Up to 400,000 homes need to be built in the West Midlands over the next 20 years, fuelling fears of new developments in 'virgin countryside'.
The Government's housing projections, published yesterday, said the region's 2.2 million households would increase to 2.6 million by 2026.
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the national annual growth in homes would be 209,000 a year, 150,000 of which would be accounted for by one-person households, over the next two decades.
The figures, based on information from the 2001 Census, predict a 4.6 million increase in homes by 2026, of which about 60 per cent will be built in the South-east.
The new Government fore-casts were condemned by rural campaigners who fear the extra housebuilding could threaten virgin areas of the West Midlands' countryside, as major towns and cities will be unable to take on the massive growth.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said the forecasts meant house-building would increase by 50 per cent.
On present trends, the majority of houses can be built in Birmingham, the Black Country and other major urban areas, but the CPRE warned there would be renewed pressure to open up untouched countryside, threatening the character of small towns and villages.
The organisation said the growth in extra homes would mean a loss of green belt, more traffic on unsuitable rural roads and longer commuting journeys into towns and cities.
The housing market in urban areas could be under-mined, with serious environ-mental and social consequences, it said.
Peter Langley, chairman of the CPRE West Midlands, said: "We do not believe it is inevitable that the West Midlands should take all these extra houses. If the aim is to avoid homelessness and over-crowding, we need to build more affordable homes in the right places, not more homes overall.
"If the forecasts are accepted, the admirable strategy of regenerating our urban areas and protecting the countryside could be put under immense strain. The exodus of people and jobs from urban to rural areas would be likely to gather pace."
Rob Rowlands, a lecturer in urban and regional studies at the University of Birmingham, said the countryside could no longer be sacrosanct from housing development.
But he warned planners must look at a range of factors, including creating sustainable neighbourhoods, before the Government allowed new homes to be built.
"On the one hand it would be nice to build the majority in urban areas so we can protect the countryside but we are dealing with human beings and the planning system really does need to change in many ways from something that does say the countryside is sacrosanct and cannot be built on at all.
"That is not to say we should concrete over Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Hereford-shire and Shropshire."
The forecasts will be an important input to a review of the region's planning blueprint, the regional planning strategy, which is currently under way.
The review is being carried out by the West Midlands Regional Assembly, which will submit proposals to modify it to the Deputy Prime Minister next year.