Af­ford­able homes on agri­cul­tural land add up to a so­lu­tion

Ar­chi­tec­ture

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS -

Ric Blenkharn, Bramhall Blenkharn Ar­chi­tects, Mal­ton, www.brable.com

THE NEED for new hous­ing across the coun­try is a con­tin­u­ing po­lit­i­cal de­bate, yet year-on-year we are fail­ing to pro­vide the much-needed homes for a bur­geon­ing pop­u­la­tion.

This need is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant in ru­ral ar­eas where house prices are typ­i­cally 10 or 11 times the av­er­age salary.

Jim Bai­ley, chair of Na­tional Parks Eng­land, re­cently noted that with­out new af­ford­able hous­ing in places like Ex­moor and the North York Moors, “they risk be­com­ing ei­ther com­muter set­tle­ments or group­ings of sec­ond homes – not liv­ing, work­ing com­mu­ni­ties.”

HRH Princess Royal,in the for­ward to a Ru­ral Hous­ing Al­liance pub­li­ca­tion on the is­sue, said: “The ab­sence of suf­fi­cient af­ford­able homes in our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties is a prob­lem that has got worse in re­cent years. High prop­erty val­ues, in­creased aspi­ra­tions to live in the coun­try­side and lim­ited de­vel­op­ment of new homes have all had an im­pact, re­sult­ing in many lo­cal house­holds now be­ing un­able to af­ford to re­main within the ru­ral com­mu­nity where they have grown up and have sup­port net­works.

Small-scale af­ford­able ru­ral hous­ing de­vel­op­ments help to re­bal­ance com­mu­ni­ties, keep­ing fam­i­lies to­gether while pro­vid­ing a boost for lo­cal ser­vices. Par­ish and town coun­cils are a driv­ing force for change and a key part­ner in de­liv­er­ing af­ford­able homes for lo­cal peo­ple.”

For­tu­nately, there are plan­ning poli­cies in place, which al­low new af­ford­able hous­ing to be con­structed for lo­cal need, un­der Ru­ral Ex­cep­tions poli­cies. Most lo­cal author­i­ties have a pol­icy in place to fa­cil­i­tate new hous­ing out­side nor­mal de­vel­op­ment lim­its, where need for lo­cal hous­ing can be proven.

Per­mis­sion is only granted on sites where it has been demon­strated that hous­ing is needed and the homes pro­vided will be af­ford­able and re­served for lo­cal peo­ple as a pri­or­ity in per­pe­tu­ity i.e. now and in the fu­ture. Small num­bers of mar­ket sale homes may also be al­lowed at the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s dis­cre­tion.

To achieve this re­quires com­mu­ni­ties, largely through par­ish coun­cils, to demon­strate that there is a need for lo­cal hous­ing. Many lo­cal author­i­ties have a Ru­ral Hous­ing En­abler to as­sist with this process. The en­abler works along­side the com­mu­nity and landown­ers to iden­tify need and also pos­si­ble sites for de­vel­op­ment. Of­ten these sites are agri­cul­tural land on the edges of set­tle­ments so care needs to be taken to en­sure they blend with the lo­cal set­ting.

Such de­vel­op­ments are finely bal­anced eco­nom­i­cally since grant fund­ing is set at a min­i­mal level.

Land costs will not achieve the val­ues seen in towns and cities but, typ­i­cally, fig­ures for de­vel­op­ment gen­er­ate £5,000£10,000 per plot, which can yield around £150,000 per acre, well in ex­cess of agri­cul­tural val­ues.

Hav­ing iden­ti­fied need and will­ing landown­ers, ap­pli­ca­tions for plan­ning con­sent can then be made. Most author­i­ties have a stated aim to achieve af­ford­able lo­cal hous­ing and con­sent is of­ten granted for such schemes.

Of­ten they are mod­est in size of around six-12 dwellings, so that they knit into the fab­ric of vil­lage set­tings. Hav­ing been in­volved in a num­ber of such schemes, I can vouch that they do in­deed give real value to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties but there is of­ten tremen­dous op­po­si­tion to such schemes, ei­ther through Nim­by­ism, or mis­un­der­stand­ing of what such hous­ing is for. To me it is com­mon sense. If we are to pro­vide hous­ing for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions in ru­ral ar­eas, then it is vi­tal that we pro­vide homes at an af­ford­able cost. That way, we can en­sure that ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties have the lifeblood they need to sup­port lo­cal fa­cil­i­ties and en­sure that they re­main vi­brant places for all.

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