In rural areas such as ours, opposition to revising green belt boundaries seems to emanate from nimby elements together with organisations such as the Council for the Protection of Rural England. I think another view needs to be aired: villages and rural towns already suffer deprivation from poor public transport, lack of employment and declining facilities such as post offices, shops and schools. Reasonable growth in population - particularly more families - together with a sustained review of and improvement to infrastructure is the best chance the countryside has got to reverse the decline.
It is a myth that growth of rural communities will destroy the pastoral scene. The majority of villages and towns could easily accommodate additional housing if this were sensitively conceived and sited - and could also help to enhance the built environment. Many rural communities have edges and pockets as scruffy as the catchily-termed but not yet adequately defined 'brownfield' sites in the cities.
Let us not lose this opportunity through conservatism. A positive planning policy would ask all settlements to find space to increase their populations by 10 per cent - this would more than cater for the forecast population needs well into the next century. In a town of 1000 people that would mean perhaps 25 family homes, or three small developments of eight homes each; not difficult to integrate and certainly not damaging to any perceived rural idylls. Importantly, such developments should be encouraged to explore fully sustainable principles and should be required to contribute to the improvement of local services and facilities.
The demand for housing should be a plus for life in the country. Can we have enlightenment, please, in ministerial offices and town halls - and not be swayed by misplaced hype?