THE new year appears to have begun with a concerted push by the Government to underscore its initiatives to boost the housing market.

The Prime Minister’s sudden visit to Southampton to promote what the Government sees as the success of its Help to Buy scheme where funds are made available to assist young buyers find the deposit for a new home was just part of the message.

Invited to have a chat with the PM when he arrived at the £500m Crest Nicholson £500m development at Woolston where 1,600 new homes are being built on the old VT shipbuilding site, Mr Cameron was at pains to point out to me how his Government’s twin approach to planning issues in this area would give home-building a boost too.

In short, the PM assured me, the mechanics by which local councils can claw back money to spend how they wish for every new home built on their patch, plus the Coalition’s proposals to give local people a bigger say on what developments can be built, would convince people to give the thumbs up to housing developments.

He may be correct .

However, I have less faith in the willingness of residents facing huge housing developments planned for their area to see the larger picture.

I take the recent battles over homes in Eastleigh and the ongoing row over 300 properties planned for Romsey and a similar expansion for the Hampshire village of Stockbridge as cases in point.

Somehow I do not see the good folks in those areas brought round to welcoming their new neighbours on the promise of the council having a bit extra to spend on roads and schools.

Could it be, I put it to the PM during our chat – and I emphasised that this was my own theory – that what we British needed to accept is a willingness to embrace the style of housing that is commonplace in towns and cities across Europe and North America and indeed all other parts of the world – high rise apartment blocks?

He didn’t quite agree with me, going so far as to be frank enough to warn that any thought that housing shortages could be solved by using urban brown earth spaces alone, but he didn’t completely disagree with my sentiment.

There is after all something uniquely British about the housing dilemma we now find ourselves facing. On the whole we don’t want our green fields to be lost under concrete and asphalt, but urban high-rise living has never really caught on.

In other lands living on top of each other is quite the norm. Apartment (or condominium) living in the US and Canada is quite the norm. In Europe the majority of city and town dwellers live sandwiched beneath or above their neighbours.

Outside of London, this is not the British experience, certainly not when it comes to families.

Young couples and singles may choose to live in flats, but the majority look to move to somewhere with more privacy, space and a garden when the nippers arrive.

This isn’t surprising. Before the Second World War, Britain, the first industrialised nation, built terraced homes to house its growing city and town populations. In the 50s and 60s we tried to go upwards only for the schemes to end in concrete war zones.

While the North Americans built apartment blocks with lobbies, gated car parks and pleasant park areas, and the Europeans turned their high-rise living into vertical communities.

Why such communities didn’t work on the whole in this country is the subject of ever on-going debate. Suffice to say, they didn’t. The tower blocks came down, development spread outwards instead of towards the clouds, until we are where we are today.

What is needed then is for the British people to be re-educated in ways of living.

Somehow families, the elderly, even extended family groups, need to be persuaded that living cheek by jowl with the Joneses upstairs and the Smiths across the landing doesn’t equal lost independence and a lifestyle ruined by drifting cooking smells and noisy kids, TVs or lovers.

Improved soundproofing and extractor fans are a given then, as would be a whole new approach to how our lives are depicted in the media.

Instead of Coronation Street or EastEnders, for instance, where those communities all live in horizontal accommodation, our soaps should in future be centred on cosy apartment blocks where everyone gets on famously and the friendly concierge is guardian at the gate and font of all knowledge.

There would be fun and jolly japes all round, and if that sounds familiar it is.

Just think of all those successful US sit-com series (Friends, Will and Grace, How I Met Your Mother, Mork and Mindy, I Love Lucy, The Big Bang Theory, Frasier) all set in apartment blocks. It’s why the younger generation have no worries of living in flats, they all expect Joey or Chandler to drop by.

If only British TV sit-coms had continued with The Liver Birds and Man About The House – both set in flats – and not moved out to the suburbs (Outnumbered, Terry and June, Bread, Some Mothers Do Have ’Em, The Young Ones, Bless This House, The Likely Lads, The Royle Family, Shameless, Friday Night Dinner).

Then perhaps today we might be moving on up and not facing a middleaged spread to take on a family.