‘Let us help solve the housing crisis’ say rural campaigners

20 November 2019

Landowners have urged government to let them help solve the housing crisis, arguing the ‘outdated’ planning system is holding the country back.

 President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Mark Bridgeman said:

“For years politicians have complained about the housing crisis while ignoring the fact that the answer is right under their noses.

“If just ten homes were built in every village the housing crisis in rural communities would be eased considerably. Landowners are wanting to help but are being put off by endless bureaucracy, spiraling costs and a lack of planning officers.”

“The story is the same all over the country.  Landowners want to build homes to keep their communities strong and provide quality – often affordable and eco-friendly – housing for local people. They spend tens of thousands of pounds on planning applications, but extensive delays and constant knock backs from planning officers means they give up, much to the detriment of the local and national economy.

Government’s annual target is to build 300,000 new homes – but fewer than 200,000 homes were built in 2017-18.  The need for more housing will only grow with the UK population expected to rise by a further 2m people by 2030.

The CLA argues that Local Authorities have had their planning budgets cut by 55% since 2010 leaving planning departments in crisis.

Mr Bridgeman continued:

“With such drastic cuts to planning departments we are left with too few planning officers, and those who are in post are stretched to the limit, which can cause significant delays.

“Rather than representing a barrier to growth, the planning system should enable and enhance the delivery of developments in rural communities. The Government must decide what it wants the planning system to deliver and then provide adequate resources to achieve those aims. A simpler and better-resourced planning system would restore confidence in decisions and encourage more applications to come forward, unlocking the potential of the rural economy.”

Solutions put forward by the Country Land and Business Association include:

  • Local planning authorities to undertake a Housing Needs Assessments across all rural settlements so that identified local need can be met at a local level – with particular attention given to affordable housing and housing for the elderly.  This in effect would give parish and community councils greater responsibility for working with landowners to identify housing need.
  • New permitted development rights for new-build affordable housing on rural exception sites.  This would allow landowners to deliver critically-needed affordable homes meeting high regulatory standards whilst limiting exposure to costly delays.

The CLA is campaigning for significant improvements in the planning system as part of its Rural Powerhouse campaign.  The campaign highlights how the rural economy could grow by as much as £43bn with the right policies and ensuring the availability of quality housing of all types and tenures is a fundamental principle in attracting talent to the countryside.

Mr Bridgeman added concern for the future of rural communities without a supportive planning system.

One of the reasons landowners want to help solve the housing crisis is that they can see their own communities struggling – with talented young people leaving for the city and high house prices putting off local residents. 

“If we are to encourage people with skills and talent to remain or move to the countryside, then we need to be able to build environmentally sustainable yet affordable homes that people want to live in.  We want to help.