RURAL HOUSING – ALL CHANGE
GROW, RENEW, PROTECT
The government’s ‘build build build’ mantra and proposed sweeping planning reforms promise some much needed simplification to the planning system – a system notorious for its complexity, and all the more so in rural areas as planning authorities try to find the balance between protection and progress. However, the proposed carving up of the country into 3 categories – growth, renew and protect – has the potential to disadvantage rural areas by either putting further curbs on development in the countryside, or allowing development of an inappropriate scale in some communities.
As ever, and as the algorithm debate underlines, simplification can have unintended consequences and local dynamics must be taken into consideration. A balance needs to be found between creating the homes that communities need, meeting the demand for homes in the countryside and protecting our rural landscapes and habitats. However designations and targets are calculated, our view is that within sensible limits, appropriate and sensitive development of homes in the countryside should be enabled rather than stifled by any reforms.
Housing is always a hot topic – and never more so than in the countryside. The Covid-19 pandemic has set several plates spinning – both in terms of policy reform and shifts in the rural property market. Last week, rural housing was again in the headlines as the government’s proposed algorithm for determining development levels seemed to place disproportionate growth demands on areas such as the Lake District and North Yorkshire leading to widespread criticism from rural commentators.
This is counter to some previous concerns that the proposed planning reforms could in fact constrain development in the countryside showing just what a fine balance there is to strike between simplification of the system and appreciating the nuances of local needs.
With agents reporting a huge upturn in interest in rural property as people look to relocate out of urban areas in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – predictions are that demand for homes in the countryside will continue to rise. Overall, this is good news – bringing new families into the countryside can sustain businesses, schools and other services and increase the vibrancy of these communities. However, one consequence is likely to be further upward pressure on house prices in rural areas. Whilst good news for sellers, this is bad news for those who have grown up in the countrywide and those who work in critical but often lower paid jobs such as in farming or hospitality who seek to establish their own homes and families in these areas.
Affordable housing has long been an issue in rural areas and the proposals to temporarily increase the development threshold for schemes to include a proportion of affordable homes from 10 to 40 or perhaps 50 present something of a dichotomy. On the one hand this may make smaller development more viable thus delivering more opportunities for landowners and developers to deliver more homes in the short term, however of course this may further exacerbate the shortage of affordable homes in the countryside.
Homes developed in the right places, in the right way in the countryside should be able to provide for everyone – from those who wish to create new country homes of impressive scale and architectural merit (‘Paragraph 79’ developments) through to young people and families looking to remain or establish themselves in rural communities, and those who wish to work and indeed retire there.
Environmental sustainability is also a priority – from enhancing biodiversity to reducing energy consumption and access to services and public transport locally – both in terms of minimising the impact of new homes and reducing the running and living costs for those who live in them which is another tenet of the affordability equation.
Diverse and vibrant communities require a mix of housing types. In all instances, the design quality of these homes is particularly important and proposals to improve the quality of design are to be welcomed, especially by those of us concerned with preserving the character of rural locations.
STRIKING A BALANCE
Rural Solutions are strong advocates of appropriate development in the countryside with a focus on sustaining vibrant communities, high quality landscapes and environmental enhancement and believe that with due consideration these aims can be met through sensitive and high quality development. We have worked with landowners and developers to create a range of new homes and settlements in the countryside and our recent publication highlights some of these.
For a conversation about how your land and property assets can be leveraged to create homes to help sustain rural communities, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.