COLCHESTER’S population is to grow faster than anywhere else in the country over the next decade, a Government body has predicted.

The Office of National Statistics believes 33,000 more residents will live in the borough between 2008 and 2018.

That would make the town the size of Portsmouth today.

A new report released revealed the borough’s population is expected to rise from 174,000 in mid 2008 to 207,000 in mid 2018 - a rise of 18.9 per cent.

Colchester’s Lib Dem MP Bob Russell described the statistic as “very worrying” and called for a moratorium on major new developments in the borough.

He said: “I’m continuing as best I can to reverse this march towards greater urban expansion at Britain’s oldest recorded town, because I think we need a period of calm.

“We have to acknowledge that the population of the country is growing and people are living longer, but it does not explain why Colchester is experiencing such continued massive urban growth.”

He added: “It does make a nonsense of the county council’s proposal to shut two schools.”

Colchester’s population grew by 5,500 between 2008 and 2009.

The number of births outstripped the number of deaths by 800, while 1,600 more people moved into the borough than left.

Colchester is ahead of Westminster in second place, which is predicted to grow by 18.4 per cent, while other fast growing towns and cities in the top 10 include Norwich, Ipswich and Thurrock.

See today's Standard for a special report.