A SENIOR councillor has welcomed a prize-winning economist's suggestion that 40 cities - including York - could be doubled in size through garden city extensions to solve the housing crisis.

Urban designer David Rudlin has won the £250,000 Wolfson Prize for a submission arguing that Britain should adopt models pioneered in Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany to 'take a confident bite out of the greenbelt' and build extensions connected to existing city centres over 30 years.

The 40 cities and towns he identified as suitable included York and Harrogate. He suggested expansion would take the form of town extensions connected to the city centre by a tram or bus rapid transit, with each extension consisting of green, walkable neighbourhoods with primary schools, business uses, and local shops, drawing on modern Scandinavian, Dutch and German models.

He said development of flood plains would be entirely avoided in the design of the settlement and extensions would be surrounded by country parks, allotments, lakes and other low impact uses.

His proposals have been attacked by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which said people in both urban and rural areas wanted to protect the greenbelt.

But Cllr Dave Merrett, City of York Council's cabinet member for environmental services, planning and sustainability, said the garden cities concept was a 'very credible one' and he thought it was good to see it get some recognition at a national level through the award.

"Having a strategic masterplan for how to develop such a concept within draft green belt areas, so long as this can be reasonably done whilst protecting the prime purpose of green belts to protect the setting of historic cities and communities, would be really good," he said.

“This would allow new communities to be developed more local to where housing need exists, making them places where people will actually want to live.

"We would happily work with the Government to deliver a place that would help us meet the shortfall of affordable and general housing for York residents, given homes to buy and even rent are out of the reach of a large number of local people.”