In May the CLA set out what it believes the priorities for the next government should be in the build up to the general election in June. In a very useful summary (CLA Priorities) they set out five priorities that they feel will help to shape the future of the rural economy and its communities.
At Rural Solutions we represent a wide range of rural landowners and businesses, and the priorities set out by the CLA resonate with our understanding of the challenges facing rural communities. One of the most important challenges facing the next government (and probably subsequent administrations) is that of creating the homes that the country, and specifically, rural areas need.
In their manifesto the Conservatives talk of ‘bringing sustainable growth to the rural economy’ and ‘boosting rural areas so that people who live in the countryside have the same opportunities as those who live in the towns and cities’. They are sticking to their previous commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020, but have also committed to delivering another half a million by 2022.
The Labour party are setting out that they would ‘invest to build over a million new homes’ and invest in broadband, housing and transport in rural areas, ‘to create jobs and ensure the nations prosperity is felt beyond our large towns and cities’. The Liberal Democrat party meanwhile goes further, by looking to increase housebuilding to 300,000 houses per year, creating 10 new garden cities, and work with local authorities ‘to deliver a significant increase in social and affordable housing in rural areas’.
We welcome the continued focus from all the main political parties on providing the housing that the country needs whilst protecting its most important countryside and landscapes, but these targets or commitments do not mean anything until they are delivered. Creating the homes that rural areas need is vital to the durability and continued prosperity of those communities. Not only do we believe that they can be a very significant net contributor to the housing stock in the UK, at a time when planning policy is looking to ‘boost significantly housing supply, but it is something that many families in the UK aspire to and something that government should invest in.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), gave us the initial ‘tools’ and strengthened the understanding that rural areas have as much to offer as urban in the challenge to house our future population. At Rural Solutions we utilise the positive messages and policies within the Framework to help deliver appropriate development that rural communities need to continue to thrive. The Framework’s innovative policies encouraged housing in rural areas where it would add something to the existing vitality of a village or settlement. The idea that building where successful communities were already in place has helped to realise the opportunity that these places provide.
We welcome the potential increases to permitted development rights set out in the recent government white paper: Fixing Our Broken Housing Market, and we are very supportive of the same broadband and digital communications capabilities for rural areas as our urban areas enjoy. We also recognise in our white paper: Positive Asset Management in a Changing Rural Economy, how the government’s proposal for local plans to include ‘at least 10% of all sites allocated for residential development should be of half a hectare or less’ as an important rung on the ladder supporting rural growth of an appropriate scale.