The need for affordable homes in rural communities has never been more pressing. It is accepted by all sides in the debate over how they should be provided that if the countryside is to prosper, younger people must be able to get a foot on the property ladder.
If they cannot, the consequence is a migration to the cities in search of work and somewhere to live, draining the countryside of economically-active people and the families needed to sustain communities.
This dilemma is at the heart of today’s report by the Council for the Protection of Rural England. Its conclusion that whilst the green belt is being eroded at an alarming rate, yet the number of affordable homes being built continues to fall is seriously concerning.
It indicates that a sensible balance between development and providing what is needed to help the countryside has still not been struck.
Building on the green belt is, understandably, an issue of great concern to many, and it is perfectly valid for the CPRE to question why this is happening when so much brownfield land that could be used for housing is going undeveloped.
The Government needs to address this issue by looking at its housing policy.
On the one hand, the greenbelt must be protected, and yet on the other the need for affordable housing demands to be tackled.
It is an unsustainable position for the Government to allow developers to eat into the greenbelt without ensuring that higher numbers of homes available to young, first-time buyers are built. This is an issue not just of protecting the countryside. It is one of ensuring that it is able to thrive.