NOW here’s an interesting fact.

At the latest count there were 3,100 unbuilt homes in Salisbury and south Wiltshire for which planning permission has been granted.

Wiltshire Council supplied this figure in response to a request by yours truly.

It’s nine months old, so it could be higher by now.

Think of all the folk who’d be glad of one of these properties.

There are many things I don’t know (despite any impression I may give to the contrary) and among them are the precise reasons why Messrs Persimmon, Barratt, Bovis and all the rest of them haven’t got around to starting these developments.

I do know that the answer is not to keep on granting permission for more and more building on irreplaceable greenfield sites like Netherhampton Road in Harnham, or Old Sarum airfield, just to compensate for this shortfall, whatever the pressure from central government.

The whole system is broken. Across the country, construction bosses bemoan a shortage of skilled labour – a shortage that can only worsen after Brexit.

Whatever we do to boost training of home-grown recruits, we should have been doing it years ago but we didn’t bother, because we didn’t have to. (It’s the same with nursing).

Now it’s going to take time – time that we don’t really have, given the disturbing increase in homelessness.

But it’s not in the interests of the big builders to work any faster, as the lack of homes coupled with strong demand keeps prices, and profits, high.

And we’ve all read recently about the obscene bonuses being pocketed by those at the top of this particular tree.

You might think the answer is for the authorities to get tough, and make them crack on with the sites they already have before approving any new ones. I wouldn’t disagree.

But just supposing (unlikely, I know!) that supply did satisfy demand. House prices would stagnate or fall.

Homeowners might not like that, because the distorted value that resides in bricks and mortar is the only nest-egg many people have.

In due course they’ll need it to fund not only their retirement but quite possibly a nursing home bed, too.

With more and more jobs destined to be automated, and the biggest growth area being our exploitative gig economy, most ordinary workers won’t get any richer any time soon, unless they’re lucky enough to inherit.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more the state of the housing market seems part of a much wider threat to our social order.

We need to bang home to politicians – are you listening, John Glen? – the message that our national interest requires a civilised, national debate on the kind of society we want for our children, and cross-party co-operation to bring it about.