Harrow Council has described the borough’s green belt land as a “valued part of its character” following calls for it to be used for new homes.

The Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) argued that planning regulations associated with green belt areas is preventing young people from getting on the housing ladder.

The council did not comment on whether the IEA’s claims were a good idea or not but noted that such land is an “asset” to the region.

There is around 1,088 hectares of green belt land in Harrow, which makes up about one fifth of the borough’s area.

Most it is at the border with Hertfordshire and, according to the council, holds conservation assets and offers “recreational opportunities”.

But the IEA believes that utilising such land for housebuilding could go some way to solving the country’s housing crisis.

Director general Mark Littlewood said: “The only meaningful way to solve the issue of unaffordable housing is to liberalise the planning system and build more homes.

“The concept of the Green Belt is widely out of date, as much of the land protected by Green Belt regulation is not environmentally valuable or scenic in the first place.

“Over 35 per cent of London’s Green Belt is intensively farmed agricultural land, yet there is opposition to transforming these sites into residential areas.

“In essence, we are prioritising the protection of dump sites over the opportunity for young people to get on the housing ladder.

“Since 1970, average house prices in the UK have risen by a staggering four and a half fold after inflation.

“No other OECD country’s experience has even come close. The UK’s housing crisis must be addressed, and even mild embrace of planning liberalisation is a step in the right direction.”

It comes after the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) released its annual report on the ‘State of the Green Belt’.

The CPRE is concerned that 460,000 homes are planned to be built on green belt land across the UK – many of which, it said, will be unaffordable.

It wants the Government to commit to a ‘brownfield first’ approach to development and asked it to support local authorities that have asked for more land protection.

Recent statistics from the ministry of housing, communities and local government showed that two per cent of new homes in Harrow were built on its green belt land between 2013 and 2017.

This was in stark contrast to neighbouring Hillingdon, where the figure stood at 26 per cent.