Landowners want more positive planning to create affordable homes in UK rural areas

Landowners in the UK want the Government to do more for the rural housing sector which they believe is often forgotten when it comes to policy making.

They point out that as well as places like London, which tends to grab the headlines, there is also an acute shortage of affordable housing in the countryside but planning permission can be problematic.

Landowners often want to convert disused agricultural buildings into affordable homes but around half are rejected outright by planning authorities and they believe the needs of local people who live and work in the countryside are not being taken into account when these decision are made.

According to the Country Landowners Association (CLA), which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, officials and politians do not always understand that the housing shortage is felt just as keenly in the countryside as it is in towns and cities.

‘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,’ said CLA president Ross Murray.

‘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,’ he added.

Among action that would help is a review of the definition of ‘sustainable development’ which lies at the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which the CLA says is not being properly implemented by local planning authorities and this has a significant negative effect in some rural areas.

The CLA says that 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.

It also argues that provision for NPPF development should be properly reflected at local plan and neighbourhood plan levels. The CLA points out that 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.

It adds that 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.

It has also found that too many local plans either do not exist or do not conform with the contents of the NPPF. Many do not allow for converting redundant agricultural buildings into what could be much needed rural homes

According to the CLA around half of all prior approval applications for converting redundant agricultural buildings into homes are rejected outright by planning authorities, almost three times higher than approvals to convert offices to residential units.

The CLA also believes that landowners should be encouraged to build and manage their own affordable houses as currently housing associations and local authorities are not building enough to meet demand in rural areas.

It points out that landowners have a long history of providing low rent housing in their communities and it would be helpful if the Government published guidance to local authorities detailing how effective partnerships between local government and landowners can provide additional affordable housing.

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