The growing need for housing versus the preservation of the green belt is a dilemma that is intensifying for local authorities across the Midlands, as Political Editor Jonathan Walker reports.
Despite concerns about the green belt, nobody doubts that new homes are needed. Councils across the West Midlands have expressed concern about possible scale of building work they will be allowed to approve.
But they are also keen to stop the housing market over-heating, and stimulate economic development.
Authorities were asked to submit responses to the West Midlands Regional Assembly based on three possible scenarios.
One was based on the Government's predictions for growth in the number of households in the region, while the others were based on lower estimates.
In its response, Shropshire County Council warned development based on the Government's figures would damage the character of Shrewsbury in particular.
Building so many new homes "would lead to Shrews-bury significantly exceeding key environmental and development constraints and would lead to considerably higher growth in the Market Towns, smaller settlements and the countryside," the council said.
Nick Taylor, of Shropshire County Council, said: "All the strategic planning authorities were asked to comment on three hypothetical scenarios for housing development.
"We didn't see how we could meet the needs of the highest level in Shropshire, because it would be beyond our environ-mental capacity.
"It would mean an awful lot of Greenfield development, and a significant expansion of Shrewsbury."
However, the council also rejected the lowest proposal for new housing, on the grounds that it would not meet the housing needs of local residents.
Instead, it proposed its own option, somewhere between the two.
The official projection suggests the number of households in Shropshire will increase from 120,000 in 2003 to 144,000 in 2026.
Worcestershire, meanwhile, will expand from 229,000 households to 280,000.
The county council, in its technical response to West Midlands Regional Assembly, said growth could provide opportunities for employment and investment.
Coun Alwyn Davies, Worcestershire County Council cabinet member for planning, said: "We must be seen to lead growth in a planned way and not be overtaken by pressure from outside bodies. There will be significant consultation and community involvement on this over the next two years."
Coun Martin Jennings, leader of Wychavon District Council in Worcestershire, said: "This council is pleased that Worcester City has been highlighted for expansion.
"We have accepted that its potential has been recognised. One hopes that the overall impact of the strategy, a concentration on economic and sustainable development, is to the advantage of the residents and businesses leading to continuous improvement in quality of life."
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has been vociferous in its criticisms of the Government's plans, saying they threaten the green belt and large swathes of the countryside.
The Department for Communities and Local Government however dismissed these fears, and responded by saying that the CPRE was ignoring the need to build more homes.
A spokesman said: "We need to build more homes in every region but our record over the last nine years shows we can increase building on brownfield land and protect the green belt.
"As our planning policy already makes clear, any proposals for development in the green belt should be turned down unless there are exceptional reasons why it should go ahead.
"Three quarters of all new homes in the West Midlands are already built on brownfield sites and we know there are thousands of hectares of brownfield land that can still be used.
"That is why Birmingham, which has lots of brownfield sites, is among those volunteering for new homes and investment to meet demand in their area, and this will help us to protect the environment and rural green spaces too."
He added: "Let's not forget, we have an ageing and growing population with more people living alone, and the number of new households is growing faster than the number of new homes.
"If we don't build more homes then only a third of today's ten-year-olds will be able to afford a place of their own in 20 years time.
"Local authorities across the West Midlands need to work together in drawing up their regional plan and put forward proposals on where they think these new homes should be built."