A council leader says she is ready to tell the government they cannot meet the housing targets they have been set.

Three Rivers District Council leader Sara Bedford says the council can "prove" it has "nowhere near enough room" for the number of houses the government has asked them to build.

The council has been given a target of 620 homes a year over the next 15 years, but after assessing all of the sites put forward by landowners and developers, council officers believe they can only build 40 to 50 per cent, without "harming existing communities".

Cllr Bedford said: "Three Rivers is an area not only of greenbelt, but also conservation areas, flood plains and areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“We have had to carry out painstaking searches and evaluations of all the sites put forward (in the local plan). We can now prove that there is nowhere near enough room for the level of development demanded by the Government."

Officers have carried out a number of assessments but they believe there is not enough space in the districts' urban spaces or on sites next to built-up areas to meet the housing targets that have been set.

Most of Three Rivers' land is designated as greenbelt land but national planning guidelines state that development in the greenbelt should only be granted if "special circumstances" can be demonstrated.

One option to meet the government target is the creation of a garden village.

Cllr Bedford added: "We are not a blank sheet of paper for developers to cover in concrete. I will be writing to the Secretary of State to request the housing target for Three Rivers is reduced to a level more appropriate to the district, utilising more up-to-date population and living data than currently stipulated by the Government, and taking into account the constraints of the undeveloped land in the district.

"We need to ensure that we are building the right homes for our communities in the places that can support them. This is not the numbers’ game that the government wishes to play. This is about residents’ lives."

In February, Cllr Bedford described government housing target numbers as "hugely overstated".

Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor believes his council can only meet around half of its housing target too. Watford has been set a target of 790 homes a year over the next 15 years but unlike Three Rivers, almost all of its available land is brownfield.