HALTON has been criticised for having too few new homes.
Halton Borough Council is accused of building homes too far apart and encouraging 'urban sprawl' by failing to hit a Government density target of at least 30 homes per hectare.
But the local authority has accused watchdog group the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) of getting its facts wrong.
The group claims Halton - together with St Helens - is the North West's worst offender with just 22 homes per hectare in a four-year period from 1999 to 2002.
And the CPRE says Halton had a worst record than in the previous four years when it managed 24 homes per hectare.
However, last week the council hit back, claiming the figures were wrong.
A spokesman said: 'It is un-fortunate the CPRE did not take the time to check with Halton council, as the information given is both misleading and wrong.
'Since the introduction of national targets and density guidance given by the Government, the density level of new housing schemes approved in Halton has far exceeded the minimum target level of 30 dwellings per hectare.'
The CPRE report alleges that neighbouring Warrington - 25 homes per hectare - Ellesmere Port and Knowsley (27), also broke the rules.
And it says that out of the nine unitary authorities in Cheshire and Merseyside, only Wirral, with 31, and Liverpool, even higher at 36, are in line with Government guidelines.
The guidelines suggest that up to 50 homes can be built per hectare - which ministers insist is the density of terraced homes with gardens.
However, outside four designated 'growth' areas in the South East of England, the Government is powerless to intervene.
The figures show the rules are being ignored more in the North than the South.
Jill Stainton, spokeswoman for the CPRE, said: 'These councils appear to be ignoring Government planning policy and targets which call for an end to waste-fully low densities.
'The Government should make greater use of the powers it has to prevent councils and developers from ignoring these important anti-sprawl policies.'
The CPRE refused to comment on the Halton's claims that it had got its sums wrong.