Countryside the size of east Dorset could be saved from housebuilders by much closer scrutiny of urban space, says a new report.
Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Urban Reform says that 75 per cent of new homes can go into urban areas by means other than new build. Converting empty commercial properties, redeveloping car parks and council estates and living above shops would push urban capacity higher. Around 3.8 million new homes could be made this way, the report says.
Research consultant the Urban and Economic Development Group wrote the report and claims it is the first comprehensive assessment of urban capacity ever made for the country as a whole.
Upping the government's 60 per cent brownfield development target to 75 per cent could mean 750,000 fewer homes being built in rural areas.
Author David Rudlin said: 'Barriers to hitting the target are more to do with attitudes of the market, policy and home buyers rather than physical capacity. The planning profession assumes where people want to live and what is right for them.'
Simon Festing, housing campaigner for Friends of the Earth, which commissioned the report, said that urban renaissance would only happen if deputy pm John Prescott set a target of creating three quarters of new homes in urban areas.
The report costs £8 from Friends of the Earth, tel: 01582 482297.