Leading article: Time to rethink the Green Belt

Britain does not have enough homes for its people. As the population rises, people live longer and divorce increases, we need more homes than ever. Yet house-building has slumped to its lowest level for 90 years. An entire generation of young people is living in more cramped conditions than their parents – with hopes of buying a home ever receding.

It is not all the Government's fault. Houses trebled in price in the decade to 2007. A global credit squeeze is requiring young couples to come up with £40,000-plus deposits. Waiting lists for social housing are at record levels. And both house prices and rents are predicted to soar by 20 per cent over the next five years.

The Government insists it is in the process of reversing all that through planning reform and by releasing public land to build new homes. It should also look at the Green Belt. Few want to see it overdeveloped, but swathes of the countryside now dedicated to intensive farming might better be used in a balance between organic and modern farming, reforestation and affordable housing. A generation of would-be first-time buyers will watch with more than interest. And for them this could be a decisive voting issue at the next election.

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