Wherever possible, it is best to build homes on brownfield sites

Morning View
Morning View

England lost almost 5,000 acres from its green belt last year, mostly in plots that will be used for future housing development.

England is the most densely populated country in Europe and has a grave housing crisis.

The southeast is particularly badly affected.

Immigration and incoming young people from the regions, drawn by the wealth and general allure of London, are driving up house prices to alarming levels.

A generation of people cannot hope to own their own property without significant financial help from their parents.

Far too few properties have been built to deal with the relentlessly growing demand, hence the pressure on green belt land.

But however understandable the release of green belt land, it will be a massive act of environmental vandalism if England frees up vast swathes of its pristine countryside to be concreted over.

The green belt has done an extraordinary job in protecting rural areas since 1955, despite the population pressures.

There is huge potential for high density housing on brownfield sites before greenfield should be utilised on a large scale.

On this island, we have seen the effects of slack planning. Both sides of the Irish border have allowed tens of thousands of single dwellings to be built in a haphazard fashion.

Attempts to do anything about this proliferation have met fierce cross-party resistance, both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic.

Fortunately, the population pressures are much less intense than they are in England.

It has managed to resist widespread damage to its fine countryside. So have we in some areas such as the north Antrim.

That is one of the reasons tourists enjoy visiting that coastline.

When beautiful countryside is lost to housing, it is lost for centuries, and perhaps forever.