In response to coverage today announcing the finalists for the Wolfson Prize, Rob Hindle, Director of rural regeneration specialists Rural Solutions, makes the following comments:-
Whilst the Wolfson Prize for the design of a new Garden City is a pleasant distraction it won’t go very far to meeting this growing housing need. To do that we need to make land available to house builders where people want to live. Simple, but it requires an acceptance by local planning authorities, local politicians and existing residents that in many instances this means land on the edge of small rural towns and villages.
England has a housing crisis. In their recent report (Land for Housing) the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that demand for extra homes in England is now estimated at around 210,000 properties a year, compared with average output from housebuilders and social housing providers of 154,000 extra homes a year over the past five years. The accumulating gap between demand and output points to a shortfall of 1.1 million homes in 20 years’ time. (JRF Land for Housing http://www.jrf.org.uk/media-centre/shortage-homes-over-next-20-years-threatens-deepening-housing-crisis).
The market doesn’t lie. There is a reason why (outside of London) the highest property prices are often found in villages with a school, shop, pub and cricket pitch. People like living in villages. Housing is easy to sell in villages and it is easy to build. New housing adds to the vitality of village communities. New people create an increased demand for local services and businesses. They provide new blood to support village life; new people often bring new businesses and new economic opportunities. The internet means that people don’t have to travel to access all sorts of services and helps many more people to work at home.
Enabling growth in our smaller settlements is a sure fire way meeting some of our housing needs. It is something that the market will deliver, and deliver quickly.
It is the role of local authorities to make development plans and decisions that will significantly boost the supply of housing. Too many continue to ignore the potential of their rural areas to help meet this objective and in so doing they are adding to the housing crisis not addressing it.