INDUSTRY COMMENT – Sustainable rural housing affects everyone, even The Archers!

By Duncan Hartley, Director of Planning

So often we hear the conflicting issues of a planning proposal when proving an application, so it was quite a novelty to hear the Archers getting involved in the debate the other day. If you haven’t heard it – have a listen here.

A well represented and articulated storyline, and very true to life. Substantial objections were voiced from the local community for a new rural housing development by Bridge Farm Housing Development. Bridge Farm (the site) has done their bit to diversify from the old dairy farm but the farmer has now made the decision to use some three acres of his land for a residential site which will include 18 affordable houses.

While some of the younger generation who cannot afford to buy property in the rural village of Ambridge see it as their opportunity to finally get onto the housing ladder are in favour, many residents voiced their concern that ‘some people in the village of Ambridge think that affordable housing will attract undesirables.’ An opinion concurred by another local farmer who states ‘they mustn’t let riffraff into the village’.

While all this makes for a very entertaining episode of the country’s best loved radio show soap, it is a very common theme and one that many of our clients and their communities will recognise.

Many people’s understandable reaction to change is to question it. A desire for the status quo is very common for fear of the unknown. In presenting applications in rural areas applicants are strongly advised to advance the specific benefits (social, environmental and economic benefits) associated their development scheme.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear in stating at para 55 that housing should be located where it “will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities.”  There are many threats facing the future sustainability of our rural communities – high house prices, lack of supply of needed house types, ageing population, second home ownership, lack of services and access to services. A housing scheme will bring benefits that can address these threats and in so doing maintain and enhance vitality.  

Since the introduction of the 2012 NPPF Rural Solutions have pioneered and fully tested a methodology for assessment of social and economic sustainability of settlements and the impacts of residential development on the vitality of a rural community. This evidence base has proven very influential in helping the rural communities and the decision makers understand the benefits arising from development, for example, balancing the age profile, increasing the supply of the economically active, increase spend at the local services, helping those to return to or stay in a community.   

It is always easier to receive and support development when one effectively communicates it’s implications and if an application is packaged correctly those benefits should far outweigh any concerns. Rural communities need vitality to keep them going and ultimately that means the existing population embracing the opportunities that new responsible development can bring.

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