CLA Webinar: Rural Housing

Hear from English Rural Housing Association, Rural Housing Solutions and a former CLA President, as they look at housing in rural areas

In our latest webinar, CLA members will hear from English Rural Housing Association, Rural Housing Solutions and a former CLA President, as they look at how the relationship between landowners and others are key to delivering more housing in the countryside.

Chaired by Avril Roberts, CLA Property and Business Policy Adviser, this webinar explores how landowners can be incentivised to bring land forward for development including unblocking existing barriers like planning and community support, and give examples of successful rural housing projects.

Our speakers will showcase the ‘Planning Passport’  policy the CLA champions to provide more housing on rural exception sites. You will hear about the lobbying work the CLA is doing to help the government understand the importance of rural housing. Attendees will also learn the key to a successful housing project, and better understand why sites may have failed in the past.

In this webinar you will hear from:

Avril Roberts, CLA Property and Business Policy Adviser – Chair
Joining the CLA in 2022, Avril leads on housing and tourism policy. She can advise members on managing properties, delivering new homes and the tourism sector. Avril graduated from the University of Exeter having read Politics and was a development project manager delivering new affordable housing prior to joining the CLA.

Martin Collett, Chief Executive of English Rural – Speaker
Working in the rural housing sector for around 20 years, Martin is the Chief Executive of English Rural. He is a Corporate Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing, graduate of the University of London and former Chair of the Rural Housing Alliance. Martin is also a Trustee for the rural community business charity the Plunkett Foundation, a Director of the Rural Services Network, and a Trustee of the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity the Albert Kennedy Trust.

Jo Lavis, Director of Rural Housing Solutions – Speaker
A rural affordable housing specialist and  planner by profession, Jo has over 40 years’ experience supporting rural affordable housing delivery working across the UK at community, local authority and national levels on policy and practice. She is currently Director of Rural Housing Solutions, a Board member of Hastoe Housing Association and was previously vice Chair of the National Community Land Trust Network and East Midlands Community Led Housing.

Mark Bridgeman, Former CLA President - Speaker
Formerly the CLA President between 2019-2021, Mark is a farmer and landowner in Northumberland involved in a number of housing projects on the estate, including extending the local village in two phases in recent years and converting old farming buildings into self-catering holiday houses.

Webinar Q & A

Can you give some reassurance that with the CLA’s support opening a new rural business and building a home in the countryside is not an impossible dream?

The CLA is actively lobbying to increase the opportunity for the rural economy within the planning system to ensure it is prosperous and can develop in the right way. In particular, the CLA has recently been focussing on the introduction of a ‘planning passport’ as discussed in the webinar which proposes the extension of permission in principle for affordable housing on rural exception sites in a two-stage process. The CLA is also lobbying for a similar extension of permission in principle for rural economic development applications, we are doing this through a proposed amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

My local housing association has told me that they will not consider a scheme with less than 25 homes…

There are other housing associations who will consider smaller schemes. Get in touch with English Rural and they will see if they can connect you to one. or look at the Rural Housing Alliance website to see if you’re aware of any working locally –

You may also find it helpful to speak to your Local Authority’s Housing Enabling officer, or RHE if there is one in your area, as they will know other housing associations that may be willing to develop a smaller scheme.

Who should approach a Local Authority first about development plans?

This is very much down to local circumstances, depending on the existing relationship with the local authority, whether a rural housing enabler (RHE) is working in the area, or a registered provider (RP) is involved.

Where there is an RHE in post they can advise you how to present your case and will be able to pave the way and even attend meetings between you and the LA. If an RP is already involved, they will be happy to make that first approach, keeping you informed of the discussions and outcomes.

If you choose to do this yourself, early engagement is always recommended and it’s worth putting in some preparatory work first. For example, having some data that shows there is an affordable housing need, speaking to your local district/borough councillor and explaining what you want to achieve to gain their support, identifying a local champion who will help you make the case to the parish council and community. You may also find it helpful to speak to the LA Housing Enabler first, rather than going straight to the planners as planning department are under resourced so you could experience delays. The housing enabler will be keen to find ways to deliver a scheme.

