CHANGES in Government housing policy could put pressure on Bournemouth to build on the outskirts of the conurbation.

The council is currently exceeding its house-building target – that is the delivery of 730 homes per year between 2006 and 2026.

Mark Axford, planning policy and research manager, said the council has some 3,500 "supply side" homes, or sites where residential accommodation is under construction, in planning or allocated in council planning documents.

However a shake-up in the housing target formula currently being discussed in Parliament may see the borough obliged to build thousands more homes than are currently planned.

"We have to balance people's hopes and aspirations, people are waiting to get quality, affordable homes to live in, but we have to be extremely careful as we will eventually run out of land," said Councillor Robert Lawton, cabinet member for housing.

"On one side of Bournemouth is the sea, to the north we have green belt, we are not allowed at present to build on that.

"We need to get in a dialogue with the Government on the numbers they are charging us to build so that we are able to meet that target with the resources and land available."

Mr Axford said the council was hoping a falling rate of population increase in the borough in recent months might lead to a smaller target being calculated if the Government's proposed formula is adopted.

"We have recently had some revised population projections from the ONS which show a downward trend in the increase in growth," he said.

"We are waiting for the September ONS household projections to see how much the final calculation might drop from our previous assumption."

He said the council had recently put out a call for new development sites and several had been identified for consideration in the borough's Local Plan, which allocates sites for preferred uses.

The Local Plan is currently going through a review process which the council hopes to have completed by the spring of 2019.

It is anticipated that the new conurbation unitary authority will adopt the local plans of the constituent councils when it is formed in April 2019, although the councillors on that body will be able to initiate a new plan covering Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole if they wish.

"Currently we are managing, but with this new standard methodology it will be very challenging to meet that in the urban area of Bournemouth," said Mr Axford.

"We need to look very carefully and try to identify as many sites as we can.

"Other things are important. Employment space is important, open space, the balance of land use.

"We need to ensure we get other infrastructure in place to enable people to live in Bournemouth successfully and sustainably.

"The Local Plan is trying to tease out those sites."

Cllr Lawton said Bournemouth's population had grown from some 165,000 people when he first arrived in 1986 to nearly 200k today.

"The population has increased by 10 per cent in the last five years," he said.

"It shows how vibrant and booming Bournemouth is.

"People want to come and live here, the local economy is on the way up.

"It is an exciting project for us, to be able to provide quality homes."

Lorraine Mealings, head of housing, said the council had built some 200 new council houses "over the last few years", and intended to build 300 more over the next three to four years.

She said the borough was working to attract developers to Bournemouth.

Mr Axford said developments could be halted or delayed by shortages of building materials and labour, both of which are currently an issue, or by the reluctance of banks to finance development.

Ms Mealings said: "Land prices are so expensive, and there are some site by site complications such as contamination. The whole process will usually take at least two years.

"We went to a promotional event a couple of weeks ago and asked developers would you come and build in Bournemouth.

"The vast majority said they were looking at Bournemouth with interest. There is a lot going on, you can see that from the cranes around the town at the moment, and people see that as an opportunity."