A growing desire for large gardens in the rural West Midlands is swallowing up large amounts of land and sacrificing parts of the countryside, campaigners warned today.
Local authorities in parts of the region are failing to curb the large amount of land used to create few houses, with density levels falling well below Government targets, the Campaign to Protect Rural England claimed.
In a report published today, the organisation identified nine authorities in the region where fewer than 20 houses were built per hectare - well below the national target of 30 to 50 homes per hectare.
Malvern Hills Council was the worst offender with just eight to ten homes built per hectare, according to the report, and campaigners fear if housing densities are not increased green belt land would be put under threat.
The campaign group said the assumptions that underpin low density housing, such as the desire for large gardens, were often misplaced and that many emerging new houseowners would not want the burden of large pieces of land.
The average density for homes built in the West Midlands is currently 27 per hectare. If this was increased to 35 to 40 homes, up to 3,700 hectares of land would be saved from development over the next 20 years, according to the report.
Peter Langley, chairman of the West Midlands branch of the CPRE, said: "Land is a scarce resource and we must use it well. It would be wrong to return to the highest density housing across the board, but there is no reason why an increase in average densities can't be combined with higher quality housing.
"This would save thousands of hectares of West Midlands countryside from the bulldozer and allow our urban areas to build high quality new housing and provide open space and a greener environment."
Among those providing 20 homes per hectare or less were Rugby, Malvern Hills, Wychavon, Bridgnorth, North Shropshire, Oswestry, South Shropshire, Herefordshire and East Staffordshire.
Mr Langley added: "In development brownfield land comes first and green field after that if we can increase housing densities nearly all the land we save will be green field," Mr Langley added.
As an increasing tide of people in the West Midlands were moving to the countryside, the CPRE said it was vital density levels matched those in urban areas.
The CPRE has recently warned that too many houses were being built in the countryside despite new Regional Planning Guidance introduced last year with the explicit goal of reducing housing levels in the shires. The rate of building in Warwickshire remains high - 30 per cent above the maximum.