Braintree's housing target could be slashed by 50 per cent, according to new figures.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics shows the number of homes which need to be built in the district by 2033 may be around 7,000 – not 14,320 as previously thought.

Newly built homes and developments with planning permission already in place means the district is set to grow by 15,000 homes by 2033.

The new housing target of 7,000 has been highlighted by planning inspector Roger Clews who has asked Braintree Council to provide a response to the revised figure.

Council bosses say work is taking place to see if the new target is accurate.

Speaking in a meeting last week, planning boss Gabrielle Spray said: “We await the advice of our expert consultant on the latest housing projections before we can come to a conclusion on the matter.

“It has always been our aim to produce a plan which met the required housing needs with a buffer to safeguard against non-delivery of some sites.

“However, if the updated figures prove to be credible and robust, they will, in our opinion, bring about a significant change in the housing requirement and as a council, we will strongly be urging the inspector to adopt the figure which will reduce the number of homes required in section two of our Local Plan.

“The inspector has clearly said he will seek the views of others.

“Until he does come to his conclusion we cannot take the new figures as definite.

“It is for the inspector to conclude if the housing number in the housing plan is correct.”

If the reduced housing figure proves to be correct, it could help to resolve Braintree Council’s Local Plan headache.

The authority’s hopes to secure a housing plan were thrown into disarray in May when their joint plan with Colchester and Tendring councils to build 34,000 homes either side of Braintree were deemed by “undeliverable” by Mr Clews.

Critics say the absence of a Local Plan has led to speculative developments being approved across the district.

But campaigners have welcomed news about the potentially reduced housing target, and say it would have a “huge impact” on towns and villages.

Rosie Pearson, co-founder of the Better Braintree – Together campaign group, which has been set up to give residents a voice on new housing, said: “If Braintree can halve its housing target then villages and towns are saved from speculative development and from long-term sprawl.

“This could be amazing news.”