The Strutt and Parker’s ‘Rural affordable housing, a hands on guide for landowners’ provides more detailed advice, with specific suggestions on page 12.

On sites of affordable housing, often after all parties have run feasibility on the site the land price is significantly reduced. Do you have any advice for landowners who are being approached by market developers but who want to see some affordable housing delivered for local people?

It’s worth remembering that at the most basic level the land price is the residual after working out the balance between income and costs. The income from affordable housing sales and rents is lower than market sales, which can have a depressing effect on the land value, and/or amount of affordable housing that can be provided.

There are some steps you could take when being approached by a developer which can help ensure affordable homes are built.

  • Check the Local Plan – what is the affordable housing % they require in their affordable housing policy? If it is an up-to-date Local Plan, this will have been based on a very detailed Economic Viability Assessment. Ask the developer whether they will submit a policy compliant application and if not, what are the factors in their viability assessment that depart from the local authority’s testing assumptions.
  • Speak to the Local Authority housing officer. They will be able to offer advice on:
    • What would be required as an affordable housing contribution.
    • Guide you towards housing associations that work with private developers in your area.
    • Give you a ‘heads up’ on whether the local authority would be able to put in any of their resources (S106 commuted sums or Right to Buy receipts) to ensure affordable housing is provided as part of a market development.
  • In advance or if you have been approached by a developer, you may want to take independent valuation advice or ask a commercial organisation to run a viability assessment for you, asking them to use the guidance provided in the National Planning Practice Guidance.

Will the Labour Party’s proposals to allow local authorities to acquire land at agricultural value, without hope value, for social housing prevent landowners bringing forward land for housing? Particularly in the green belt where development is often resisted.

CLA response – The CLA does not support the Labour party’s proposals to remove hope value from sites acquired by a local authority for social housing, particularly in areas where the planning system has made it incredibly difficult to deliver housing themselves, such as in the Green Belt. A reformed planning system, through mechanisms such as the Planning Passport, would bring more land forward for development and would negate the need for removal of hope value. Additionally, while the land value capture model has its merits, there is a lot of value captured from land already, members may be interested to read a report by Knight Frank’s Charles Dugdale into the future of land value capture – Page 16 of this document.

Martin’s response - The theory of the proposals is to provide a mechanism that will prevent land not being brought forward due to high-value expectations. The detail of the policy is not yet clear and there has been ongoing discussion about effective land-value capture. It still feels too early to comment on the merits or shortcomings of proposals, which would be best developed by listening to all interested parties to fully understand the nuances involved.

Jo’s response – In the case of rural affordable housing, particularly rural exception schemes, the sites are too small to usually warrant the exercise of Compulsory Purchase, so it is unlikely that the Labour Party’s proposals will affect landowner behaviour in respect of these developments.

The current rural exception site (RES) valuation starts with an existing value and then offers an uplift that reflects that, as a RES, the principal purpose of these developments is to deliver affordable housing. Following discussions with stakeholders, including CLA members, the RES Planning Passport proposes an RES site value of £10k a plot (equivalent to £100k - £120k on a 10- and 12-unit scheme) or five times agricultural value, whichever is the higher.

Most Local Planning Authorities seem to consider Rent to Buy schemes are only suitable for urban areas, are there any rural examples of this tenure type?

Yes, there are examples of Rent to Buy schemes in rural areas, but there is also some wariness amongst planning authorities as these properties do not have the same perpetuity arrangements as other forms of affordable rented home. Questions have also been asked about what happens when the renter is required to buy the property but does not have the resources to do so. This can be problematic for the resident and can affect the business plan of the provider.

Is it possible for a local authority to prevent Rural Exception Sites being brought forward in their local plans?

The NPPF clearly sets out an expectation that Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) will adopt and promote rural exception sites. Most rural LPAs do include the policy, the difficulty is they are sometimes negatively worded and do not get much support to implement the policy. Equally, there are other local authorities who actively promote Rural Exception Sites.

Does the CLA hold a checklist of developers and rank them in order of certain criteria?

No, we don't, however there may be some in the CLA Business Directory who are CLA members.