Two thirds of Britons want more homes built in order to provide homes for younger people and those on lower incomes to tackle the worst housing crisis the country has seen in generations, according to a new poll.
The YouGov survey, which was commissioned by the National Housing Federation, found strong support for increasing the supply of new homes after house-building last year slumped to its lowest level since the 1920s.
And despite a high profile lobbying campaign against the Government’s reforms to the planning system, a majority (54%) back its 'presumption in favour of sustainable development'.
The Federation, which represents England’s housing associations, said the results highlighted how there was now a general consensus that the country was facing a housing crisis and that building more homes was the only effective way to solve it.
The debate over planning reform needed to move away from the divisive and over simplistic battle between 'pro-development groups' and 'environmentalists', the group said.
Federation chief executive David Orr said housing associations were passionate about the countryside and had no plans or desire to build on greenbelt land. He said he wanted to work closely with environmental groups to find a constructive path forward and get homes built to support rural life.
He warned that with 700,000 people on waiting lists in rural England, it was vital homes were built for young people and those on modest income to help them live and support their local communities.
The national planning policy framework (NPPF), which cuts more than 1,000 pages of planning regulation down to 52, should help increase the supply of desperately needed homes – but not on greenbelt land or where there is strong local opposition.
The YouGov poll of 2,655 adults in Britain found:
Mr Orr said: 'There is a now a general acceptance across the population and political spectrum that the country is in the midst of a severe housing crisis – and the only way to tackle it is to build more homes.
'Last year, only 105,000 homes were built in England - the lowest level since the 1920s. With millions stuck on waiting lists for social homes and huge swathes of the population priced out of the housing market, it is vital we significantly increase the supply of new homes before the situation gets even more desperate.
'The Government’s reforms of the planning system are a positive step forward – but have been hugely misunderstood and misrepresented. We will not see the countryside disappearing under a tidal wave of tarmac or villages morphing into towns.
'The debate over the NPPF has been framed as a fight between those who care about the countryside and those who want to concrete over it. That is simply not the case. We need to move away from the current name calling and war of words and find common ground. We all care about the countryside and there is also a general acceptance of the need to build more homes. It’s time to work together, find practical solutions and start tackling the housing crisis.'
Clark also made it clear that although sustainable development was not defined on the face of the Bill it would be in the National Planning Policy Framework, the final version of which is planned for publication in April 2012.