THE arguments for greater protection for the countryside around greater Teesside are growing.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England is preparing its case to be put to a public hearing on the matter later this month and it rightly makes the point that the ultimate decision on whether a green belt is creating around Teesside is crucial for the continuing regeneration of the region.

Teesside's urban sprawl has grown apace in the last 20 years. Although much of the demand for new housing has been soaked up by developments like Ingleby Barwick and at its near neighbour Yarm, the pressure has shifted to communities like Stokesley and Great Ayton. It is fair to say the local authority - Hambleton District Council - has been fighting a rearguard action against developers keen to build in North Yorkshire's rolling acres.

A green belt is necessary. So too is the scrapping of the government's house-building targets which present rural districts like Hambleton with a major problem. It struggles to accommodate the perceived need for so many new homes with its policy of restricting development.

Only through such measures can the pressure be kept on developers to work with brownfield sites in existing urban communities. This is important not just to protect the countryside. The last thing Middlesbrough and Stockton needs is a continuing drift of people away to North Yorkshire.