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Time for a Strategy for the Rural Economy?

The Select Committee on the Rural Economy of the House of Lords published a report on the 27th April of its investigation into the need for a rural strategy for a rural economy. The concern of the Select Committee was to ensure that there was an effective and real rural strategy to enable rural economies to thrive.  One of the key recommendations set out that there needs to be an adequate supply of new housing in the right places and of the right types brought forward in a sensitive way, which engages with the local community. 

A key finding was that there was a need for stronger policies to support the sustainability and adaptability of rural housing for older population, including making provisions for new homes to be constructed to lifetime home standards, together with energy efficiency issues. 

These were the two key findings that the committee considered as being the key tenets of a suitable strategy. 

In looking at issues such as affordable housing, their conclusion was that the affordable housing unit threshold policy set out in the NPPF and previous Ministerial Statements doesn’t work for rural areas.  It works to severely limit the supply of much needed rural affordable housing, and will lead to further hostility of communities to new development in the knowledge that small housing schemes with such a threshold policy will no longer meet genuine community need. 

In looking forward it sought to look at areas perhaps where the provision of rural housing in rural areas had been successful and the case study of Cornwall was cited as good practice in affordable housing delivery. 

There was concern expressed that rural exception sites are an important contributor to rural affordable housing, but that they are not meeting their potential with delivery not being wide-spread.  It was suggested that government policy may in fact disincentivise land owners from bringing forward rural exception site for rural affordable housing. 

In terms of other initiatives that may serve to deliver much needed housing in the rural economy the Committee was particularly impressed with Community Land Trust and sought further funding through the Community Housing Fund to consolidate the delivery of Community Land Trusts was important. 

Another key area they looked at was the recommendation was that the right to buy for Council tenants should perhaps be suspended in those rural areas so as to prevent the loss of the valuable affordable dwellings. 

Comment

The Select Committee has clearly examined the key issues it considers requires consideration in the creation of an effective strategy for the rural economy. It will be interesting to note whether these findings and conclusions become translated into planning policy.

For any more information please contact Gareth Pinwell from our Planning Team on g.pinwell@ashfords.co.uk

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