Railway station car parks could be moved underground to make way for thousands of new homes in a government drive to tackle the housing crisis.
Ministers are considering using surplus railway land to boost housebuilding without bulldozing swathes of protected Green Belt land.
Under one initiative, car parks at some stations could be dug underground to provide space for modern apartment blocks.
Plans to use disused railway land for housing are expected to be included in a housing White Paper released by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) in the next fortnight
A government source said: ‘Railway stations are an ideal location because, by definition, they already have good transport links. Many of them have enormous car parks, which are not a great use of space, so why not move them underground?
‘At some of these sites you could unlock a substantial amount of brownfield land for housing, in places where people want to live.’
The idea is expected to be among a number of initiatives outlined in a housing White Paper to be published by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid in the next fortnight. It will set out how the Government intends to meet its pledge to build one million homes by 2020.
Ministers are determined to pursue a ‘brownfield first’ policy that focuses new housing on previously developed sites to minimise the impact on areas of open countryside.
They believe the density of housing can be increased in many towns and cities without damaging the urban environment. They point to the example of the exclusive Kensington and Chelsea borough of London, where low-rise mansion blocks have helped create one of the densest neighbourhoods in the country.
The White Paper is also expected to include plans for more housing on high streets that have fallen into disuse. Empty shops could be transformed into flats and apartments built above existing stores.
Ministers launched a pilot project last year to build hundreds of new homes at stations in York, Taunton in Somerset, and Swindon.
Speaking at the time, the then communities secretary Greg Clark said stations had ‘unique potential’.
The plans are part of ministers’ ‘brownfield first’ policy which aims to avoid taking over huge swathes of Green Belt land for development
‘Rail stations are a hub of communities, connectivity and commerce and should be making the most of their unique potential to attract investment and opportunities,’ he added.
‘With record numbers of people travelling by train, it makes sense to bring people closer to stations and develop sites that have space for thousands of new homes and offices.’
Ministers suggested the scheme could eventually deliver up to 10,000 homes across the country.
But Mr Javid is thought to believe the potential is significantly higher.
Some of the sites could also provide land for the first in a new generation of prefab homes, which ministers believe could slash the time it takes to get new housing developed. Theresa May has ordered ministers to pull out all the stops to make good on Tory promises to ease the housing crisis.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly identified the lack of affordable housing as one of the ‘everyday injustices’ faced by millions of families. She has said it is unacceptable that young people find it ‘harder than ever before’ to own their own home.
But Mr Javid has been forced to walk a fine line because of Tory pressure to avoid a surge in housebuilding on the Green Belt.
At least ten Cabinet ministers – including Mr Javid – are facing local protests over proposed housing development on the Green Belt, with several campaign groups vowing publicly to fight any loosening of the rules.
Countryside campaigners warn that mounting government pressure to build houses is forcing the release rural land for development.
A survey this month found half of councillors in England believe Green Belt land in their area will be bulldozed for housing in the next five years.