The government has played down reports that Gordon Brown is preparing to relax rural planning laws in order to address housing shortages in the countryside

It was reported this week that the prime minister was to announce a wholesale relaxation of rural controls in response to a review published in July last year by Liberal Democrat Matthew Taylor.

His review said many locals were being priced out of villages by “restrictive” planning policies.

The press reports said councils would be told to earmark building sites in every village where affordable housing was needed, overrule planning curbs in protected areas and incentivise farmers to sell land to developers.

A spokesman for the communities department said no decisions had been reached.