THE equivalent of a town the size of Wellington could be built in the Taunton and Minehead area every five years, according to local Lib Dems.

The claim is based on figures from national consultancy Lichfields, which show developers could be able to build an extra 1,231 homes in the district every year for the next two decades - that's 6,155 every five years.

Cllr Mike Rigby, cabinet member for planning on the Lib Dem-led Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT), accused the Government of using an algorithm to impose housebuilding targets on councils.

He said: "SWT has exceeded all Government targets on the numbers of houses to be built, particularly due to the previous Conservative administration’s enthusiasm for building big estates, so we had hoped they would not interfere with our local plan which identifies all the suitable sites for new housing.

Somerset County Gazette: LOCAL PLAN: LibDems claim the equivalent of a town the size of Wellington will be built every five years

"The Conservatives’ latest twist is that this top down centralising government says it will force us to rip up our plan and develop many more local green fields into the bargain.

"Their idea that an algorithm is to decide all this can never take proper account of our own circumstances and means local people will be completely left out of the decision.

"The result of this new government policy will be far more houses than our infrastructure can cope with.

"All the sites that can best cope with more houses, without causing gridlock and flooding, have already been earmarked, so it’s the more protected green spaces that are left which the government now aims to force under the bulldozer."

Gideon Amos, Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesperson for Taunton Deane, said: "We all know people need homes, but local people, with their councillors, have always decided how and where these should be provided, and had a right to be heard in the process.

"Conservative ministers now aim to sweep all that away.

"No new housing, let alone the equivalent of another town the size of Wellington in our district every five years, should be allocated without proper infrastructure first.

"This is an arrogant and wrong-headed policy which even some Conservative MPs have joined the LibDems in opposing in Parliament."

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow said the figures come from "the first step in the current local plan process" and the ultimate targets could be different as councils will consider constraints such as protecting the green belt and environmentally significant sites.

Ms Pow, who said the process allows for local councillors to determine where homes go, added: "It was a Conservative government that got rid of top-down regional planning targets and introduced a-locally led system, which takes account of local need and local constraints.

"Localism requires local decision-making and this system puts councillors at the forefront of those decisions.

"It will also be important that the council gives due recognition to Taunton’s status as a garden town with all that encompasses in terms of appropriate housing design and environmental considerations."