COUNCIL officials are bidding to make Didcot one of Britain's fastest growing towns and they have applied for 1,500 homes over and above the thousands already planned.

In exchange the town could expect millions of pounds in Government funding for infrastructure improvements, including community buildings, sports facilities and a country park.

A submission was made to the Government last Friday.

But the bid, made by officers at South Oxfordshire District Council, has angered opposition councillors in Didcot and even ruling Tories are "highly sceptical" of the scheme.

The extra homes would take proposed new building in Didcot to 8,640 houses by 2026 doubling the existing population.

Senior managers at SODC made the surprise bid for Didcot to become a 'New Growth Point' last week after a secret Cabinet briefing.

But the council has put a high price on the additional 1,500 homes.

In its submission it has included a £160m shopping list of infrastructure improvements.

The wish list includes: £27m for recreational facilities such as community centres, sports facilities and play areas £35m for the town centre redevelopment, including a city garden, public art and cycle ways £23m for road improvements £13m for a Harwell bypass £20m for a new two-way Cow Lane underpass £7m for a county park.

Further planned improvements include a £16m healthy living centre, a new youth centre, extended CCTV and transport, health and education provision studies.

In the submission, SODC chief executive David Buckle told the Government the council had not formally agreed to seek growth point status and any decision on additional housing growth at Didcot would have to be made through SODC's planning process with full public consultation.

He added that the level of Government investment would have to address outstanding infrastructure deficits, not just meet the needs of the additional homes.

He added if those two conditions were not met the council would withdraw its interest.

Cabinet member for planning John Cotton said he was "highly sceptical" of the growth point scheme but added: "Officers have convinced me, just enough, that on balance we're probably better to be on board at this point than not on board."

He said: "We're saying 'yes, if there's money we would be interested', but you have to have enough of it."

"The Government do not say how much money is available. Is it £100m or £1bn for the South East? We have no idea and they are not prepared to say. That's what makes me nervous. Once we get some information then a report will come to cabinet for us to make a policy decision."

He added: "I am concerned this is a way for Government to get around constraints in the South East Plan. We know they are disappointed about levels of housing growth."

Didcot Labour district councillor Margaret Davies branded the decision as reckless.

She added: "With a flick of the pen they have added a further 1,500 houses to the 3,000 threatened by Oxfordshire County Council. They are encouraging a sprawl that would eat up villages and damage Didcot's community."