THE government's Countryside Agency has stepped into the seething row over plans to build millions more homes in England - by emphasising the need for more affordable housing in rural areas.
The row flared last week when Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced a huge increase in building development, much of it on green-field sites and concentrated mainly in the South East.
There will, however, be extensive building in parts of the North - more than 40,000 homes are targeted for North Yorkshire and York - which has worried conservationists in the region.
The Countryside Agency, sitting between the two camps, is in a difficult position but its chairman, the recently knighted Sir Ewen Cameron, has issued a statement welcoming the Government's recognition of the fact that future rural development should include affordable homes for first-time buyers.
He added: "We are aware of the very real and natural concerns about the impact of new developments on the countryside.
"But the countryside cannot remain unchanged. In most rural areas - in the north as well as the south - the need for affordable housing is acute and is affecting the viability of many rural communities."