Landowners spell out solutions for rural housing in advance of White Paper

10 January 2017

Rural landowners have reminded the Government not to forget the needs of rural communities by setting out five action points on how to help solve the acute shortage of homes in the countryside.

The CLA which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses said the Government must understand that the housing shortage is felt just as keenly in the countryside as it is in towns and cities and its challenges should be addressed by the Housing White Paper due out next week.

CLA President Ross Murray said: “We need places for people to live in our villages. We want to support young families, local workers and those in the community who are ready to downsize. Housing costs are spiralling so providing more houses people can afford is the only way to sustain rural communities for future generations and ensure people have the opportunity to live and work in the countryside.

“Ministers must not forget our rural areas when they set out their housing policy plan later this month. CLA members provide nearly 40% of all private rented housing in rural areas and many are also local employers. They are in a unique position to help increase the supply of all housing tenures if the action points below are implemented.”

Five key action points from the CLA on how to solve the rural housing crisis ask the Government to:

1. Review the definition of ‘sustainable development’ with regard to rural communities and villages

“The excellent concept of sustainable development which lies at the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is not being properly implemented by local planning authorities which has a significant negative effect in some rural areas. Planners judge applications based on available amenities such as public transport which is often non-existent, and pubs and post offices but many of these have closed within small rural communities. Instead of allowing small-scale building which would bring much needed life, money and jobs to these areas, applications are rejected in favour of development on the edge of nearby market towns.”

2. Ensure provision for NPPF development is properly reflected at local plan and neighbourhood plan levels

“The vision for rural areas set out in national planning policy in 2012 is only just being put into practice by some planning authorities, leading to a postcode lottery on development. The ability to provide new homes of different types and tenures, and opportunities for businesses to invest should be at the heart of local plans and neighbourhood plans and must be driven at a local level.”

3. Implement Local Plan Expert Group recommendations to ensure every area has an up-to-date, effective local plan

“Too many local plans either do not exist or do not conform with the contents of the NPPF. The Local Plan Expert Group presented a series of efficient and effective recommendations to government in March 2016 and must be implemented immediately.”

4. Strengthen Permitted Development Rights for converting redundant agricultural buildings into much-needed rural homes

“Around half of all prior approval applications for converting redundant agricultural buildings into homes are rejected outright by planning authorities. This is almost three times higher than approvals to convert offices to residential units. We need a government review now and if refusal rates continue at such high levels the Government must intervene and either change the regulations or produce stronger guidance on delivering new dwellings in rural areas.”

5. Encourage landowners to build and manage their own affordable houses

“The traditional approach of delivering affordable housing in rural communities through housing associations and local authorities is simply not building enough to meet demand. Landowners have a long history of providing low rent housing in their communities. The Government should publish guidance to local authorities detailing how effective partnerships between local government and landowners can provide additional affordable housing.”