Monthly Archives: May 2012

Pedal Power – A Route to Secondary Incomes for Rural Estates

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As summer finally arrives in the UK, the attraction of a trip into our glorious countryside becomes ever greater. With around 13 million adult cyclists in the UK, increasing numbers of us are choosing to make this trip by bike.

For those owning property in the countryside, cyclists offer a growing and diverse market. While this market may not offer substantial direct revenues, it may provide valuable secondary incomes from land and assets which have already been diversified.

A good example of this is where owners of upland areas of commercial forestry have integrated mountain bike trails below the trees. Secondary revenue is in turn generated for the land owner from ancillary trail head facilities such as cycle hire, catering and car parking in addition to the primary forestry income.

Catering for cyclists may also offer an additional revenue stream for existing leisure ventures such as house and garden opening. Around 34% of cyclists are categorised as recreational or family riders however this group is often surprisingly neglected. Rural Solutions has recently been working with a land owner in southern Scotland looking at providing short, flat and family friendly trails. We have found the introduction of these trails proves especially popular: increasing visitor numbers, extending visitor dwell times and subsequently benefiting the visitor spend at existing leisure attractions.

In summary, Rural Solutions is currently finding that capturing the pedal powered pound can provide a valuable secondary income to a variety of existing rural ventures.

Government Support for Self Build Homes

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Last month saw the launch of the Government backed ‘Self Build Portal’ website. It forms part of the Government’s Housing Strategy to encourage people to build their own homes with an aim to double the number of self-build homes built in the UK. The UK currently lags far behind many European countries for the number of self-build projects completed each year; in countries like Austria and Germany 70-80% of homes are self-build, whereas by contrast the figure for the UK is about 10%.

One of the biggest obstacles to self-builders is often finding a suitable plot and securing that important planning permission. The recent changes to National Planning Policy in the form of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), offer opportunities for self-builders through the redevelopment of redundant buildings and disused sites, the building of new dwellings of ‘exceptional quality or innovative nature’ and for the first time, require local planning authorities to plan for the needs of people wanting to build their own homes. Rural Solutions has extensive experience of securing planning permission for bespoke, individual houses, both new build and conversion schemes, in some of the toughest planning environments such as National Parks and the Green Belt. If you’d like to discuss how Rural Solutions could help you achieve planning permission for your dream self-build home, please contact our Head of Planning, Duncan Hartley on 0845 026 7914.

Rural Solutions Commissioned for Planning Appeal

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Rural Solutions has been commissioned to assist with an appeal against refusal of planning permission for a new bungalow on the edge of a rural village in East Yorkshire. Rural Solutions was approached by Overton Architects, following refusal of their initial scheme for a small infill development, to help take the application to appeal. This follows recent successes at appeal elsewhere in Yorkshire (‘Another Planning Appeal Success for Rural Solutions’ – 13 March 2012, and ‘Rural Solutions wins over National Park’ – 11 October 2011). For an informal discussion about how Rural Solutions could help you with your rural site or project, do not hesitate to contact Duncan Hartley, Head of Planning on 0845 026 7914.

Does the countryside buck the trend?

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The UK is back in recession and again the threat of a most unwelcome return to the gloom and uncertainty of 2008 is upon us all. But is it? Rural Solutions is a company that has worked specifically in the countryside for twenty years and over this time we have seen real hardship, such as at the time of Foot and Mouth Disease, the legacy of which continues to endure in some areas of the country. But it is hardships such as this that have made the rural areas, and those in them, more determined to be resilient to such devastating economic influences. It is not simply the fact that the British countryside is seen as offering consistent long term investor returns, since the Second World War it has generally been thus, it is the inextinguishable belief in the countryside as a place of lifestyle opportunities that is not getting enough of the recognition. We see landowners continuing to understand the true asset worth of countryside through evidence of increasing levels of investment in commerce and the demand for the best the countryside has to offer. Yes, pubs are closing, but the good ones carry on and new ones are opening, good builders are inundated with work and there is a wealth of excellent people from Gamekeepers to Accountants. A competitive rural sector culls the weak and as result we are seeing both standards and demand rising. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), adopted in March, has also brought a well-timed optimism to releasing value from existing assets or creating new business opportunities for us, the general public, to find something to do or a great place to work. These are times in which farmers are doing well and the bankers ‘struggle’ and we are, more than ever, looking for places in the countryside where we can spend our time and money. Plainly the British countryside is open for business and there is little evidence that a double dip recession can do what Foot and Mouth did not.

Rural Energy Generation

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The Campaign for Rural England (CPRE) has recently requested that the Government clearly outlines its proposals for the number and locations of future inland wind farms.

Rural Solutions understands that the CPRE is acting on behalf of local groups who feel overwhelmed with wind farm applications by large developers. The CPRE’s concerns also build on a letter from Conservative back bench MPs to The Prime Minister in February. However, green energy trade body RenewableUK reports that around 75% of onshore wind energy planning applications have already been rejected.

Whilst it’s easy to understand the CPRE’s concerns regarding onshore wind farms, energy in rural areas is by no means a black and white issue: with 25% of the UK’s power stations scheduled to close in the next decade, where is the power going to come from?

Here at Rural Solutions, we continue to facilitate a number of green energy schemes for clients who are taking matters into their own hands! These schemes do not solely focus on wind energy: we have clients installing a ground source heat pump in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wiltshire, whilst another adjacent to a canal, is looking into a highly efficient water source heat pump installation. Meanwhile for clients with their own woodland, woodchip remains an effective source of heat and energy where clients can manage their own fuel security.

With the increasing power of rural localism to reject energy generation, perhaps there comes an increasing responsibility to do what we can to solve our nations’ increasingly challenging energy needs. To do so, perhaps demands a proactive “in my back yard” approach to rural energy generation.

Exciting new initiative: New Country Houses launch at Grand Designs Live 2012

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At Grand Designs Live 2012 and in conjunction with Sadler Brown Architecture, Alistair W Baldwin Associates and Buro Happold Ltd, Rural Solutions is launching an exciting new initiative: ‘New Country Houses’, which offers a one-stop shop for those looking to build one-off houses in the rural landscape. The initiative responds directly to paragraph 55 of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) document.

The team can be found at Stand B325 at Grand Designs Live 2012. For further information read the press release here, and see below for some of the images from the press pack: