By Willy Browne-Swinburne
After reading this article in the Yorkshire Post recently, all of us at Rural Solutions offer a round of applause to the journalist. At last someone who has identified three important insights covering the desperate need for housing this country has and how rural settlements of all sizes could contribute.
The first is that appropriate allocations of housing in many small rural villages and towns throughout the country is not only a great way to solve the housing crisis but, possibly even more importantly it may solve the rural crisis. The death of rural settlements through ageing populations, lack of opportunity for younger people, lack of vitality and frankly, lack of life, could be part way solved by such an initiative. Furthermore many rural villages and towns want development. They want to keep the pub going. They want to have a sustainable and successful cricket team. They want people to attend and support their church. These sites are opportunities to extend and so support communities rather than try and create new ones which, as demonstrated in many of the new towns of the 70’s is a road to nowhere.
Secondly, sites in rural settlements are often the most straightforward to actually develop. They are mostly in single ownership, the have clear legal boundaries and access and freedom to build is generally so much less complicated in these places than in tighter and more congested urban sites. With that freedom comes the ability to build housing that is of high quality and designed to fit in to the settlement.
Finally, people want to live in nice villages. Build houses where people want to live don’t try and put people where governments find it easy to build houses. Appropriate development in the vast majority of our rural settlements would, in most cases, solve a great many problems. Congratulations to Ric Blenkharn and the Yorkshire Post for presenting the point.
One such project we have recently worked on demonstrates our commitment to this. Our planner Lisa Allison has recently gained outline planning permission for 10 dwellings on the edge of a small rural village in the South Cambridgeshire District, with all matters reserved apart from access. The application was supported by a detailed planning submission, with an indicative site plan and a design and access statement prepared by our architectural team.
The rural village has a primary school, a church a recreation ground and a local bus service. The planning submission was evidenced with a sustainability appraisal which included an assessment of the sites locational sustainability and its relationship with the neighbouring settlements, which work together as a group of settlements. In addition to the benefits that would arise from the proposed development which included a 40% provision of affordable housing, a contribution towards the five year housing land supply, landscape and ecology enhancements.
Although, the proposed development received objection from the Parish Council and local residents of the parish, the benefits of the development outweighed any harm when considered as part of the planning balance. Rural Solutions liaised directly with the Parish in response to their concerns and it has been agreed that they will involve them in the evolution of the design at the reserved matters application stage.
In summary, the approved scheme will contribute towards both the housing needs of the village and the District and it will provide a number of benefits that weighed heavily in the planning balance.