MANY challenges lie ahead to meet the healthcare, social and housing needs of the town after it emerged that Swindon’s population is the third fastest growing in the entire country.

Latest figures from thinktank Centre For Cities listed the town as experiencing the third highest population growth in the past ten years, with almost 30,000 more people living here in 2012 than in 2002.

Numbers jumped from 182,100 to 211,900 in 2012. The population grew by thousands with the creation of the Wichelstowe development along the M4.

Huge new suburbs are planned in the rest of the decade in and around Swindon.

Although the housing needs of an increasing population are well on their way to being met, accommodating residents’ other needs, as well as improving infrastructure, they will place added pressure on the borough, politicians admit.

But these are already being tackled, according to Coun Brian Mattock.

The cabinet member for health and adult social care said everything was being put in place to ensure care did not fall by the wayside as the population continued to rise.

He said: “In 2011/2012, mid-year we added £3m to the adult social care budget to take into account the increase and its pressure on the budget. “In 2012/2013 our cost stayed within budget and this year we will also be within budget.”

The creation of the Better Care Fund at a national level, which will see funds previously allocated to acute care used to improve community support and health and social care, will be a help in ensuring all the bases are covered in terms of prevention in Swindon, he said.

Infrastructure should also be a top priority over the next few years, says South Swindon MP Robert Buckland. Despite the challenges ahead, he said Swindon’s continued growth should be celebrated.

“We have had a fast-growing population which has produced both challenges and opportunities,” he said.

Council leader David Renard said: “Growth is what we want to see and this report highlights what we have known for a long time, that Swindon has a great deal going for it. “The proof is that those in the unsentimental world of commerce, industry and property development agree.

“This is good news, but it brings with it responsibilities. “We have been preparing our Local Plan for some time, which will guide all development in the borough to 2026, “And we are already delivering some transport projects by improving the capacity of Great Western Way.”