want a link between Wyton and the A14 “if they can avoid it”. But he added that CCC executive director Graham Hughes had been clear with them when saying such a route could be considered at a later date.

More work would be carried out on coming up with a road solution, including the possibility of a new A141, acting like a bypass, as well as improvements to its current junctions.

HDC is due to publish its 'proposed submission version' of the Local Plan in the new year following “targeted” consultation with parish and town councils and organisations such as the Highways Agency and the Environment Agency, said Mr Bland.

After the meeting, Lesley Craig, chairman of Houghton and Wyton Parish Council, said: “Unfortunately, we still don't have an answer to the main point which is for what purpose and for whom a new town is needed here?” She was also critical of the fact no elected councillors attended the debate.

On the Local Plan, she added: “We were also shocked to learn that a promise of further democratic scrutiny via a full public consultation of the detail within the Local Plan, has been scaled back and will now not take place.”