Controversial plans for development in the South East of England were today published by the area?s regional assembly, effectively mapping out where up to 640,000 new homes could be built over the next twenty years.

This marks the start of a 12-week long public consultation on the plans, which will include two other options to build either 510,000 or 560,000 homes between now and 2026.

Most of the expansion is expected to take place around the M4 ?corridor? to the west of London in areas such as Reading and Basingstoke, in towns on the Kent, Sussex and Hampshire coastlines, and around Milton Keynes.

However, South East of England Regional Assembly (SEERA) emphasised that the plans depend on ?major? infrastructure investment from the Government.

Following the feedback from the consultation, the plans will be presented to the Government in July 2005 by SEERA, an unelected group of councillors, trade representatives and other local community figures.

The final decision on the plans rests with John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who had originally proposed a minimum development of 720,000 new homes in the region.

According to Edward Dawson, Regional Policy Officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, up to 40% of the development could take place on Greenfield land.

?Developments on greenfield will have to be exceptionally well-designed and not just urban sprawl,? he said. ?They will have to be models of sustainability and of sustainable development. But the policies in the plan are a long way from achieving that.?

Mr Dawson urged local people to respond to the consultation to make their opinions known. He believes that protection of the countryside is not enough of a concern to those drawing up the plans ?There will be tremendous pressures on the area, and we are failing to nurture the character of the local countryside,? he said.