Analysis finds over 2,000 English villages are deemed not suitable for new homes

More than 2,000 villages in England are missing out on new affordable homes because they are classified as unsuitable for growth by the local planning process, it is suggested.

An analysis of 70 local plans by the Countryside Landowners Association (CLA) which represents owners of land, property and businesses, found that 2,154 villages across England are judged to be unsustainable and it is calling for planning criteria to be updated.

It says that this means housing allocation, including the delivery of affordable homes in these communities is either highly restricted or not permitted, further exacerbating the rural housing crisis.

Cornwall tops the list of areas with the most villages deemed unsustainable at 213, followed by Wiltshire with 168, central Lincolnshire with 132, South Oxfordshire with 102, the East Riding of Yorkshire with 101, South Worcestershire with 97, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk 84 and South Northamptonshire 82.
The CLA has also analysed how 50 local authorities use a settlement hierarchy when deciding where new development will be allocated in a local plan. The hierarchy ranks villages by scoring them against a range of services and amenities but the CLA’s research revealed that just 18% of local authorities factor in broadband when assessing the sustainability of rural settlements.

It points out that this is despite the range of services digital connectivity can facilitate, whether grocery shopping online or ordering prescriptions.

In a new report, Sustainable Villages, making rural communities fit for the future, the CLA argues that planning criteria must be updated to reflect how people access services in the 21stcentury and encourages local authorities to be more proactive in identifying the housing needs of small rural communities.

‘Sustainable development is not just for towns and cities. Finding and promoting sustainable solutions for rural communities is vital to the long-term vitality of the countryside,’ said CLA president Tim Breitmeyer.

‘Current practices mean small settlements are dependent on very proactive local authorities to meet their needs. Although Cornwall tops the list of the most unsustainable villages, it is in fact an excellent example of a local authority actively addressing the needs of small rural communities despite the classification. Other rural local authorities should follow this lead and use all the mechanisms available to deliver affordable housing,’ he explained.

‘Updating rural planning policy to include connectivity in sustainability assessments means English villages will not be trapped in analogue when the rest of the world is in the digital age and can access much of the housing they desperately need,’ he added.

The report also calls on the Government to step in to address the housing needs of those communities cut off from the local plan by requiring a housing needs assessment in villages not allocated any housing.

‘Without more opportunities for young people to remain in the local area these small communities face an uncertain future. We want people to be able to live and work in the countryside but they are being held back by a lack of affordable homes. Mandatory housing needs assessments will improve our understanding of the rural housing crisis and will help towards building desperately needed homes in the right areas,’ Breitmeyer concluded.