PLANS for thousands of new houses across the Barrow area are close to becoming official council policy.

A total of 1,876 homes could be built under the Barrow Borough local plan – with a target of 119 new houses every year until 2031.

The 428-page blueprint, to guide where new homes and employment sites can go, is expected to spark a flood of planning applications to the council.

A meeting of its ruling executive committee has agreed the plan should go to full council next month to be voted on and adopted.

Helen Houston, the council’s development services manager, called it an “important document” which will be used to guide planning applications.

Of the aims for 119 houses a year, she told the committee: “It’s possible we will meet the target and there’s a possibility we will exceed it.”

However, she said work will be also required to address the “high” number of vacant homes across the borough, which stands at around 1,500.

She said the council would be tackling why properties were left vacant and looking at strategies to bring them back into use.

The heavyweight document was declared “sound” after a Government-appointed planning inspector ran the rule over the plan.

It has been in the making since 2012 and replaces the last local plan introduced in 1996.

Mrs Houston said its targets were backed by reams of evidence including indicators around future population growth, housing demand in the area and economic needs.

Fifteen housing sites have been identified across Barrow, 10 in Dalton, six in Askam and Ireleth and one in Newton-in-Furness.

In addition, 10 employments sites could also be created – seven in Barrow, two in Dalton and one at Walney.

The council will not be building any properties itself and its success will require housebuilders and developers to come forward with proposals.

Mrs Houston told councillors that the plan had been rigorously put out for public feedback at every step of the way.

The process has involved seven public consultations and more than 1,100 responses from members of the public, stakeholders, developers and interest groups.

Amendments have been made at various stages and the plan has been through five different drafts. The final version – the sixth – will go before full council on June 4. Last summer, a series of public hearings were held at Barrow Town Hall to discuss the plan.

Cllr Kevin Hamilton, the Labour mayor of Barrow, said the report was “absolutely brilliant,” while Conservative opposition leader Cllr Hazel Edwards declared it “excellent”.

Cllr Derek Brook, chairman of the executive committee, said the number of empty properties in the borough was “surprising”.

Mrs Houston said the council has been required by the inspector to come up with an empty homes strategy to tackle the number of vacant properties.