Two housing reports, written by the National Housing Federation and Liberal Democrat MP, Matthew Taylor, both show rural communities are being threatened by expensive homes and low wages, with young families suffering the most.

The average local wage of people living in rural areas is £20,895, which is £4,655 lower than the urban average.

House prices in rural areas are, on average, £8,000 more expensive than in conurbations, with only 17% of purchases in rural areas going to first-time buyers, compared with 33% in urban areas.

Mr Taylor, whose report was commissioned by the Prime Minister, described life in the countryside as ‘challenging’, adding: “urgent action is vital to stop villages dying and our market towns being wrecked by unsympathetic development.

“It we fail to build affordable homes to enable the people who work in the countryside to live there, we risk turning our villages into gated communities of wealthy commuters and the retired.”

Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, commented: “Affordable housing has become the top priority for the survival of rural life. We welcome both reports for highlighting how bleak rural life is becoming, and how urgent it is that action be taken.”

“With an ageing population and a widening gap between rural house prices and rural earnings, young families who represent the future of the countryside cannot afford to live there. This is an unsustainable situation, and the answer is to ensure that the countryside, which is one of our greatest national assets, does not become an exclusive enclave, but is developed with inclusive, community-minded values at heart.”

“This means being bold – not being terrified of building on green fields, cutting VAT on building work and renovations and, crucially, working with local authorities, farmers and landowners to ensure that all suitable land is considered for the development of affordable units.”

“The countryside is an appealing place to live, but that should not make it out of most people’s reach.”