A fall in property prices as a consequence of Covid-19 could reduce the number of affordable homes that get built in the countryside whilst larger, more inappropriate development could get the go-ahead warns charity, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE).
We know that many rural communities are supportive of smaller-scale housing schemes that are sensitive to the look and feel of the local area and which create homes that are affordable to local residents. But the fallout from Covid-19 could up-end the viability of such schemes
The delivery of appropriately scaled rural housing developments which include affordable homes plays an important role in sustaining rural communities. Too often young people are priced out of the places where they grew up, whilst workers in rural businesses can find it difficult to secure accommodation.
For decades, ACRE Network Members have been working with communities to help them plan housing developments that meet local needs and fit with the character of the surrounding area. Last year, Rural Housing Enablers employed by these rural charities helped to create conversations amongst local residents that resulted in over 300 dwellings being built with the backing of rural residents – often as part of Neighbourhood Plans.
In a letter to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, signed jointly with the Rural Services Network (RSN) and The Rural Housing Alliance, the charity explains that current planning rules requiring local authorities to maintain enough supply of land for local housing development may not be met. This could lead to situations where larger developers are able to get approval for building bigger, more inappropriate housing estates to the detriment of the type of schemes supported by rural communities. There are also concerns that existing Neighbourhood Plans could be overridden, invalidating the efforts of local residents to plan for the future of their community.
The letter puts forward a number of recommendations for changing planning rules – at least for the foreseeable future – that would mitigate against these risks.
Jo Lavis, ACRE’s Rural Housing Policy Advisor said, “Our letter to government flags the risk that falling property prices may lead to inappropriate housing development in the English countryside. We know that many rural communities are supportive of smaller-scale housing schemes that are sensitive to the look and feel of the local area and which create homes that are affordable to local residents. But the fallout from Covid-19 could up-end the viability of such schemes whilst larger developers take advantage of existing planning rules forcing councils to accept the type of large-scale housing that many rural communities fear.”
Media contact Phillip Vincent, Public Affairs and Communications Manager, ACRE: 07531107129 firstname.lastname@example.org Tweet ACRE @ACRE_national
Notes to editor ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is the national body for 38 independent county-based organisations that make up the ACRE Network. Our vision, to be the voice of rural communities, is supported by the wealth of evidence and intelligence on rural matters that we collect from our members. We use this evidence to influence national policy on rural issues, from housing, health and transport to broadband, services and fuel poverty. Our Network Members, many of whom date back 90 years, have a long, fruitful history of making a difference at grassroots level. They are charitable local development agencies, generally based at county level, which lead, support and enable community initiatives, reaching 52,000 grassroots organisations.
Further information about our work on Coronavirus can be accessed here: https://acre.org.uk/rural-issues/coronavirus