I have written many times before about housing, which is not surprising because it is always one of the biggest issues locally. 

This week, the National Housing Federation warned that with high prices and big deposits, home ownership is falling.

This hasn't happened overnight - it's a been a trend for some time.  So measures to help young people get their foot onto the housing ladder are important.

A £500 million FirstBuy scheme is assisting first-time buyers buy new build homes, and the Government is investing £4.5 billion towards building up to 170,000 new affordable homes over the next four years.

It's also vital that we continue to tackle the deficit in order to keep interest rates down, helping to ensure that mortgages are affordable.

But while the affordability of housing is a real local concern, many people are also writing to me about proposals to reform planning.  They fear excessive development that would damage the countryside.

The problem with the existing system is that residents are unable to influence the nature of local development.

Instead of coming together to discuss and plan positively for what we need in our villages, we've faced imposed and inpappropriate development, with the result that communities are bound to say 'no'.

With a new regime of neighbourhood planning, people will have far more influence in the planning system.

I have always sought to protect the countryside, and I always will.  In the past few years there have been a number of damaging proposals, including new towns at Ford and Adversane, which our communities successfully opposed.

 It is immensely important that we preserve the rural character and beauty of West Sussex, and not just in the National Park, which gives the highest protection to the landscape within its boundary.

Equally, we cannot ignore young families and local housing need.  I think the key is to give local communities, through their new plans, as much power as possible - but also the responsibility - to decide these issues.

I've seen good local schemes, such as the new affordable housing at Amberley, which had the support of the local community and was sustainable.  And that's the key.

Christopher N Howarth