Andrew Shirley, CLA Chief surveyor comments that “without cracking the challenge of making villages sustainable, by developing better planning policies and delivering affordable housing on Rural Exception Sites the outlook for rural settlements is bleak”.
Read any local plan and it leaves you with the impression that housing is what happens in urban areas and the environment is for the rural area. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but local authorities often do not have the resources, and sometimes the inclination, to look at villages carefully enough to craft bespoke proposals to address the needs of the village. This means that CLA members, who characteristically take a long term, multi-generational interest in the communities in which they live and run their businesses, have to expend a huge amount of time and money in pursuit of a planning consent for much needed housing, with no guarantee of success. Many feel that the odds are stacked against them as their settlement may be designated as unsustainable under criteria more suited to the last century than relevant today!
The use of Rural Exception Sites – sites for affordable housing, that would not otherwise get consent for housing - are meant to address this deficiency of affordable housing. This is the main way to build affordable housing in smaller villages but many local authorities aren't making best use of this. Last year we saw a fall of 143 homes provided on Rural Exception Sites in England, with some interesting variations between authorities. How can Cornwall deliver 321 homes and nearby mid-Devon build not one?! If rural villages are to survive and thrive they need to be able to grow to meet the needs of those that live and work there, enabling residents to upscale or downsize and new residents to move in.
The CLA Sustainable Villages report outlines the challenges ahead, but the status quo is not an option. The CLA is discussing a new approach to delivering rural housing with MPs, government departments and other housing bodies.
The CLA wrote to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and received a response from Housing Minister Kit Malhouse MP. You can read this response here.