IN THIS general election, debate on housing is conspicuous by its absence. A staple of elections past, our politicians have said little on a fundamental question: Where is everyone going to live?

The question becomes more pressing with each passing year. The UK’s population has risen by 9 million people since the turn of the century – more than the population of Scotland and Wales combined. By 2030 we will add a further 2 million.

So it should come as no surprise that building enough houses is proving a huge task. Government has set itself a target of building 300,000 homes a year and is far from achieving it – last year falling 100,000 short. It makes it all the more maddening therefore that Government is ignoring

the pleas of the nation’s landowners, who so often are seeing their applications rejected.

There is a common charge made against communities that people don’t want homes built ‘in their backyard’. While such views can exist, the reality is that many villages are increasingly crying out for more homes. Just 9% of homes in rural areas are affordable, often forcing talented young people to move away, leaving amenities like pubs, shops and schools vulnerable to closure.

Yet as the President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), everywhere I go I meet landowners who want to build to keep communities strong and provide quality – often affordable and eco-friendly – housing for locals. They spend tens of thousands of pounds on planning applications, but extensive delays and knockbacks from local authorities frustrate their efforts.

Something has to change. A simpler and better-resourced planning system would restore confidence in decisions and encourage more applications. Government should allow affordable housing to be built under permitted development rights. This would allow landowners to deliver homes that meet high regulatory standards, while limiting exposure to costly delays and endless bureaucracy, and reducing the strain on planning officers.

The CLA is campaigning for improvements in the planning system as part of its Rural Powerhouse campaign. It highlights how the rural economy could grow by £43bn with the right policies, and ensuring the availability of quality housing of all types is fundamental to attracting talent to the countryside. The message should ring loud and clear through Whitehall and every council. Landowners are offering to help ease the housing crisis – all they need is a Government who will let them.

Mark Bridgeman,

President of the Country Land and Business Association