A key document which will shape the future development of Breckland will now go out to public consultation after lengthy debate by councillors.

A draft Local Plan was put before the authority's cabinet today to show preferred sites for new housing and employment, and to outline suggested changes to settlement boundaries.

Once adopted it will set out the policies used to determine planning applications and the sites to meet the housing requirements. It will also identify a five year supply of housing land which will give the council more control and reduce the likelihood of ad-hoc development.

The plan provides an overall target of 14,928 homes in the district by 2036 but coming under intense scrutiny at the meeting was the substantial increase in houses expected to be built in market towns of Dereham, Swaffham and Watton because of issues with the delivery of key settlements in Attleborough and Thetford.

Councillor Harry Clarke, who represents Dereham, said: 'I am very concerned that having identified an 18 percent growth for Dereham it has now increased by 750 homes. Dereham and Swaffham are having to make up the shortfall.'

At the heart of concerns in Dereham is traffic and infrastructure and a transport survey commissioned by Breckland was brought into question by a number of councillors who said it did not go far enough.

Dereham mayor Phillip Duigan said: 'We need to have confidence in the system or it is a total shambles.'

Nigel Wilkin, who represents Necton, near Swaffham, pointed out that mass building without consideration for the bigger picture would be a mistake.

'The A47 has always been the poor relation compared to the A11 but you don't need a map to realise that with improvements to the port at Great Yarmouth there is more traffic going to come from Peterborough and soon Necton and Fransham and places between will become mobile car parks. 'Something has to happen.'

Cabinet member Phil Cowan said it was vital that the final document was right for the district.

'If we fail to provide the technical evidence to underpin the recommendations we are putting forward to the the inspector we will have a real problem,' he said. 'The local plan will probably not be adopted for 18 months and I suspect in that time we will be under siege from developers.'

Despite concerns members endorsed the document for public consultation which will be held for six weeks from September 19 with officers holding drop-in events in market towns and villages to answer questions.

Charles Carter, Breckland's executive member for growth, said: 'Nothing has been decided yet - we need to hear the views of local people so these can be considered and taken into account when the next stage of our Local Plan is developed. This plan will affect your community so it is important you give us your views.'

* 'The Local Plan consultation and supporting documents can be accessed online via the Breckland Council website from 19 September, when the consultation opens, until October 31.

There will be copies of the consultation documents at Breckland Council offices, and in the district's libraries

Dates of the drop-in events will be published on the Breckland Council website nearer the time.

* What do you think? Email kathryn.cross@archant.co.uk