More homes are being built on recycled land and at higher densities, the Government has announced.

According to statistics published yesterday, 67 per cent of all new properties in England were built on ?brownfield? sites in both 2002 and 2003, compared with 56 per cent in 1997.

Sites are also now being used more efficiently than in the past. According to the figures, new dwellings in England were built at an average density of 33 per hectare in 2003, compared with 27 per hectare in 2002 and only 25 in 1997.

Housing Minister Keith Hill said: ?This does not mean we are concreting over the countryside ? far from it. This Government?s commitment and proactive approach to brownfield site development is helping to reinvigorate our town and city centres while protecting our countryside from needless urban sprawl.?

The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) welcomed the news, but highlighted the need for affordable housing in villages as well as larger towns: ?We must not lose sight of the need to enable organic incremental growth in our rural villages. And this leads us to question why the definition of brownfield sites does not include land supporting redundant agricultural buildings. Why is it acceptable to reuse a former factory site for affordable housing but not a derelict piggery?? said CLA president Mark Hudson.